On any visit to Thailand, you will 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 will not 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 are a devout Buddhist man and have money, you are also likely to wear a massive Buddhist amulet, on a gold chain and encased in gold. There is nothing like showing off your religion and your money – both at the same time.
Gold is also seen as being something that you should own if you want good luck, so it is often bought for birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.
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 is 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 are 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 will 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 Aljazeera video below about the increase in the price of gold and video taken in the interior of a typical Thai gold shop.
Many of these gold shops are also completely open to the street, and most do not employ security guards. The reason? There is little robbery in Thailand like there is in many western countries, so store owners believe there is little chance of having their gold stolen.