Indian Gold Market


Learn About India's Gold Market

India hosts the world’s oldest and most extensive physical gold market where gold consumption often approaches 1,000 tonnes per annum. Crucially, nearly all of India’s annual gold demand is met via gold imports, therefore gold imports, and government policy towards gold imports, are arguably the most important drivers of the Indian gold market, and highlight the need for an understanding of the structure of Indian gold imports.

India also hosts two active commodity exchanges, the MCX and NCDEX, each of which lists a series of gold futures contracts. Although the MCX and NCDEX and their gold futures contracts are well-known internationally, the exchange contracts are less important that the vast over-the-counter (OTC) gold import and distribution network that exists throughout India. However, the futures exchanges do provide some useful price signals.

MCX Gold (1 kg) Futures


Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX)

Contract name:

Gold futures




Indian Rupee

Contract size:

1 kg (minimum quantity that can be bought and sold)


gold of minimum 995 fineness. Premium added for gold delivered greater than 995 fineness

Price Quotation:

10 grams (the quantity for which price is quoted for trading)

Tick Size:

1 Rupee per 10 grams

Initial Margin:

Minimum  5%

Trading Day and Hours:

Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 11:30pm (trading hours extended to 11:55pm during US daylight saving hours)

Daily Price Limit:

3% base price limit, then up to 6% without cooling off period, then up to 9% after a 15 minutes cooling off period

Contract Months (expiry):

February, April, June, August, October, December

Last Trading Day:

5th trading day of expiry month

Price Quoted Ex:

Ex-Ahmedabad (arriving into Ahmedabad), including import duty and customs taxes but excluding sales tax/VAT, other surcharges and/or local taxes/octroi or premiums


Physically Deliverable

Delivery Unit:

1 kg

Delivery Locations:

Exchange designated clearinghouse facilities in Ahmedabad, with additional delivery locations in Mumbai and New Delhi

Position Limits:

For individual client: 5 metric tonnes for all Gold contracts, or 5% of market wide open position, whichever is higher For all clients of a member: 50 metric tonnes for all Gold contracts, or 20% of market wide open position, whichever is higher  

NCDEX Gold (1 kg) Futures


National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX)


NCDEX Trading System

Contract name:

Gold (1Kg – Domestic)




Indian Rupee

Contract size:

1 kg


gold of minimum 995 fineness and maximum 999.9 fineness. A premium will be added for fineness above 995. For gold delivered of 999.9 purity, the premium is

Price Quotation:

Rupees per 10 grams

Tick Size:

1 Rupee per 10 grams

Trading Day and Hours:

Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 11:30pm (trading hours extended to 11:55pm during US daylight saving hours). Trading on Expiry Date – to 11:30pm / 11:55pm. All timings are as per Indian Standard Timings (IST).

Daily Price Limit:

Same as MCX: 3% base price limit, then up to 6% without cooling off period, then up to 9% after a 15 minutes cooling off period

Contract Months (expiry):

January, March, May, July, September, November


Physically Deliverable

Settlement Price:

Calculation based on International price per ounce, converted to kilo, and then converted from US dollars to Indian Rupees. To this number is added Customs
Duty, as declared by Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC), and finally a premium (also converted from US dollars per ounce into Rupees per Kilo) is added.

Delivery Unit:

1 kg

Delivery Location:


Position Limits:

Same as MCX For individual client: 5 metric tonnes for all Gold contracts, or 5% of market wide open position, whichever is higher For all clients of a member: 50 metric tonnes for all Gold contracts, or 20% of market wide open position, whichever is higher

Infographic: The Indian Gold Market

Infographics Gold Holdings in India

How much gold is held in India?

There is no industry consensus on the amount of physical gold that is actually held within the borders of India. In 2012, the World Gold Council stated that India held 20,000 tonnes of gold in the form of jewellery, coins and bars[1]. Other estimates say that there are between 18,000 and 25,000 tonnes of gold accumulated within India[2].

Nigel Desebrock of Greedon International Research, who in 2002 published the well-known guide “An Introduction to the Indian Gold Market”, stated in his report[3], that as of 2001, there were approximately 12,000 tonnes of gold in India. Given that India has officially imported more than 10,500 tonnes of gold since 2001[4], then an accumulated total estimate of 22,500 tonnes of gold within India’s borders is not unrealistic, assuming net imports (imports – exports) are not significantly different to gross imports, and taking account of unofficial imports (smuggling).

