Why Do Thais Buy So Much Gold? And What Do They Do With It?

Thai gold shop in Chinatown, Bangkok - copyright Mark Fischer


On any visit to Thailand, you’ll notice quickly how much gold Thais have and how much of it they wear.  Purchased by Thais, rich and poor, and worn as rings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants and even Buddhist amulets, gold is so popular in Thailand you won’t drive far in most towns without seeing a gold shop. But, why do Thais buy so much gold and what do they do with it?

Like westerners, Thais wear gold as a decorative item but also as a sign of wealth. The richer you are, the larger and more decorative the gold pieces and the more of them you own.  Then, of course, if you’re a devout Buddhist man and have money, you’re also likely to wear a massive Buddhist amulet, on a gold chain and encased in gold. There’s nothing like showing off your religion and your money – both at the same time.

The main reason Thais buy gold though is as an investment. Gold, in the past few decades, has rarely lost much value and, in fact, much of the time keeps increasing in  price. For Thais who may be worried about losing family money, they know if they buy gold they can always sell it if they happen across hard times.

Many Thais too think putting money in the stock market, which is volatile, is far too risky, and that’s yet one more reason why Thais invest in gold. It’s simply seen as safer.

Thai gold too is better quality and value than western gold as most  of it is 23K and 24K gold (almost pure gold) whereas, in the west, it’s only 18K (meaning 25% of it is a base metal and not actually gold). Thai jewelers also only charge a nominal fee for the craftsman ship of creating a beautiful piece of jewelry in gold so, what you pay in Thailand for an intricately designed ring is often up to 40% cheaper than what you’d pay in the west, and for superior quality gold too.

If you’re looking to buy gold in Bangkok, the two best places are Chinatown (Yaworat) and its more than 140 gold shops and at MBK mall, where you’ll also find a number of excellent gold shops.

For today’s gold prices (September 10th, 2011), buying prices are 25,969.08 baht per baht-weight for gold ornaments and 26,350 baht per baht-weight for gold bars.

The selling prices were set at 26,850 baht per baht-weight for gold ornaments, and 26,450 baht per baht-weight for gold bar.

Watch the video below of a typical Thai gold shop and see how it’s open to the street. The reason? There’s little robbery in Thailand like there is in many western countries, so little chance of having gold stolen.

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