Help: FAQs, overviews and step by step guides

Operational FAQs

How do I get started?

There are three steps to owning gold in BullionVault. Most people can complete the process in about 15 minutes of their own time.

Have you got a printer? Then go to our getting started procedure, print it out, and follow it through.

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How do I fund my account?

You must first open your account at BullionVault.

Then follow the details described here to send your money.

Safety issues

You will be probably be sending a significant sum. What happens to your money? How is it kept safe?

Your money will go either to a Wells Fargo account in America or to a Lloyds Bank account in London.

To Wells Fargo in America

From within the USA, you can send US Dollars via three domestic bank clearing systems.

The fastest and most secure method is Wire transfer. Funds are sent electronically through a central bank wire transfer system, such as the Federal Reserve's FedWire system. The sending bank will typically impose a charge to send funds by wire.

A common feature of online banking is electronic bill payment. This service is available from all US banks, and is usually free or with a small nominal fee on the order of $0.50. This method of payment is typically slower than a wire, but can depend on how it is processed by the sending bank.

Or you can send a check. Check transfers are free, but are much slower than the other methods available to you.

From outside the USA, you can send international wire transfers. Similar to a domestic wire transfer, these payments will be transmitted through the global SWIFT network. Most SWIFT payments are rapid, but it can depend on the banking hours of the jurisdictions involved.

Directly to Lloyds Bank in London

From within the UK you can send British Pounds via the two domestic bank clearing systems.

Your on-line payments, and your smaller, non-urgent payments, are settled via the BACS system. This is usually free to you, particularly where you initiate a payment from your on-line banking application. If you do not use an on-line banking service you can request your bank to credit us via BACS.

Many UK banks will send amounts below a certain limit via the Faster Payments system. Funds sent in this way will usually reach us the same or the following business day, depending on when they are sent. There is typically no charge to send funds via this system.

For larger sums you can also request your bank to issue a CHAPS payment to us. This will usually cost you a fee but has the advantage that cleared funds can be transmitted on the same day.

Generally speaking the sensible threshold for switching to CHAPS as opposed to a BACS payment is somewhere between £10,000 and £20,000, but you should choose for yourself, depending on the urgency with which you want to buy gold.

From outside the UK you can send SWIFT transfers electronically through the global SWIFT network, which has grown over 30 years to be easily the largest, most trusted and most reliable means of international bank to bank payment. Your money's successful transfer is fully guaranteed by SWIFT's participating banks.

Your money will be received in the UK by the City of London office of Lloyds Bank, which is one of the biggest banks in the world. It will be credited by them into our account, as named and numbered on the SWIFT payment instruction generated for you on the BullionVault site.

Lloyds Bank will immediately send us an electronic communication advising the receipt of your money and quoting the reference - your BullionVault username - which was on the SWIFT instruction. We then credit your account at BullionVault with your money, and your funds are guaranteed - so there is no clearance delay.

Within hours you will be able to buy your gold.


Like all western banks operating within modern money laundering regulations Lloyds Bank and Wells Fargo are responsible to the banking community for verifying the legal identity of those who seek to bank with them. They have verified both the legal identity of the corporate entity in charge of BullionVault and the individuals with responsibility for managing the accounts.

Lloyds Bank and Wells Fargo look after BullionVault's customers' money in this account. BullionVault's company accounts are kept separate from customers' money.

Client money is managed by BullionVault strictly according to the Terms of Business agreed between BullionVault and you, which limits the uses to which money in that client account can be put. Lloyds Bank, Wells Fargo and you have been fully informed of these Terms of Business.

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How do I buy gold on BullionVault's markets?

Once you have opened your account and funded it you are ready to buy gold. You can manage the buying and selling of gold on BullionVault’s order board yourself or you can choose to set up a Regular Gold Investment Plan.

There are many points within the BullionVault system from which a few mouse clicks create an order on the market order board for you.

There are several possible procedures. This might be the easiest way.

As you become a more sophisticated user you might click for an explanation of several different ways.

Click here for an explanation of how to beat the best buying price - in which your patience and willingness to offer the best price to a seller might be rewarded with cheaper gold.