India’s major Bullion hubs

Because India is such a vast and populous country, and because gold is embedded into Indian culture and society, India supports multiple large and active gold trading centres. In terms of gold importation points and regional gold industry activity, the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Jaipur, Kolkata, and Hyderabad are India’s most important gold centres. It’s useful to think about these cities in terms of relative location within India.

New Delhi is a city in the state of Delhi, in the north of the country. New Delhi is also the administrative capital of India, and is located within the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Jaipur in Rajashtan is also in the north of the country. Mumbai (Bombay) in the state of Maharashtra, and Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, are both located in the west of the country. Bangalore (Bengaluru) in the state of Karanataka, and Chennai (Madras) in the state of Tamil Nadu, are both in the south of India. Kolkata (Calcutta) is in West Bengal, which is in the east of India, and Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, would be classified as being in the south of the country.

Other cities such as Secunderabad, Indore, Agra, Lucknow, Kanpur, Kochi, and Raipur also support relatively important regional gold centres.

Based on contemporary gold import statistics[5], the most important ‘ports’ of entry for imported gold (mostly by air) are Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Bombay, Hyderabad, and Kochi (Cochin) which is in the state of Kerala in the south. Delhi is by far the most active importation point, followed by Ahmedabad and Bangalore.

Gold Importation into India

Apart from China, India is the world’s largest gold consuming nation. Since gold mining in India is very limited, gold demand has to be satisfied by either a) non-domestic supply, which comprises official imports or smuggling (unofficial imports), or b) domestic supply via recycling.

The Indian Government’s Revenue Department[6] has set the import tariff on refined gold bar at a relatively high 10%[7] meaning that even before various state and local taxes are applied, the gold price in India suffers a serious price distortion relative to the international gold price.

In its 2016 budget, the Indian finance ministry also added to the price distortions by adding a further 1% excise duty (tax) on top of the 10% import duty on refiner gold, and failed to adjust the import duty down, as had been expected. The import duty on dore gold bars is 8.75%, and was raised in the 2016 budget, from 8% previously. The import duty on semi-pure bars is 9.5% and was raised to this level in the 2016 budget from 9% previously[8].

Furthermore, the Indian Government strictly controls the entities allowed to import gold into the country, and has on occasion (2013-2015) imposed severe impediments on gold imports flows. To understand how India’s gold import sector works, its important to understand which entities are authorised to import gold, and how the recent gold import restrictions were applied.

Entities Authorised to Import Gold into India

Entities that are permitted to import gold into India require authorisation by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), which is part of the Indian Department of Commerce. Since 2009, the DFGT has authorised two types of entities to import gold into India[9]:

1) Banks nominated by the Reserve Bank of India

2) Agencies/entities notified by the Department of Commerce

Given the combined approach, the RBI and the DFGT both have an input into deciding which entities are allowed to import gold into India, with the DFGT endorsing the RBI nominations.

Overall, the DGFT permits the following entities to import gold into India:

1. Designated Banks nominated by the RBI;

2. Agencies / entities notified by the Department of Commerce, specifically;

(a) Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC)

(b) State Trading Corporation (STC)

(c) Projects & Equipment Corporation of India (PEC)

(d) Handicraft and Handloom Export Corporation (HHEC)

(e) EOU and SEZ Gems & Jewellery Units for their own consumption

(f) STCL Limited

(g) MSTC Limited

(h)  Diamond India Limited (DIL)

(i) Gems & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (G&JEPC)

(j) Premier Trading Houses

(k) Star Trading Houses (only for Gems & Jewellery Sector)

Note that SEZ = Special Economic Zone, EOU = Export Oriented Unit. Star trading houses and premier trading houses refer to a classification scheme of the Department of Commerce, whereby Indian export companies are ranked according to the value of their exports. Prior to 2007, the system assigned exporters between one and five stars. In 2007, that convention was amended and 4 star exporter houses became known as star trading houses, and 5 star exporters became known as premier trading houses[10].

