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This blog discusses The Perth Mint's bullion coins and bars, providing information about our latest designs, mintages, sales volumes and sell outs. On a broader front, we share relevant research and opinions for anyone interested in gold and silver bullion investing.

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Gold's role in diagnosing disease

Precious metals have and will continue to play a vital role in helping to protect humans from serious disease.

In fact, gold has several known medical applications. While many of us are aware of its long history of use in dentistry, less well-known is its role, in injectable form, as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors are also experimenting with gold nanoparticles to target the delivery of drugs in the fight against certain cancers.

Similarly minute particles of gold are at the heart of lateral flow assays (LFAs) - simple to use, disposable diagnostic devices that can test for biomarkers in samples such as saliva, blood and urine.

Capable of delivering instantaneous diagnosis directly to patients without recourse to time-consuming and costly laboratory analysis, millions have been used worldwide in recent decades to screen for diseases such as malaria, HIV and many others.

According to an article by consultant Trevor Keel for the World Gold Council, the speed and low cost of these devices could be critical in the global response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), a pandemic unprecedented since the Spanish flu of 1918-20.



Given the nature of the current pandemic, quick and accurate diagnosis is absolutely critical to help understand, track and tackle the outbreak,” he said.

Among the many diagnostics which are either commercially available or in development, “increasing numbers of first-generation biomarker LFAs are being registered and evaluated, many of which are gold-based.”

Encouragingly, authorities worldwide appear to be accelerating the route to market for these new COVID-19 diagnostics, Mr Keel said.

Silver also has its role to play in combating serious diseases like Coronavirus, with its germ-killing qualities having been recognised for thousands of years. 

Known to have helped prevent the spread of disease-causing pathogens across history, silver kills microorganisms by releasing ions (charged atoms or molecules) that interfere with the bad cells’ DNA in a lethal manner – an attribute that could be useful in the fight against Coronavirus and other modern day bacterial infections. 

Indeed, you may already be using silver to safeguard your health during these uncertain times. With soap and sanitiser declared the best possible defence against the deadly Coronavirus, you might find yourself using a hand sanitiser that includes ‘colloidal’ silver – tiny particles of silver suspended in liquid. 

Trusted to help protect livelihoods – and lives – for generations, these precious metals are continuing to prove their value in more ways than one. 


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The gold standard in mental health

While keeping some distance from each other to maintain our physical health in 2020, we have all appreciated how important it is to maintain positive social connections and good mental health. 

Given many people spend a significant proportion of their lives at work, it’s important that organisations encourage their employees to reach out for help when they need it while fostering conversation and inclusion within the workplace.

Below we outline what The Perth Mint, as a Gold Mental Health First Aid Skilled workplace, does to support its staff, and hence their families and friends in the broader community.

By the numbers

In any given year, 20% of Australians will have experienced a mental health condition. A further one sixth of the population will suffer with symptoms of undiagnosed mental illness. Yet 65% of these people don’t seek access to professional support. 

In 2017, 3,128 Australians took their own lives. It is estimated that for every person who dies by suicide, another 20 people will attempt to take their own lives. 

Mental health conditions can manifest in a variety of ways at work including increased absenteeism, withdrawal, personality changes, decreased performance, conflicts with co-workers, difficulties concentrating and memory problems. 

Registered psychologist and Perth Mint Group Manager Organisational Development Kristen Potter says there has been a stigma around mental health illnesses in the workplace which may impact those suffering. 

“Stigma, fear of losing their job and an unsupportive workplace can all contribute to a reluctance to reach out for help,” Kristen said. 

“A mentally healthy workplace aims to foster an environment where people at all levels have a common goal and a commitment to positive mental health. Work demands are realistic in a way that balances the needs of the employees and the organisation. Everyone feels comfortable to speak openly about mental health and mental health conditions, without fear or stigma, creating a culture of respect and inclusivity.”

Fostering a mentally healthy workplace

Various elements such as job design, team and group factors, and organisational policy contribute to mental health and wellbeing outcomes in employees. Jobs which provide a perceived level of control and autonomy, meaningful work and variety are associated with better mental health outcomes, according to many studies. 

“Team factors provide access to emotional and practical assistance and fulfil our fundamental need we have to belong,” Kristen said. 