You can also authorise us to buy bullion on your behalf under the Regular Gold Investment Plan

Monitoring an active order

There are several ways to monitor your order. The main one is explained here

A good alternate way to monitor unexecuted orders is from the order board, where you can see your bid in context with everyone else's.

Explanation of what happens to your confirmed order

Your order details are transmitted to the BullionVault order board. The instructions are processed in the strict sequence in which they are received. So, If your order can be executed in full you will buy gold there and then. We call this matching.

If not your order will probably be posted on the order board.

For each matched execution you will receive both

  1. interactive modifications to your own private orders history screen.
  2. email advices of the amount you have traded.

For order board trades, settlement occurs instantaneously upon deal execution which is possible because BullionVault retains control over the resources of both sides settling a gold trade.

Because settlement is instantaneous you can sell immediately after buying.

NB While you have unexecuted open orders your account balance remains the full sum of your money, but money required to honour the settlement of your open orders - should they execute - is not available to other orders you may wish to post. The amounts you need to settle your orders are in your reserved balances.

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What if I make a mistake?

It can be daunting getting to know a new e-business system where it may seem an incautious click could cost you a fortune. So let's take some of the worry out of it.

The only result of you spending money is buying gold at a fair market price.

System protections ensure you can do this safely even while you are unfamiliar with the system.

  • You can only spend money you have in the system. You cannot accidentally overspend your cash balance and be asked to send in more.
  • You cannot accidentally enter a purchase order in a currency you don't have. The system will reject your order.
  • You cannot accidentally sell gold you do not have. The system will reject your order.
  • You cannot accidentally issue us with instructions to pay the wrong person. We don't accept those instructions because we always pay funds to the account which sent us in money in the first place (i.e. yours).
  • You cannot be hurt by an accidental typing error which enters an order at an obviously silly price. The system rejects orders too far away from the current price.
  • You will never receive a margin request - i.e. a demand for additional money from us to cover the risks in your trading position. No such payment will ever be required, because there is no credit in the BullionVault system.
  • When you do put in an order you will see feedback with a request to confirm. You will be able to read a simple explanation of what the system is going to do for you, and you will have the chance to reject or accept it before it commits you.

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How do I verify my identity?

To verify your identify you have to choose from a variety of options explained in our identity verification procedure.

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Can I pay by debit/credit card?

No. The card processors charge high fees for use of cards meaning that we cannot accept these cards. Retailers selling goods on high margins can absorb such fees. But this isn’t possible for us as we charge low commissions (0.5% and less).

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Can I get physical custody of my gold?

Yes, all users have a right of withdrawal. But there are good reasons to leave your property inside the vault - where it could not be physically safer - pending exceptional economic or financial circumstances.

Holding your gold, silver, platinum and palladium inside accredited vaults in the form of large, market-approved bars means they retain maximum resale value. Because there is no physical movement when you deal, there are no shipping fees. Transaction costs are further reduced because you don't pay the fabrication costs and dealer mark-ups associated with "retail" units such as gold coins or small bars. Nor do you suffer the hassle, risks or costs of trying to care for your metal yourself outside specialist facilities.

Keeping your property inside secure bullion vaults could also make it more valuable to you amid a genuine crisis. History shows that gold commonly becomes unusable if physically held in a country where social or economic crisis has struck, because it exposes the owner to great risks, either through confiscation, personal safety or physical loss. Since nowhere can guarantee to remain permanently immune from crisis, it is also sensible to retain a degree of flexibility, and this is why BullionVault offers a choice of gold storage locations. We also use a vault manager and technology which allow the choice of storage locations to be extended by us as geopolitical circumstances change.

In addition to these strategic reasons for avoiding personal custody of gold, silver, platinum and palladium, there are tactical ones:-

  • Privately held gold is not fully trusted when sold back to bullion markets, and loses value proportionately.
  • Privately held gold is physically less safe than vaulted gold, and very much more expensive to insure.
  • Upon taking private custody, bar buyers must still trust the gold content unless they are competent to assay.

Using BullionVault overcomes these problems. It is very efficient for those people who want gold for financial and safety reasons. Should you choose to take possession, the extra fees incurred are detailed on our tariff. In the meantime, the sound and secure presence of your physical bullion inside the vault is proven, each day, by the Daily Audit.

