26 May, 2010 @ 10:25
4 mins read

Spain’s gold rush

THEY certainly were the golden days.

Some 150 years ago, hundreds of thousands of dream seekers swarmed to America’s Wild West after gold was discovered in January 1848.

People descended on California’s rocky plains from as far afield as Europe, Latin America and even Asia as they sought to make their fortune.

In those far-off, lawless days gold was very much the word on the world’s lips and, now, almost two centuries later, history is repeating itself.

But rather than via a dark, perilous mine near San Francisco, riches can now be made, rather more comfortably, from the shop floor of a jeweller.

Billboards across the Costa del Sol and Andalucia are plastered with the latest contenders
Across Spain and the whole of Europe the gold rush has definitely returned.

New cash for gold schemes are appearing as fast as people are finding old family heirlooms.

In the middle of the global downturn, financial crisis and, above all, plummeting currencies, it appears that gold is the one commodity in which people still have absolute faith.

Add to the gold melting pot the fact that the precious metal is at its highest value for at least 20 years, and it’s easy to understand its glittering popularity.

The latest figures confirmed that the price of gold now stands at $1,228 per troy ounce, compared with its lowest in recent memory, which was $252.80 in July 1999.

It is estimated that in little over a year the number of shops dedicated to the purchase and sale of second-hand jewellery has grown from just over 10 to 90 across Malaga province alone.

And the rampant growth of the industry has been reflected in the number of adverts and coverage the competing companies have taken.

Billboards across the Costa del Sol and Andalucia are plastered with the latest contenders.

And touring companies, such as Roadshow EU, are now giving more established shops a real run for their money.

No doubt about it. There is only one word on everybody’s lips at the moment.

“It certainly is gold, gold, gold at the moment,” explains Anthony Barnes, owner of Anthony’s Diamonds in Fuengirola.
“Gold equals currency, it is the only thing on the planet you can always rely on to sell.”

Barnes has been running his antiques and pawnbrokers shop since 1983 and believes that people have now renewed faith in its worth.

“If you were to put a diamond in gold it would suddenly be much more difficult to sell.

“But the thing is you can buy a million pounds of gold and sell it immediately.

“It is not the same for cars or properties. The recommended retail price of a car can be 28,000 euros, but it doesn’t mean anyone will want to buy it.

“But you can cash up gold instantly. Hence the gold rush.”

Yet Barnes has been in the business long enough to be sure that the recent frenzy – despite its unprecedented growth – will not last forever.

“There is only a certain amount of gold in the world and the truth is most people don’t have it,” continues Barnes.

“There is a big boom in popularity but I suspect it will fizzle out.”

Nevertheless, right now, the gold industry has arguably never had it so good and new shops have rapidly opened to cater for this demand.

One such example lured by the gold rush is The Old Gold Company, also based in Fuengirola.

Just 14 months young, the company, run by Michael Senker, set up shop just when the industry was on its upward spiral. It is yet to look down.

“The price of gold is the most expensive it’s ever been, the fact is no one trusts cash any more,” explains Senker.

“They need to raise fast cash, and, for me, nothing is too big or too small.”

“Many people would rather have something in gold, as opposed to cash.”

“People are finding the times tough and they are coming across items stashed away which they don’t wear anymore.

“They need to raise fast cash, and, for me, nothing is too big or too small.”

In one fell swoop punters can walk into such shops with a few shiny items and emerge with some handy money.

It is no surprise that scores of people are now trawling through their bedroom drawers in search of anything that may be worth some easy cash.

And, under closer inspection, it is surprising what objects do actually contain gold.

It can be found in Nasa telescopes, video cameras and gold is even a registered EU food additive.

Green lovers will also be pleased to hear that the valuable metal is actually one of the most recycled substances on the planet.

Experts predict that the average wedding ring will contain gold that was once worn in Ancient Greece or Rome.

Full of history, each piece of jewellery boasts its unique past, and this is what the travelling Roadshow EU specialises in.

The family-owned business, run by Marbella residents, husband and wife Morne and Shani Botes, takes a keen interest in the antiques’ past.

“The service we provide is different to the highstreet shops as we sit down with our clients and give them the history behind their heirlooms,” explains Morne, from South Africa.

“Our clients love to hear the stories behind their valuables. For many, the value of their jewellery is actually of secondary importance to the intriguing past it is likely to contain.

“Sadly, in Spain, there are so many people who are paid just to tell someone the price of gold.

“We are gold experts, and we have based our service on the much-loved British programme the Antiques Roadshow.”

The multi-talented Botes can even claim to have enjoyed a brief Hollywood career, having had small roles in Guy Richie’s Rock n Rolla and the Bridget Jones sequel.

However, he is now more than happy to see his three-year old company grow and continue its success.

Despite admitting that it is tough to unearth “someone who finds looking at an old watch exciting” the fledging businesses’ transformation has been impressive.

Morne explains: “We began with just a small team of four people in Germany, now we have five teams across Europe with two teams here in Spain.”

Roadshow EU has now established permanent offices in London, Marbella, Dusseldorf and Madeira.

And the company’s triumphs mean that the future is nothing less than exceptionally busy for the go-getting Botes.

“I will be travelling up and down the coast for the rest of the year,” he adds.

“We have shows planned for Nerja, Mojacar, Almeria and Fuengirola to name just a few places.”

It certainly is nonstop for the gold industry at the moment.

No doubt about it, the Wild West had nothing on this.

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

Do you have a story? Contact newsdesk@theolivepress.es

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