“Factors such as changes within the workplace, the level of support available, systems in place for recognising and rewarding good work, the fairness of rules and social norms, the psychological safety culture and physical work environment can all contribute.”

It is also important to look outside the workplace at pressures from home such as marital distress, abuse and violence, caring responsibilities, loss of a loved one and financial stress.

In addition, individual variants are unique and complex such as a family history of mental health problems, personality traits, coping styles, responses to stressful situations and various lifestyle factors. 

Golden initiatives 

As the global community has become more aware of the need to recognise mental health conditions in the same capacity as physical wellbeing and safety, initiatives have been developed to assist in mental health first aid.   


This is defined as the help provided to a person who is developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of a mental health problem, or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received, or the crisis resolves.

Mental Health First Aid Australia, a national not-for-profit organisation focused on mental health training and research, has developed a range of courses that teach mental health first aid strategies to members of the public.

In 2019 The Perth Mint was named a Gold Mental Health First Aid Skilled workplace by Mental Health First Aid Australia in acknowledgement of our achievements in developing mental health first aid skills.

“The recognition program celebrates organisations across Australia who not only invest in developing mental health first aid skills in their people, but also show a strong commitment to embedding the program into their organisation’s culture,” Kristen said.

“This can be implemented through actions like senior leadership support, relevant policies, supporting Mental Health First Aid Officers and continuous education and development of resources.”


To achieve a gold standard, workplaces must have trained at least 10% of staff in Mental Health First Aid and achieved completion of at least eight initiatives such as those outlined above.


The Perth Mint’s approach to a mentally healthy workplace is through an integrated framework across three key areas of promotion, protection and support.

“Promotion focuses on improving understanding and promoting mental health. Protection is about fostering a stigma-free culture and support looks at how to help the individuals in a way that works for them,” Kristen said.

 

Acknowledging the importance of training across all levels of the organisation, The Perth Mint delivers an annual Engaging Leaders Program from Mental Health First Aid Australia which Kristen believes has a positive impact within the workplace.

Following the delivery of this program in 2019, 100% of participants stated that they felt confident to implement the learnings into the workplace.

“My favourite piece of feedback from a manager was: Remember the old days? We would've never done anything like this. We are changing, in a good way...’”, Kristen said.

In 2020 we are keeping the conversation going by creating conversation corners at our East Perth and Refinery locations with a new R U OK? branded bench in recognition of the work the R U OK? organisation in Australia does to encourage meaningful conversations around mental health. 

These are designed to create an informal, inviting and friendly space and act as a reminder of the importance of taking time every day to look out for the people around us. 

Next steps

While financial return on investment has not been measured, the impacts of such initiatives over the past few years have been felt by the business in other ways.


“Qualitatively we have started to see a shift in the mindsets and conversations around the business. The topic of mental health is much more prominent than it was a few years back,” Kristen said.
 
“We regularly celebrate events such as R U OK? Day, our CEO includes a repeated public statement demonstrating our commitment to mental health in his safety promise, our Mental Health First Aid Officers are being utilised and during COVID employee wellbeing was at the forefront of the conversation.” 

Dedicated to continuous improvement, The Perth Mint’s plans moving forward involve ongoing development of leadership skills and building the range of wellness initiatives available which include an Employee Assistance Program, resilience workshops, mindfulness workshops, on-site yoga and general wellness seminars. 

Learn more about careers at The Perth Mint and its commitment to people and culture here.

Resources
What is a mentally healthy workplace, Heads Up



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Understanding gold purity

Dating back to the beginning of time, gold’s value has always been inextricably entwined with its purity. 

While the system of measuring gold’s purity was determined thousands of years ago, long before it became a monetary asset, these units continue to dictate the metal’s value today. 


It therefore makes sense that understanding how and why gold is valued remains just as important to the modern investor as it did to the ancient trader.


Below we explore what purity means - and why it matters.


Ancient origins


Gold’s durability, density and glow made it a natural choice as a store of wealth long before it was used as money.


Before the advent of coins, which were an ingenious innovation around 700BCE (a good 2,000 years after gold was first launched on its monetary career), every transaction involved the somewhat tedious task of testing for purity and putting the gold on a scale to determine its exact weight. 


So, from the very beginning, a widely accepted method for gauging the purity of gold was essential. It therefore acquired its own measuring system for these purposes, with versions now used on other precious metals and gemstones. 


Did you say carob?