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Where does BullionVault gold come from?

When new customers come onto the system we like them to be able to buy as much gold as they want at the best possible prices. But we only allow gold to be bought on the market order board when it's already in our vaults, and it takes a few days for the traditional bullion markets to deliver it.

So we estimate likely demand and buy gold up front with our own money from the wholesale bullion dealing community at the then dealing price. We arrange for physical delivery to our vault operators.

The bars delivered by our bullion market counterparties are guaranteed by the bullion trading system's chain of integrity.

After checking it our Vault Manager places the bullion in the vault. We are then sent a new bar list, upon receipt of which the newly received gold forms part of our official bullion inventory.

We add the delivered fine gold content against our own trading account in our BullionVault property records. Once it is in our inventory we can sell it to gold buyers via the order board.

Along with all other BullionVault users we can offer it for sale on the BullionVault exchange. Quite often we offer the cheapest gold, and when customers buy our bullion the net effect is an inflow of bullion into private hands in the BullionVault marketplace.

Whether or not customers compete in offering bullion prices is entirely a matter for them, but it is important that they can. Anyone who wants to sell (which could include you as soon as you have bought) can offer new buyers a price slightly cheaper than ours. Then rather than buying gold from us customers will be buying it from another customer who happens to offer the cheapest bullion.

It is this dynamism in an open market which produces highly competitive pricing for all participants.

Orders at the Daily Price are slightly different. Settlement occurs two working days after processing. This allows us to receive delivery of additional bullion from the professional markets, if needed.

As with any other BullionVault transaction, the resources used to initiate an order will be reserved, but will not be deducted from your account until settlement is complete.

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Is it always BullionVault with whom I trade?

No. You only trade with BullionVault if we were first to post the price which is better for you than any other BullionVault seller - who might be another individual such as yourself making use of the order board to get the best possible price when he wants to sell.

BullionVault gets no trading priority over other participants. In fact if you choose to offer the best price, and we subsequently match your price on the order board, then you get priority over us, because you were there first. This is the same for all participants and is true both for buying and selling.

Sometimes we underestimate how much gold there may be demand for over the next two or three days. When this happens we run out of bullion inventory and cannot operate as a seller of gold until we take delivery of some more. Then - just like any other Customer - we are prevented by the system from selling gold. But we are only one potential seller of gold. Whether we are selling or not other willing sellers will be setting prices for buyers too.

Moreover when we run out of gold inventory - in times of heavy demand - there might be a tendency for the offer price to be slightly higher than is reflected in professional bullion markets. Obviously this is an opportunity for those who own gold to sell it at an attractive price.

At absolutely no time can any BullionVault customer - including our own trading arm - sell gold which is not already held securely in the vault and owned outright by the customer.

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What purity of gold is a BullionVault gram of gold?

BullionVault gold is 100% pure gold.

We add gold quantities into our accounting records by multiplying the gross bar weight by the assayed bar purity. Both of these are measured by professional assayers, independently of BullionVault, when the bar is first manufactured.

London Good Delivery Bar - stamped with purity 9976 (99.76%)

The resulting 100% pure gold content of a bar is known as fine gold. Professional gold markets only trade fine gold.

Each gram of gold on your BullionVault account is fine gold - i.e. 100% pure gold - forever.

Gold which has been structured to be traded on a stock exchange usually has a weight discount applied, which reduces the gold backing over time. It's something to watch out for.

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Form and basis of quoted price

The form of your gold is a Good Delivery Bar already stored in the BullionVault section of the vault selected for storage.

This is slightly different from the form in which you can expect to see gold prices quoted all over the world. The world spot price for gold is quoted on an unallocated basis. Spot market buyers pay extra fees for the physical gold to be fabricated in any sub-12.4 kilo size, and they must pay for collection and delivery too, because the spot price only includes making bars available for collection at the seller's vault.

A bullion courier needs to be recognised by the vaults of both seller and buyer - because there are delivery procedures necessary for maintaining the chain of integrity. Physical delivery is awkward and expensive to arrange in small delivery amounts because the procedures require armoured transport and careful controls on staff.

In BullionVault you are buying physical gold which has already been fabricated and delivered and both are included in your price - regardless of size.

