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The price of goldhovered around $1,600 per ounce at the end of of 2011, rising over 15% in 2011, following uncertainty in the equity markets and the global economy as a whole.
The biggest individual holders of gold—central banks, international organizations and governments—are believed to account for approximately 16.5 percent of the world's gold, holding about 30,700 tons.
The numbers are taken from the monthly report produced by the World Gold Council,which is the gold industry's key market development body. The holdings presented here are as of WGC's December 2011 report, unless otherwise noted.
So, who holds the most gold? Click ahead to find out!
By Paul Toscano
Updated 4 Jan 2012
Value of reserves: $19.7 billion
Holdings total: 421.6 tons
The westernmost nation in mainland Europe is home to the 15th largest gold reserve in the world. At 421.6 tons, Portugal’s holdings are overseen by Banco de Portugal and are valued at roughly $19.7 billion, accounting for 89.2 percent of the country’s foreign reserves.
Value of reserves: $21.7 billion
Holdings total: 465.6 tons
Renowned for its technology industry and robust economic growth, Taiwan also boasts one of the largest gold reserves in the world.
The Central Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) manages the island nation’s foreign reserves, which are reported at 465.6 tons. These holdings are worth $21.7 billion at today's prices and comprise approximately 5.9 percent of the country's foreign reserves.
Value of reserves: $25.8 billion
Holdings total: 553.4 tons
Established in 1998 by the European Union, the European Central Bank (ECB) is responsible for the monetary policy of the member nations of the euro zone and is headquartered in Frankfurt.
The ECB's 553.3 tons of gold accounts for 35 percent of the bank's foreign reserves and would be worth $25.8 billion in today's market.
Value of reserves: $28.69 billion
Holdings total: 614.75 tons
Shooting up in the rankings in the past few years is India. The second most populous nation in the world maintains the 12th largest gold reserves. The size of India's holdings were bolstered in November 2009 by a $6.9 billion purchase of 200 tons of gold from the International Monetary Fund.
The Reserve Bank of India currently oversees the country’s 614.75 tons of gold, which are valued at $28.69 billion, comprising 9.6% of its foreign reserves. India’s current ranking may also continue to move upwards, as the government has asked the Geological Survey of India to mine previously untapped gold reserves in many of its states.
Value of reserves: $31.5 billion
Holdings total: 675.2 tons
The Netherlands has the 11th largest reserve on the list, with 675.2 tons of gold. De Nederlandsche Bank manages the country’s national finances, including the gold reserves, which amount to approximately $31.5 billion and account for 61.9 percent of the country's foreign reserves.
Value of reserves: $39.36 billion
Holdings total: 843.5 tons
Although Japan is ninth on the list, its 843.5 tons of gold account for only 3.5 percent of total foreign reserves. On the open market, Japan's gold reserves would be worth around $39.36 billion, and are overseen by the Bank of Japan.
Value of reserves: $44.8 billion
Holdings total: 960.1 tons
The Central Bank of the Russian Federation is in charge of the country’s 960.1 tons of gold, which are valued at $44.8 billion and comprise 9.2 percent of the country’s foreign reserves.
In 2009, Russia increased its gold production by 21 percent, due in part to the launch of several new mines. In 2010, the country overtook Japan in total holdings, adding more than 140 tons to its stockpile in that year alone. Russia's buying of gold continued in 2011, purchasing 4.9 tons in July, according to the IMF's August report.
Value of reserves: $53.5 billion
Holdings total: 1,146.5 tons
The Swiss National Bank conducts Switzerland's monetary policy and manages the country's 1,146.5 tons of gold.
With the world's eighth largest reserve of the precious metal, Switzerland's supply is worth approximately $53.5 billion in today's gold market. It accounts for 15.8 percent of the country's foreign reserves, though this proportion has dropped in the past year.
Value of reserves: $54.22 billion
Holdings total: 1,161.9 tons
At 1,161.9 tons, the world's most populated country has the world's seventh largest gold reserve. Expect it to be higher on the list? Well, bear in mind that China's gold only accounts for 1.8 percent of its foreign reserves. With a population of 1.34 billion, the country holds about $40.46 worth of gold per person, totaling $54.22 billion.
Value of holdings: $64.53 billion
Holdings total: 1,213.9 tons
Unlike other major gold holdings, this is one that investors can actually buy in to. As the price of gold fluctuates, so does the value of SPDR Gold Trust, also known the GLD.The fund held 38,845,889 ounces, or 1,213.9 tons of gold as of its 10-Q filing on June 30, 2011.
Although gold is off it’s all time highs, during the week of August 22, 2011, the SPDR Gold Trust surpassedthe heavily-traded S&P 500 SPDR (SPY) for the first time. Like many investors, the ETF has indicated they have increased their holdings of goldsince their most recent filing.
Pictured: Gold bars are displayed at the GLD Fifth Anniversary Celebration Hosted By SPDR Gold Shares in New York
Value of reserves: $125.28 billion
Holdings total: 2,684.6 tons
The French National Bank, Banque De France, is home to the country's gold holdings, which comprise 71.8 percent of its foreign reserves. With 2,684.6 tons of gold in reserve, France's holdings are worth approximately $125.28 billion.
Value of reserves: $126.12 billion
Holdings total: 2,702.6 tons
The Banca D'Italia manages Italy's foreign reserves, which have been reported at 2,702.6 tons by the World Gold Council and comprise the fourth largest gold reserve in the world.
These holdings are worth $126.12 billion in the open market and account for 73.4 percent of the country's foreign reserves.
Value of reserves: $144.76 billion
Holdings total: 3,101 tons
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) oversees international economic operations of 185 member countries. Its gold policies have changed in the last 25 years, but the reserves remain to stabilize international markets and aid national economies.
In one such instance, the IMF sold a portion of its reserves in December 1999 to aid the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. The 3,101 tons of IMF Gold would fetch roughly $144.76 billion in the open market.
Value of reserves: $174.7 billion
Holdings total: 3,743.7 tons
The Deutsche Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, has 3,743.7 tons of gold reserves, which are valued at about $174.7 billion. According to the World Gold Council, Germany’s gold coffers account for 73.7 percent of total foreign reserves.
Value of reserves: $418.39 billion
Holdings total: 8,965.6 tons
The United States Bullion Depository in Kentucky—otherwise known as Fort Knox—is the most famous gold stockpile in the world. It holds the majority of the nation’s gold reserves, the remainder of which is held at the Philadelphia Mint, the Denver Mint, the West Point Bullion Depository and the San Francisco Assay Office.
Altogether, the total gold reserves of the U.S. equal 8,965.6 tons and would be valued at approximately $418.39 billion in today's market.