You may be familiar with the word carat as a unit of measurement in relation to diamonds and other precious gems. However we also define the purity of a piece of gold in terms of its carats. 


Carat - deriving from Arabic qīrāṭ, meaning ‘bean pod’, keration in Greek and carato in Italian – was originally a unit of measurement rather than purity. 


Carats are the seeds of the leguminous carob tree, the average pod of which weighs one-fifth of a gram. Hence these small seeds from the flowering plant were the conventional standard weight for eons - and remain so for gold. 


One carat (spelt karat in the US) is equal to 1/24th part of pure gold in an alloy. 


In other words:

• 24-carat gold is 99.99% pure, or 24/24 carats. 
• 22-carat gold, expressed in a percentage, is 91.7% pure. 
• 18-carat is made of 18 parts gold and six parts of some other metal, such as copper or silver, meaning it is more durable and resistant to scratches than pure gold.

24-carat gold – or 99.99% pure gold – is the highest and purest grade of gold. It is soft, malleable and highly resistant to rust and tarnish. Therefore, its most common usage is in gold bars and coins for investment and wealth storage. 


22-carat gold is typically less expensive than 24-carat gold. It is more durable than its pure counterpart, making it ideal historically for the production of gold sovereigns. It is also found in plain jewellery, however 18-carat (75% pure gold) is also suitable for fine jewellery and of course 14-carat and below are typical gold nominations for more common – and less expensive – adornments. 


As per all those thousands of years ago, the more carats and therefore the purer the gold, the more valuable. 



Troy ounces


Eventually the carat was replaced as the standard measurement by the grain. The troy ounce, which comes from the French town of Troy where the measure was first put into use, weighs 480 grains. 


12 troy ounces equal one pound, which is the same as one sixteen-ounce pound avoirdupois (avoirdupois is the conventional measurement system of weights which uses pounds and ounces). 


Therefore troy ounces are heavier than the ounces we are used to employing. The modern convention is to express the weight of gold in grains but the price in troy ounces. 


Purity you can trust


Armed with the above knowledge, you can see why it’s important to understand the purity – and therefore the quality – of your assets, especially when building your savings.


As a certified gold refiner and weight master with accreditations from all five of the world’s major gold exchanges, Perth Mint customers can have the utmost confidence in the stated weight, purity and integrity of our products.


With a reputation built across more than 120 years as an industry leader, we are the supplier of choice for thousands of investors around the world who benefit from the trusted purity of our suite of products. 


If you’re ready to save in gold, we offer easy access to the precious metal in a variety of forms.


An extensive range of physical gold bullion gold bars and coins are available for purchase from our website, with the weight and purity of each guaranteed. 


These span from 1oz to 1,000oz (1 kilo) gold bars and coins, all 99.99% pure. 


Our Depository Online (DOL) service provides online access 24/7 to live gold prices for easy trade and several types of storage options. DOL can easily adapt to a savings plan with the option of scheduling an investment of as little as AUD 50 each month.


For those just starting out on their wealth-creation journey, our GoldPass app puts your gold savings in the palm of your hand. With instant access, it gives you the ability to buy digital gold at the touch of a button and with no minimum investment.

If you’d rather admire gold in the form of jewellery, our luxury boutique stocks exquisite 18-carat gold pieces perfectly complemented by the rarest of precious gems.


References


The power of gold: The history of an obsession
, Bernstein, Peter L. 

On the origin of the carat as the unit of weight for gemstones, Zhengzhang, T. Chin. J. of Geochem.10, 288–293 (1991). 


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Perth Mint Gold holdings September 2020

Holdings of Perth Mint Gold (ASX:PMGOLD) continued to rise in September 2020, increasing by almost 3,000 ounces. The product ended the month with holdings of 231,005 ounces (7.19 tonnes). 

Monthly flows into PMGOLD can be seen in the chart below, with holdings increasing by more than 70% in the first nine months of 2020. 


Source: The Perth Mint, ASX, Reuters

The growth in the product seen in 2020 continues a strong period of demand for PMGOLD that dates back to September 2018, with total holdings increasing by more than 170% over this two-year period.

PMGOLD holdings finished September 2020 with a value of AUD 614 million, based on a last traded price of 26.59 per unit on the ASX on 30 September 2020. 