Note: Vaulting agreements with recognised vaults start at around 15 to 20 400 oz bars (worth several million dollars). The private storage alternative - storing in safe deposit - requires you accept the loss of resale value which goes with unrecognised vaulting/storage arrangements. These are costs which the BullionVault structure helps you to avoid.

If I buy from another BullionVault customer how do I know the gold is still pure?

A critical part of the BullionVault system is that people take legal delivery of gold and own it outright, but they do not take physical custody of it.

Although you may be buying gold from another customer they have never touched it, and your gold has never left the vault or had its chain of integrity corrupted. It might have been owned by many BullionVault customers by the time you buy it, yet it remains the same bar as the day it was first delivered by the professional bullion market to the vault, and was checked by the vault operator.

This method of custody is called immobilisation. It is an important part of diminishing participation costs and increasing security for everyone.

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What is the specification of a standard London gold bullion bar?

This is fixed by the London Bullion Markets Association. The specification comes from the LBMA website.

(a) Weight: minimum gold content: 350 fine ounces (approximately 10.9 kilograms)

maximum gold content:430 fine ounces (approximately 13.4 kilograms)

The gross weight of a bar should be expressed in ounces troy, in multiples of 0.025, rounded down to the nearest 0.025 of an ounce troy (see LBMA paper on "Weighing, Packing and Delivery Procedures for Gold and Silver Bars" at Annex D).

(b)Fineness: the minimum acceptable fineness is 995 parts per thousand fine gold.

(c) Marks:

Serial number

Assay stamp of Acceptable Refiner


Year of manufacture (expressed in four digits)

Marks should be stamped on the larger surface (normally the cast surface at the top of the mould) of the two main surfaces of the bar.

(d)Appearance: bars should be of good appearance, free from surface cavities and other irregularities, layering and excessive shrinkage. They must be easy to handle and convenient to stack.

When BullionVault buys a bar from the wholesale markets the actual amount paid depends on the physical bar delivered. If an undersized bar is delivered the purchase price is reduced accordingly, and it is raised for an oversized bar.

Whichever is the case it is the fine gold content which is eventually attributed to BullionVault's ownership within the system. In this way the variation of bullion bar size and purity is of no consequence to BullionVault's gold owners. They just own grams of fine gold content.

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How does BullionVault decide the prices which it quotes?

Contrary to much popular belief there is no perfect market knowledge. We do not have a privileged position which enables us somehow to know what will happen to the price in the next 5 minutes, far less fix it.

So making live prices on the BullionVault order board is something which keeps us permanently nervous. We are made still more nervous by the fact that we make our prices automatically using web robots, which are fast and cost effective, but not very smart. Via our robots we are permanently exposed to the possibility that you know more than they do, which is not hard, and that you are capable of reacting quicker than them, which is.

Our bots access a wide variety of sources for gold prices, both on the world wide web and elsewhere. They also watch our own order board. All of these data sources are available to you and other traders too. While the world markets are open we are confident enough to make a reasonably tight spread around our best estimate of the world's gold price, and in a respectable quantity of bullion.

It gets more difficult when the gold markets around the world shut down (for example at the weekend), and then we get especially nervous. You will notice that although we stay open the depth of the market diminishes when the gold markets are shut. This is because with markets closed the robots lack the external references to be reasonably confident they are not making silly prices to you, and to prevent losing too much to you they quote gold prices in smaller sizes.

In fact this is one of the best times of the day or week for you to trade a little gold. We make a thin market and let our customers activity define the price. The bots change our prices in response to greater demand or supply from you. This is still good for us because we can offer a price to the world which reflects the supply and demand we have experienced while everyone else was flat-lining, and we hope this helps us become the reference for gold prices throughout these times. The fact that we usually lose out a little in these times feels like a price worth paying.

You can read about web robots, what they do and how they work in the web robots section of the FAQs.

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What is the 'spread'?

Lots of people quote prices on the BullionVault order board. The spread is the difference between the bid and offer prices, i.e. the difference between the price at which gold can be immediately sold and the price at which it can be immediately bought. It varies from vault to vault and currency to currency.

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What decides the size of the spread?