Public Sector Undertakings

Public Sector Undetakings (PSUs) are large state-owned Indian trading companies which are supervised by the Indian government (the Ministry of Commerce and Industry). These PSUs are variously described as ‘Government of India Enterprises’, ‘Government of India Undertakings’, or Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).

The ‘Big’ 4 PSU’s are known by their abbreviated names, which are MMTC, PEC, HHEC, STC. The full original names of these PSUs (see above) gives some idea of their original activities when they were established. These four PSUs are vast trading combines that are involved in a diverse range of commodity imports and exports as well as importing and distributing precious metals. Since 1997, the ‘Big 4’ PSUs have been licensed by the Government to import gold for domestic use.

This followed a move by the Indian Government and the Reserve Bank of India that introduced a general licensing scheme for gold imports. The PSU’s source their imported gold from their suppliers (bullion banks and refiners) in a variety of ways, including via outright sale against payment, on a consignment basis, via gold loans, and via gold advances against letters of credit etc.

In 2009, three additional PSUs, namely STCL, MSTC, and Diamond India Limited (DIL) were licensed by the SGFT to import gold into India.


Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC), established in 1963, is India’s largest public sector enterprise, and overall is one of India’s largest importers and exporters of commodities (excluding oil).

Through its precious metals division, MMTC is India’s largest importer of gold, and is a large supplier and distributor of gold within India to bullion dealers, jewellers and to gold exporters[11]. MMTC also operates its own nationwide gold jewellery retail network. Together with the large Swiss refinery PAMP (which is owned by the MKS group), MMTC operates an Indian precious metals refinery on a joint venture basis. This refinery company is called MMTC-PAMP (see refinery section below for more details).


Project and Equipment Corporation of India Ltd (PEC), founded in 1971, imports and exports a range of commodities, raw materials and bullion, and has been importing gold since February 1998[12]. PEC sources its gold imports from LBMA refiners and banks, and imports refined gold into entry ports such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Jaipur.


State Trading Corporation (STC) was established in 1956. STC’s bullion division imports gold, silver and other precious metals into India from LBMA members, and distributes this metal to traders and jewellery manufacturers[13]. For gold, STC states that it imports 100 gram and 1 kilo bars, although it also lists that it imports ten tola bars (TT bars). Traditionally, TT bars were a popular bar size in the Indian gold market, but based on contemporary gold import statistics, ten tola bars are far less popular now, having lost out to 100 gram and kg bars.


Handicraft and Handloom Export Corporation (HHEC), founded in 1956, has been importing gold and silver into India since 1997[14].

Diamond India Limited (DIL)

Diamond India Limited is a body representing a group of diamond and jewellery manufacturers and exporters. DIL also imports gold and silver for distribution to jewellery companies in various regions including Mumbai[15].


The Gems & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (G&JEPC) is a Mumbai headquartered industry association for the Indian gems and jewellery trade with regional offices in the main Indian jewellery centres such as Chennai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur and Surat[16].

Premier Trading Houses (PTH) + Star Trading Houses (STH)

Indian jewellery exporters in the premier or star trading house category that are authorised to import gold into India include Rajesh Exports[17], Edelweiss Precious Metals[18], RiddiSiddhi Bullions[19], MD Overseas [20] and Zaveri & Co[21].

Nominated Banks

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has currently nominated 20 banks for authorisation to import gold and silver into India[22]. Nominated banks include Bank of India, Union Bank of India, State Bank of India, Bank of Nova Scotia[23] and HDFC Bank. Given that Indian government policy on gold imports is constantly shifting [24], this list of nominated banks is subject to change.

Government Restrictions on Gold Imports – A timeline

In 1998, the Indian Government deemed that the four nominated agencies (MMTC, STC, HHEC, and PEC) and  ‘Nominated Banks’ could import gold in a variety of ways, and not just on an outright purchase Document against Payments (DP) basis. In doing so, the Government allowed the nominated agencies and nominated banks to avoid the need of having to fully fund their gold imports, by allowing them to import gold using the following arrangements:

a) receiving loans from the suppliers of the gold (i.e. loans from bullion banks and refiners)

b) on a credit basis using credit from the gold suppliers, or credit from the buyer in the form of a Letter of Credit

c) on a consignment basis where the importers only pay for the gold stock that they utilise

d) on an unfixed price basis, where the ownership of the gold is transferred to the importer, but the purchase price is decided at a later date

During 2013 and 2014, as part of the Indian Government’s and RBI’s attempts to improve India’s trade deficit, the Government and the RBI introduced a whole series of restrictions in an attempt to dampen gold imports. The logic was that lower gold imports would means a lower value of total imports and thus directly lower the trade deficit. Some of the following restrictions altered the existing rules which had been put in place 1998.

