This week, fresh statistics from the World Gold Council revealed that net gold purchases by central banks around the world reached their highest levels since 2013, increasing by a whopping 68 percent to 145.5 tonnes over the past year.
Estonia’s Central Bank has just one 11 kg gold ingot left in its vaults, Fabio Filipozzi, head of the Bank’s financial markets department, has revealed, speaking to local media on the occasion of the Bank’s 100th anniversary.
According to Filipozzi, the vast majority of Estonia’s modest 256 kilograms (0.25 tonnes) gold bullion holdings are stored in New York City ‘for security reasons,’ with the policy of storing gold abroad going back 100 years to Estonian independence from Soviet Russia in 1918.
The remaining ingot has an estimated value of about half a million euros but does not have a sufficient purity to actually be used in financial operations, making it more of a “museum piece” than a functional store of value.
Commenting on the modest size of Estonia’s gold reserves, which rank second last in Europe, Filipozzi noted that this was the result of the republic selling off the vast majority of its precious metal holdings to invest in other assets, such as stocks and bonds, after breaking off from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Estonia’s Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, have considerably larger gold holdings of 6.6 tonnes and 5.8 tonnes, respectively.
Four of the five countries with the world’s largest gold reserves are in Europe, including Germany, with 3,369.7 tonnes, Italy, with 2,451.8 tonnes, France, with 2,436 tonnes, and Russia, with 2,150 tonnes. The United States has the world’s largest gold holdings, with 8,133.5 tonnes.
The storage of gold reserves in other countries can be fraught with risks, as Venezuela discovered when its authorities attempted to pull part of the country’s gold out of the UK earlier this year only to be rejected. Other countries, including Iraq and Libya, have faced looting and confiscations of their reserves abroad after being invaded or bombed by NATO.