Market conditions decide the size of the spread. If the market is very quiet active traders can make profits on narrow spreads, because in the time between buying and selling gold the price is unlikely to have moved out of their profit range. Conversely, if the market is very volatile the risk of owning gold for the period between buying and selling with different Customers increases. Then traders need to increase their spreads.

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Am I dependent on BullionVault quoting prices?

No. Any customer's limit orders will appear on the BullionVault order board. In the absence of BullionVault quoting prices other users will be happily competing to offer you prices too. They do this (and you can too) regardless of whether BullionVault itself is able and willing to trade.

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Might no-one be bidding a fair price for my gold when I want to sell?

This could happen. It's unlikely, because traders would usually fill the void by bidding so as to be able to sell at a profit to the next buyers.

But it could be a concern, so BullionVault also allows an alternate get-out which ensures this does not become a structural weakness in the BullionVault market. Under extremely controlled circumstances owners can opt to take physical delivery of gold from our vaults. This allows owners to sell their bullion elsewhere - which they would do if it turned out that prices elsewhere were consistently more attractive. Of course merely having the right tends to ensure that it is never required.

There are extra costs in withdrawing gold for selling elsewhere and they are punitive for small holdings (which are met by small bars held independently of the main stock). However withdrawal costs are not punitive for full 400 oz bars. This encourages bigger customers to bid for smaller amounts whenever the price drops below the level at which they can sell elsewhere. Again, in practice this entitlement prevents the situation arising where there are no worthwhile bids for gold on BullionVault.

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For larger deals can I deal direct with the bullion market?

Yes, larger customers may wish to deal in whole bar multiples. Under these circumstances whole bars may be bought or sold on the professional market and delivered direct, to or from a vault. To arrange this service you will need to contact us.

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There are often different prices for gold in different locations. Why?

There are three likely reasons for this.

  • The first is the natural variation in collective supply and demand of our customers. Occasionally there will be more buyers or sellers in one place than another. Sometimes this creates a clear opportunity to deal in the other location - what market professionals call arbitrage.
  • The second reason reflects physical delivery and storage costs. There are expenses involved in taking delivery of bars into vaults, and they vary from market to market and vault to vault. This means physical in-vault ownership may have a slightly higher value at vaults where those higher delivery costs have already been borne.
  • The third reason may be geopolitical. If it were felt by market participants that the jurisdiction in which a vault was operating presented certain extra risks or benefits then this might affect the price. A customer's BullionVault gold is specifically owned in a given vault. It has to be, because if - say - US gold was made subject to some new restriction or tax, then it is correct that this would affect only those who had chosen US storage. Owners in vaults in other jurisdictions would not be affected.

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How am I paid when I sell?

On matching a sale order on the BullionVault order board your BullionVault account is immediately credited with cleared funds. At the same instant the buyer is debited. The buyer's money was held in the pooled segregated bank account prior to the purchase, and at the instant of trade the entitlement to that segment of the pool transfers to you, just as your gold transfers to them. There is no actual bank movement of money.

You can re-invest instantly. You would probably leave your money on account if you were looking to re-invest at some near future date. You can sell and buy repeatedly on BullionVault without ever incurring the cost of a cash settlement to your own bank.

Sales at the Daily Price set are slightly different. You receive your cash two working days after processing. This allows us to return excess bullion to the professional markets, if needed.

As with any other BullionVault transaction, the bullion for sale will be reserved, but will not be deducted from your account until settlement is complete.

When you require payment we will wire your money to your bank by an appropriate banking system (e.g. SWIFT transfer).

All repayments from BullionVault are carefully examined and authorised by our staff, and transmitted during European banking hours. European banking hours cross over with USA banking hours during the afternoon in Europe and the morning in the USA.

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Is interest paid on money held in the pooled segregated client account?

No. BullionVault's client bank account isn't intended for you to hold large sums of money for long periods of time.

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Can I buy now and pay later?

No. Absolutely never. BullionVault's efficiencies come about partly through the elimination of the risk of a default by someone who might execute a trade without an available cleared cash balance.

There are other places on the web where you can buy gold and pay later, but there can be many problems. If there is credit for you there is credit - somewhere - for somebody else too, and it might be the somebody else who does not pay when it's your turn to be paid.