13th May 2013: Since 1998, banks nominated by the RBI had been able to import gold on a loan basis, a consignment basis, and on an unfixed price basis (see above), with most of the gold imported by the banks being on a consignment basis. In May 2013, the RBI decided that nominated banks could only import gold on a consignment basis so as “to meet the genuine needs of exporters of gold jewellery”[25].

4th June 2013: A few weeks later in early June 2013, the RBI extended the consignment basis restriction to all nominated agencies, premier trading houses and star trading houses, so that they too could only import gold on a consignment basis “to meet the genuine needs of exporters of gold jewellery”[26].

27th June 2013: The RBI deemed that authorised dealers of foreign exchange were prohibited from advancing credit to importers of gold, or technically, that all Letters of Credit had to be on a 100% cash margin basis and all imports of gold had to be on a Documents against Payment (DP) basis. This cut out the use of credit from the gold supplier and buyer and also applied to gold supplied on an unfixed price basis[27].

22nd July 2013: The above restrictions by the RBI only addressed gold that was imported into the country by nominated agencies and banks for domestic use. Next the RBI looked at other ways to improve the trade deficit by targeting gold imports that were earmarked for exports, and gold that was imported into Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

This was done via the 80/20 rule. The RBI ruled that at least 20% of all gold imported into India, in any form including gold doré and gold coins, had to be made available for export. Furthermore, the 20% of the gold imported earmarked for export had to remain in bonded warehouses until it was exported and SEZ and Export Oriented Units (EOUs), Premier trading houses and Star trading houses were only allowed to “import gold exclusively for the purpose of exports only”[28]

14th August 2013: In mid-August the RBI and Government of India introduced further clarifications on gold imports in circular RBI/2013-14/187, which clarified and superseded the previous 2013 RBI restrictions. These clarifications included[29]:

  • Imports of gold coins and medallions were banned
  • All gold imports had to arrive through customs bonded warehouses
  • Premier and Star trading warehouses and entities based in SEZs and EOUs could only import gold into India for the sole purpose of exporting it again
  • Gold doré bar imports required a license from the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT)

21st May 2014: Some of the 2013 restrictions were eased slightly when Premier and Star Trading houses were allowed to participate in the 80/20 rule (i.e. allowed to import gold and only need to export 20% of their imported gold, provided they had been importing gold prior to the establishment of the 80/20 rule[30]

28th November 2014: The Indian Government withdrew the 80/20 rule scheme at the end of November 2014, after which time nominated agencies/banks/entities could again import gold into India without having to adhere to the rule any longer[31].

18th February 2015: In February 2015, the RBI and Indian Government clarified that nominated banks could commence importing gold on a consignment basis but only against upfront payments. Premier and Star trading houses could import gold on a Documents against payments basis with no restrictions on end use. The ban on the importation of gold coins and medallions was lifted, however banks could still not sell gold coins and medallions[32].

Gold Import Data

India has traditionally been one of the largest gold import markets in the world. Between 2001 and 2015 the country officially imported 11,000 tonnes of gold, on average 735 tonnes per year. Gold imports were particularly high at 941 tonnes in 2010, 1079 tonnes in 2011, and 980 tonnes in 2012, before the aforementioned government restrictions dampened gold imports to 828 tonnes in 2013, 779 tonnes in 2014 and over 900 tonnes in 2015.

Whereas high level Indian trade data on gold imports is published by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS)[33], a number of other of trade data services provide much more granular import and export data for the Indian gold market. For gold imports, this includes exact data on every individual gold shipment into the country including country of origin, port of entry, identity of importer, and description of shipment. These data providers include companies such as Infodrive and Zauba[34]. Hence, it is possible to see very granular information on gold bars and gold doré (HS code 71082000) being imported into India, where these imports originate from, and how they are described in the shipment documentation.

