Understanding Gold Bar Weights and Purities

Gold bars are normally classified into two broad categories of weight.  A large bar weighs more than 1000 g, a small bar weighs 1000 g or less. Bars are manufactured in different millesimal gold purities (or fineness), most ranging between 965 and 999.9.

UNITS OF WEIGHT

Around the world, bars can be denominated or traded in different units of weight to accommodate the preferences of regions or countries.  The most prominent units are the gram, troy ounce, tola, tael, baht, chi (or cay or luong), don and mesghal.

Although the London Good Delivery 400 oz bar, the world’s most important large bar, is traded in troy ounces on the London Bullion Market, and the international gold price is quoted in US dollars per troy ounce, there is a worldwide trend for small cast and minted bars to be denominated in grams.

Although the list below provides a broad indication of where the listed units of weight for small bars are widely used, in many countries a variety of units is used.

Gram: International
Troy ounce: Mainly English-speaking countries: USA, UK and Australia
Tola: Mainly Indian Sub-Continent and Middle East
Tael: Mainly Hong Kong and Taiwan
Baht: Thailand
Chi: Vietnam
Don: South Korea
Mesghal: Iran

LARGE GOLD BARS

There are three prominent large bars:
400 oz: Approximate weight.  London Good Delivery, if manufactured by a LBMA-accredited refiner.
100 oz: Approximate weight.  COMEX Good Delivery, if the brand is accredited to COMEX.
3000 g: Shanghai Gold Exchange Good Delivery, if manufactured by a SGE-accredited refiner.

Some refiners advise that other large bars are also occasionally made to precise or approximate weights.  For example, in ounces (250 oz and 50 oz) and in grams (2 kg, 5 kg and 10 kg).

SMALL GOLD BARS

Among surveyed manufacturers, small bars around the world are available in a diverse range of more than 50 different cast or minted weights. However, by far the most important small bar, widely used by fabricators and investors around the world, is the cast kilobar (1000 g).

GOLD BAR PURITIES

The declared purity (or fineness) of a bar’s gold content is important as it enables its weight of “fine gold” to be calculated.

The purity is normally marked in parts gold per 100, 1,000 or 10,000 parts.
For example, the same gold purity (99.99% by weight) can be expressed as follows:
9999 9,999 parts gold in 10,000 parts
999.9 999.9 parts gold in 1,000 parts
99.99 99.99 parts gold in 100 parts

Although there is generally a widespread preference for small barswith a precise millesimal purity of 995 or 999.9, bars are also manufactured in other purities.

Large gold bars

In the case of some large bars, the gold fineness can vary.  For example, as London Good Delivery 400 oz bars and COMEX Good Delivery 100 oz bars are permitted to vary between 995.0 and 999.9, a mark of 995.8 or 998.7 or 999.6 might be stamped on a bar.

Small gold bars

Although there is generally a widespread preference for small bars with a fineness of 999.9 or 995, bars are also manufactured in other purities. Although the table below broadly indicates where specific purities for small bars are popular, in many countries bars are available in a variety of purities.

999.9: International
999: Mainly Indian Sub-continent
995: Mainly Middle East and Indian Sub-continent
990: Hong Kong
965: Thailand

Source: Gold Bars Worldwide


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