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How do people choose their vault location?

This is one of the most important decisions for prospective gold investors. To help you make your decision, you can read about each of the vaulting locations through the following links:

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Can I deposit cash?

No. Absolutely never. BullionVault requires that all incoming monies come from a source which has been validated in the banking world. Each account only accepts monies from its original funding source, and only remits funds back to that source.

BullionVault is committed to avoiding any suspicion that it is a useful utility for money launderers.

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Can I deposit bullion I already own?

No. Absolutely never. In order to repel money launderers (according to both our own ethical objectives and the law) BullionVault requires that all incoming monies come from a source which has been validated in the banking world. Each BullionVault account only accepts monies from its original funding source, and only remits funds back to that source.

Furthermore - BullionVault is very particular about the source of its bullion bars. To be acceptable to BullionVault bars must have been supplied by authorised refiners and bullion merchants with all the guarantees of bullion quality which this implies to the receiver in a given local bullion market. Only bars supplied in such a way are sufficient to merit the BullionVault guarantee of quality which all subsequent owners of any bar within BullionVault are entitled to expect.

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Can I use my gold as collateral?

There is no specific objection to using BullionVault gold as collateral against debts outside BullionVault, but the arrangements have to be concluded between you and whoever requires a charge over your gold. BullionVault does not itself become involved in such a situation.

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What is the minimum purchase/trade size?

1 gram (0.001 kilos) of either gold, silver or platinum for trades on BullionVault's order board. Take a look at the front page for the latest prices. When purchasing at the Daily Price, the minimum is $100 or equivalent

You should also consider the minimum custody charge when planning your investment.

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What is the maximum purchase/trade size?

There is no maximum, though for orders over $1m you may wish to call us to ensure liquidity.

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I have a client who wants to buy several metric tonnes. What should I know first?

There are many gold-related scams and con-artists working on the internet. These scammers rarely contact us directly. Instead they contact a middle-man who then tries to arrange the deal for them. We get phone calls from these middle-men every week, and almost every one of them who contacts us is intelligent, good at brokering difficult deals, and utterly unaware of how the gold market works. You're probably certain that your client is genuine, and we hope you're right, but for your own safety please consider the following before contacting us:

  • 5 tonnes of gold is a big deal, even for the professional markets. Almost every enquiry over 5 tonnes is from a con-artist. If you are genuine, you can be almost certain that your client is not. If you are certain that your client is genuine, you can be almost certain that their client is not.
  • 5 tonnes of gold, is worth about $150m. Anyone with that much money to spend can walk into any bank in the world and be treated like royalty. They do not need to contact you.
  • As at the year 2005, the USA owned 8,133 tonnes of gold. Germany owned 3,412 tonnes. If your client is asking to buy amounts in this range, then they are either Russia, China or a con-artist. Russia and China do not need to contact you.
  • One tell-tale sign of an internet scammer is the discount. Typically they will ask for a discount of 6%, which they will offer to split with you. This sounds like a great deal until you realise that there are no discounts in the gold bullion market. The world bullion markets are vastly deep and highly liquid. Nobody sells at a discount because they can already sell as much as they like, whenever they like, at the full price. The only people who will offer you a discount on gold bullion are the other scammers who are pretending to sell.
  • Most of these scams work by getting the victim to invest a large amount of time and energy setting the deal up. Then, just as it is about to go through, the victim is asked for a few hundred dollars to cover some fictional banking or legal fee. The victim pays because it's small compared to the time they've already spent, and even smaller compared to the profit they hope to gain. Internet scammers usually live in very poor countries. It is a fact that some people can work full-time for a year to con just one person out of a few hundred dollars, and consider it a good year's earnings. They can afford to waste everyone's time parting you from your money. When they've done it it's extremely easy for them to disappear.

That said, we can arrange large orders if they are genuine, subject to our standard terms and conditions plus the following:

  • The buyer must verify their identity before dealing.
  • The deal will be arranged at the London Price (as published daily on the London Bullion Market Association's website), typically for two-day settlement.
  • As always, you can only purchase when our bankers have notified us that your funds have cleared. No credit will be extended, no matter which institution vouches for it.

If you have checked that your client is happy with those terms then please contact us.

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