For example, Indian gold import shipping documentation shows fine gold bullion in the form of kilobars and 100 gram bars, and also lower purity gold doré bars. About ¾ of the fine gold bar imports come from Switzerland, with United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Australia, and Canada being the other main countries of origin for fine gold bars. This is to be expected given that these are the locations of the world’s leading gold refineries.

Gold doré bars were predominantly imported from Ghana, Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia. Again this would be expected given that these locations support large gold mining sectors. On the destination side, about ¾ of all gold imports arrived into Delhi airport, with Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad airports comprising the bulk of the remaining incoming port destinations.

Indian Exchange listed Gold Futures Contracts

Multi Commodity Exchange of India Limited (MCX)

Multi Commodity Exchange of India Limited (MCX)[35] is a Mumbai headquartered, electronic Indian futures exchange established in November 2003. Gold and silver were among the first contracts to be launched on the MCX in 2003. Currently the Exchange offers an array of commodities futures contracts including gold and silver, base metals, energy, and soft/agricultural commodities.

MCX is India’s largest commodity futures exchange, and claims to have an 85% share of the market in commodity derivatives. The MCX is owned by a variety of foreign and Indian institutional and individual shareholders and its shares have been listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange since 2012. Members of the Exchange include trading members, clearing members, and trading cum clearing members, including institutions, companies and individuals. MCX has over 1,700 members, which it says operate through 475,000 terminals in over 1,800 Indian cities and towns. The Exchange is regulated by the Forward Markets Commission within the Ministry of Finance.

MCX Gold Contracts

MCX lists four deliverable Indian Rupee gold futures contracts in varying contract sizes[36], and one deliverable/cash-settled Rupee gold contract, Gold Global[37] that is based on the international price of gold.

Physically deliverable contracts:

  • Gold (1 kg) – minimum 995 fine[38]
  • Gold Mini (100 grams) – minimum 995 fine
  • Gold Guinea (8 grams) – delivered as an 8 gram coin
  • Gold Petal (1 gram) – trading unit 1 gram, minimum delivery as an 8 gram coin

The prices quoted for the Gold (1 kg) and Gold Mini contracts are ex-Ahmedabad (arriving into Ahmedabad), and include import duty and customs taxes but exclude sales tax/VAT and other surcharges and/or local taxes or premiums.

The Gold Guinea and Gold Petal contract prices are ex Mumbai, and include import duty and customs taxes but exclude sales tax/VAT, other surcharges and/or local taxes/octroi or premiums. A variant of the Gold Petal contracts called the Gold Petal (New Delhi) is identical to the ex Mumbai contract except its price quote is ex New Delhi.

For the Gold and Gold Mini contracts, delivery can take place at Ahmedabad and Mumbai, and at Chennai, New Delhi and Hyderabad. For the petal and guinea, delivery is possible at Mumbai (G4S), New Delhi, and Ahmedabad. Previously, delivery for these two contracts could also take place at Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata, but these additional delivery locations have been phased out as of the February 2016 contracts.

Note that whereas a traditional British ‘guinea’ gold coin weighed slightly more than 8 grams, in India a gold guinea refers to 8 grams.

Deliverable or cash settled contract:

  • Gold Global (200 grams)

Gold Global differs from the above contracts in that it’s price is derived from the international price of gold converted into Rupee, but excludes import duty, customs taxes, and other local taxes or premiums. Furthermore, Gold Global has the option of being deliverable in Ahmedabad or being cash-settled. The contract uses the Reserve Bank of India reference rate to convert the international US dollar price to Rupee. The Gold Global contract was launched in July 2015 and is primarily offered as a hedging device for Indian gold industry participants to hedge against movements in the international price.

MCX gold warehouses and delivery stocks

MCX uses M/S Lemuir Secure Logistics Pvt Ltd as delivery agent for the Gold, Gold Mini and Gold Guinea contracts in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.[39]

Like many futures exchanges, such as COMEX and TOCOM, MCX publishes an ‘Exchange Deliverable stock position’ vault report listing eligible gold stocks for exchange delivery. Notably, these stocks are relatively small. For example, as of 21 January 2016 for the ‘Gold’ contract, eligible gold stocks were reported of 25 kgs in Ahmedabad and zero kgs in Mumbai.

