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Who's Buying Gold? Err, Everyone
CNBC.com | August 29, 2011 | 03:33 PM EDT

Here's a shocker: according to the World Gold Council , all the gold that has ever been mined still exists today in one form or another.

Oh sure, there is stuff that is lost in the ground, or under the sea, but it's still there, waiting to be recovered. How much gold are we talking about? About 165,600 metric tons (a metric ton is 1,000 kilos, or about 2,200 pounds), or 5.3 billion ounces, according to GFMS Limited.

To understand it visually, imagine two or three Olympic-sized pools. All the gold ever mined would only fill them. (An Olympic swimming pool is 50 meters long, 25 meters wide, and two meters deep, which is 2,500 cubic meters.)

What form does all this gold take? Mostly, it's in the form of jewelery. Here's a breakdown.

According to the World Gold Council, gold sales in 2010 reached a ten-year high of 3,812 metric tonnes — about 135 million ounces. Jewelry demand remains strong, demand for gold bars is increasing rapidly, while demand for gold held in exchange traded products, ETFs , after increasing rapidly for several years, appears to be leveling off.

Who's buying all this gold? India is far and away the largest consumer of gold in the world. It accounts for about one-third of all gold purchased — that is, consumer demand, not from central banks or government agencies.

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