If you’re ever lucky enough to get your hands on a bar of solid gold, you might be struck by how heavy it is.
Though gold bricks are only slightly larger than an ordinary masonry brick, they’ve got an unexpected heft to them that makes their immense value seem all the more impressive and immediate.
Just how much does a gold bar weigh, you ask? The answer may surprise you.
How Much Does a Gold Bar Weigh?
A 400-troy-ounce gold bar—the kind that many countries used as backing for various forms of currency until the early 20th century—weighs in at a whopping 12.4 kilograms or roughly 27 pounds.
For reference, that’s about as much as a brand new car tire, five two-liter bottles of soda, or a two-year-old child. It’s a full ten pounds heavier than the biggest regulation bowling ball and more than 20 pounds heavier than a clothes iron, which has a similar size and shape.
All of that weight is packed into a dazzling rectangular prism that measures 272 mm (10.7 in) x 94.5 mm (3.72 in) x 51.5 mm (2.03 in).
With this new knowledge, it’s almost comical to think back on all the movies and TV shows you’ve ever seen where a team of enterprising thieves has broken into a vault, loaded up a fortune in gold bars, and strolled out like it was no problem. In real life, they would never even make it out the door!
What Is a Troy Ounce?
A troy ounce is a special unit of measurement reserved specifically for precious metals such as gold.
According to the U.K. Royal Mint, one troy ounce is equal to 31.1034768 grams (0.0311034768kg).
The troy ounce has been the go-to weight designation for gold since at least the 10th century, making it one of the most enduring units of measurement in the West.
Bankers, traders, and jewelers in medieval Troyes, Frances (the city from which the unit takes its name) famously used troy ounces to weigh out precious metals and valuable items made from them. However, historians believe that the unit may have its origins in the ancient Roman uncia, another unit of measurement that weighed precisely 31.1 grams.
Why Does Gold Weigh So Much?
A quick science lesson is necessary to give you a better idea of what makes gold so heavy.
Gold is a very dense metal. Density is a function of a given object’s mass compared with its volume. In layman’s terms, that means that all of its individual atoms are heavy and fit closely together.
Interestingly enough, however, these same atoms are rather loosely-linked and capable of moving around one another, which is why gold is so easy to mold.
So, despite being one of the softest metals known to man, gold is extremely heavy, even in small quantities. Pretty neat, huh?
Do Gold Bars Only Come in One Size?
Actually, there are many different sizes of gold bars sitting in treasuries around the world. These range in size from the “standard” 12-kilogram bars we’ve already discussed to thumbtack-sized ingots weighing only a single gram.
Some other standard minting sizes include:
|1 troy ounce||42mm (1.65 in)||24mm (0.95 in)||2mm (0.08 in)||31.1 grams|
|50g||45mm (1.77 in)||25mm (0.98 in)||2.3mm (0.09 in)||1.61 troy ounces|
|100g||55mm (2.17 in)||31mm (1.22 in)||3mm (0.12 in)||3.22 troy ounces|
|10 troy ounce||57mm (2.24 in)||33mm (1.30 in)||7mm (0.28 in)||311 grams|
|1kg||80mm (3.15 in)||40mm (1.58 in)||18mm (0.71 in)||32.15 troy ounces|
Minting gold bars in a diversity of sizes makes them easier to store, transport, and trade.
Is the U.S. Still on the Gold Standard?
There are currently no countries that use the gold standard.
Great Britain made the unprecedented move of ditching the gold standard way back in 1931, and America followed suit two years later in 1933. It took another 40 years for the U.S. to cut ties with gold completely, as, by that point, it had become an integral part of the trading economy.
Something had to replace the defunct gold standard. That something was fiat money.
Fiat money is a peculiar type of currency that’s not backed by any physical commodity, such as gold or silver. Instead, it derives its worth from the global standing and reputation of the country that issues it.
In other words, the only reason it has any value at all is that everyone agrees that it does.
It’s a strange concept, but if you think about it, that same qualitative consensus is what made gold so valuable for so long.