MCX also produces a corresponding ‘Quality of stocks’ report, which for gold, details the fineness of the eligible gold for the Gold, Gold Mini (both 995 fine) and Gold Guinea (999 fine) contracts[40].

Eligible inventories for the gold contracts reported by MCX on any given day are not necessarily good predictors of the amount of gold that can be delivered in a certain month, since monthly delivery figures are often higher than associated eligible positions during that month, suggesting gold being deposited on a short-term basis to meet delivery needs[41].

National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX)

Like the MCX, the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX)[42], is also headquartered in Mumbai, and is also an electronic futures exchange listing many commodities futures contracts, primarily agricultural commodities, but also some precious metals (gold and silver), base metals and energy. NCDEX operates branches all over India in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Indore.

  • NCDEX ‘Gold’

NCDEX trades two ‘vanilla’ gold contracts, the Gold (1 kg)[43], and the Gold100 (100 grams)[44] contracts. The Gold100 contract was launched in May 2015.

  • NCDEX ‘GoldHedge’

NCDEX also lists two ‘GoldHedge’ contracts, namely a GoldHedge (1 kg) futures contract[45] and a GoldHedge (100 grams) futures contract, both of which are linked to the USD International gold price via the Rupee-USD exchange rate. These two contracts were launched in 2014 to offer a hedging mechanism against the international gold price exclusive of the frictions of import duties and taxes, very much like MCX’s ‘Gold Global’ contract.

NCDEX uses Brinks Arya India Private Ltd for its gold warehousing arrangements, with delivery locations offered in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Kolkota, Jaipur. Brinks Arya India is a nationwide security firm that was established in 1981 as a joint venture between Brinks and private partners in India. Brinks owned 40% of the joint venture from 1981 until September 2009 when Brinks purchased a further 38% shareholding, bringing its ownership up to 78% of Brinks Arya India[46].

  • NCDEX ‘GoldNow’

NCDEX has also introduced an entire series of gold forward contracts calls ‘Gold Now’[47] which trade on the Exchange and are linked to the futures contracts. These forward contracts offer a whole suite of delivery locations in the main Indian regional gold market, and have accredited Indian refineries as good delivery for the contracts, as well as LBMA refineries.

Other Indian futures exchanges

There were 4 additional Indian commodity exchanges which previously listed gold futures products. For various reasons, none of these contracts trade any longer.

Universal Commodity Exchange (UCX) had listed a ‘gold kilo’ futures contract and a ‘gold nano’ (100 grams) futures contract. However, following an April 2013 launch, trading on UCX was suspended in July 2014 due to trading irregularities.

National Spot Exchange Limited (NCEL)[48], had also listed some gold products[49]. In August 2013 it too saw its trading suspended due to trading irregularities.

Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX) had listed a Gold (1 kilo) and Gold 100 gms (100 grams) contract, but these contracts were subsequently discontinued due to lack of trading activity[50].

ACE Commodity Exchange (ACE) had a gold contract[51], but this appears to have been discontinued [52].

Additionally, National Multi-Commodity Exchange of India (NMCE)[53], currently operational, mainly focuses on agricultural products, and has never listed any metals contracts.

Proposal Indian physical gold exchange

On 8 December 2015, the India Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA), which is headquartered in Mumbai, announced that it was planning to launch a physical spot gold exchange in conjunction with an industry partner that could be used by a number of participant types jewellery sector participants and banks[54]. IBJA’s rationale for such as plan, was, it said, so as to increase price transparency and achieve standard pricing.

Discussions on the proposed exchange involved the Indian Ministry of Finance, as well as the RBI and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)[55].

A few days later on 11 December 2015, IBJA and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) announced that they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish this gold exchange, with 70% of the venture held by IBJA, and 30% by the BSE[56].

On 29 December 2015, IBJA announced that it had retained consultancy EY to create a plan for the physical gold exchange along the lines of the Shanghai Gold Exchange[57].

