In Greek mythology, King Midas famously craved the ability to turn everything he touched into gold. At first he was delighted to turn a twig into gold, but once he realised his family and even his food would turn into the metal too, he understood that gold should never be the first priority.
Many financial experts recommend buying gold as a hedge against falls in other markets, but most say it shouldn’t make up more than 10 per cent of your investments, not least because it doesn’t produce income. Gold is rare – all the gold mined in the world would fit into two Olympic-sized swimming pools – and that’s what makes it valuable, especially in times of uncertainty.
When Donald Trump gave his first postelection press conference – amid stories of his golden showers – the gold price rose to above $1,200 an ounce for the first time in two months. So if you think Trump will start a trade war with China or that Marine Le Pen is going to win the forthcoming presidential election in France, go for gold. It did well in 2016. Interestingly, silver performed even better, thanks to its industrial applications.
It is fair to say that as long as the world’s population continues to grow – and it does so by 200,000 people a day – demand for all commodities, including metals, will continue to grow. Unlike other commodities, gold was used as money for centuries before the arrival of paper money. While paper currency is on its way out, gold remains what it always has been. And as long as central banks buy it for their reserves or put more money into economies through quantitative easing, gold will retain its shine. But the gold price can fall as quickly as it can rise. I prefer to wear gold, in necklace form, and invest in something boring instead.
This article was published as part of the Marina’s Imaginary Millions column in Money Observer, February 2017.