Stocks of physical gold crossed continents in the first half of 2013 as Westerners dumped their holdings and, on the other side of the world, the resulting fall in price sent consumers flocking to jewelers and bullion dealers.
Indian, Chinese, Thai and other Asian consumers flocked to jewellers and bullion dealers to build their holdings.
The trend, disclosed n the latest data from the World Gold Council, a trade organisation established by the gold mining industry, highlights the different ways in which gold is viewed and owned around the globe. The figures below show global demand for the metal in tonnes, in the months April-June 2013. Jewelry demand was up 37pc over the same period in 2012, reaching the highest level since 2008. Bar and coin investment was also up by a huge 78pc year on year. This purchasing was concentrated in China, India and the Middle East, the WGC said - while selling was largely concentrated in western markets.
In the past decade Western investors piled into gold primarily through the medium of "exchange traded funds" or ETFs. These hugely popular vehicles facilitate quick and cheap trading in gold, because physical stocks of the metal - stored in secure vaults typically in London, New York or Switzerland - are linked to corresponding shares traded on major exchanges like the LSE or NYSE. In 2007 physical gold ETFs represented 800 tonnes of the metal, rising to 3,000 by 2012. Its rapidly rising price, fuelled by the banking, sovereign debt and other crises, drove record inflows.
But these reversed dramatically earlier this year with ETF outflows triggering the sell-off of 150 tons in the month of April alone. The WGC has repeatedly said that while ETF demand for physical gold is small relative to other demand, such as that for jewellery, it is highly determinative of price. This is because the supply chain for jewellery is more complex and long, it says.
In today's release the WGC said gold held in gold-backed ETFs fell by just over 400 tonnes, "driven by hedge funds and other speculative investors continuing to exit their positions". This was "predominantly in the US", it added. Gold funds, of course, have felt the benefits of the rebounding price of bullion.
Research from Hargreaves Lansdown shows the top seven best performing funds in July were all related to gold. Gold funds tend to own shares in gold mining companies, whose shares rose more sharply than the gold price, which gained 9.7pc over the month of July.