To learn more about investing in PMGOLD, simply download our PMGOLD Factsheet


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Demand for Australian Lunar boosts bullion coin sales in September 2020

Topics [ Monthly Sales ]

Total ounces of gold and silver sold by The Perth Mint in September 2020 as coins and minted bars:

  - Gold (Au): 62,637 oz

  - Silver (Ag): 1,677,383 oz

The Perth Mint sold 1,677,383oz of silver coins and minted bars in September 2020, a 17.2% increase on the previous month and 24.2% ahead of sales in September 2019.

Despite a month-on-month decline of 7%, sales of gold coins and minted bars in ounces were more than 33% ahead of the same period last year.

Higher volumes were attributed to the launch of the Australian Lunar Gold, Silver and Platinum 2021 Coin Series during the month. One of the mainstays of Australia’s official Bullion Coin Program, the latest release celebrates the Year of the Ox, the second animal in the Chinese lunar calendar.

“We established the Lunar coin series back in 1996 and it has consistently been one of our most successful annual releases among both investors and collectors,” said Neil Vance, General Manager – Minted Products.

“We have an expansive network of international distributors for these coins who have ordered strongly again, especially in the United States and Germany where our brand is very well known.”

NB The above chart shows total monthly ounces of gold and silver shipped as minted products by The Perth Mint to wholesale and retail customers worldwide. It excludes sales of cast bars and other Group activities including sales of allocated/unallocated precious metal for storage by the Depository.



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Central bank gold holdings across the past decade

Topics [ market analysis gold market gold investment ]

As of September 2020, central banks collectively held just over 35,000 tonnes of gold. At a US dollar (USD) gold price of 1,909.35 per troy ounce*, these holdings were worth more than USD 2.15 trillion.

Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit just over a decade ago, central banks have added to their holdings each year as net buyers of gold. The chart below highlights net purchases on a calendar year basis from 2010 to 2019 and in the first six months of 2020.

Central bank net gold purchases (tonnes) – 2010 to 2020

 
Source: The Perth Mint, World Gold Council

Over this 10 and a half-year period, central banks have purchased more than 5,000 tonnes of gold. 2018 and 2019 were particularly strong years, with over 650 tonnes bought in each.

To put those figures into context, net purchases in 2018 and 2019 were higher than any previous calendar year purchase since the 1970s. 

Emerging market nations have been primarily responsible for the rise in central bank holdings, with Russia, China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Poland, Mexico, India, Iraq, Thailand, the Philippines, Brazil, Jordan, Hungary and a handful of other nations building their gold reserves since 2010.  

Why do central banks own gold?


According to a 2020 survey by the World Gold Council, central banks hold gold as part of their reserve assets for many reasons, not least of which is its historical position as a premier monetary asset. 

Other reasons given include:

 • Gold is seen as a long-term store of value.

 • Gold is trusted as an asset that will perform well during times of crisis.

 • Gold has no default risk.

 • Gold is seen an effective portfolio diversifier.

 • Gold is a highly liquid asset.

 • Gold can be valuable collateral.

Will central banks continue to invest in gold?

Whilst there are no certainties, it seems that on aggregate central banks will continue to build their gold holdings in the years to come.

There are several reasons for this, including heightened geopolitical risks in the market today, and the lack of real yield available in both short- and long-term fixed income securities.

It is also worth noting that whilst developed market central banks have large gold holdings, both in terms of total tonnage and the share of reserve assets, emerging markets are still playing catch up. 

This can be seen in the table below, which shows the total amount of gold and share of reserve assets held by developed market central banks in the USA, Germany, France and Italy. These numbers are compared to those of Brazil, Russia, India and China (known as the BRIC nations). 

Source: The Perth Mint, World Gold Council

In terms of total tonnes of gold, at just over 1,200 tonnes on average, the BRIC nations hold barely a quarter of the average gold holdings of the USA, Germany, Italy and France. The disparity is even greater when one looks at gold holdings as a percentage of reserve assets. 

Given the geopolitical and monetary environment the world finds itself in today, the gap seen in the table above may well continue to narrow in the years ahead. 

Jordan Eliseo
Manager – Listed Products and Investment Research
The Perth Mint

23 September 2020

*LBMA PM gold price on 21 September.

References

Why the world’s central banks hold gold – in their own words, Bullion Star 
2020 Central Bank Gold Reserve Survey, World Gold Council



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