Polled Gold Prices and Premiums/Discounts

Various sources in India publish daily gold prices and premiums/discounts on local prices relative to international gold prices.

Platts, the commodity financial data provider, calculates a daily ‘Gold Premium 995 India’[58] to capture price assessments in the Indian wholesale gold kilobar market. Platts’ methodology is based on polling banks, dealers and traders in a number of Indian cities for price quotes on a 995 fine kilobar deliverable in Admedabad. The premium/discount is quoted in US Dollars per troy ounce.

As part of the settlement price calculations for a gold futures contract that it launched in May 2015, NCDEX also calculates a wholesale “polled premium for 995 gold in Ahmedabad” by polling wholesale market participants such as banks, dealers and traders in various Indian cities for quotations on a 995 gold kilobar available in Ahmedabad. The NCDEX calculation (which is very similar to Platts) is compared to the international gold price and is quoted in US Dollars per troy ounce. The NCDEX calculation is published on its website in spreadsheet format[59]

The Indian Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA), which has approximately 3,000 members comprising jewellers, dealers, and traders, publishes daily morning and afternoon gold prices in Rupee for 999, 995 and 916 fine gold[60]. IBJA’s price calculation methodology is based on collecting bid and ask quotes from 10 large IBJA member dealers, adjusting for state taxes and then averaging the dealer quotes. The IBJA prices aim to reflect prices that retail jewellery buyers could expect to pay when transacting with its member dealers.

Some of the contributing dealers base their quotes on MCX near month gold futures. Others derive their spot quotes from the traditional approach of taking the international USD gold price, converting this to rupee, and then adding import duties, state taxes and profit margin of the supplying bank, as well as their own profit margin[61].

Gold Monetisation Scheme 2015

In October 2015, the Indian Government, through the RBI, launched the “Gold Monetisation Scheme, 2015” (GMS). This was not the Indian Government’s first attempt at such a scheme, and the 2015 technically replaced the earlier “Gold Deposit Scheme, 1999”.

Essentially, the GMS attempts to get holders of physical gold in India to deposit this gold with a participating commercial bank. The gold depositor will then receive equivalent credit at a bank, denominated in grams of gold, which will yield an annual interest rate. The gold deposited is melted down or refined, and is therefore recycled back into the Indian gold sector, and so in theory lessens the need for gold imports.

The 2015 GMS offers depositors a choice of two terms, a medium-term version for 5-7 years, and a long-term version for 12-15 years[RBI Gold Monetisation Scheme 2015 Circular, dated 22 October 2015[62]. When the GMS was first announced on 22 October 2015, the interest rates for the two fixed terms deposits were not specified. The announcement about the interest rate subsequently only appeared in a separate RBI circular on 3 November 2015, specifying a fixed 2.25% interest per annum on medium term deposits (5-7 years) and an even lower 2.50% interest of long term deposits (12-15 years)[63]. Both the principal and interest will only be paid back in Indian Rupee and not in gold, so critically, the depositors of the gold will never get this gold back. The records of the gold  deposited are recored as a liability of the Indian Government, but the actual gold collected is auctioned off by the nominated/participating banks in the scheme.

Under the GMS, various assaying and hallmarking companies and refineries have been appointed as “Collection and Purity Testing Centres (CPTCs)” to test and assay the gold handed in by depositors. The initial refineries participating were MMTC-PAMP, Shirpur Gold Refinery, India Government Mint, and GGC Gujrat Gold Centre[64]. In its first two months of operation, the Gold Monetisation Scheme was a relative failure, only bringing in 900 kgs (i.e.less than 1 tonne of gold)[65].

Sovereign Gold Bonds 2015/2016

In another smoke and mirrors anti-gold strategy,  the Indian Government launched the first tranche of its ‘Sovereign Gold Bonds’ scheme in late October 2015[66] as a way to divert the Indian public’s demand away from physical gold and into a paper gold product, with the ultimate aim of reducing gold imports. Within this structured product, although the bonds are denominated in grams of gold, initial investment is made in indian Rupee cash and final redemption is in Indian Rupee cash. The bonds are actually issued by the Reserve Bank of India on behalf of the Government. The bonds’ issue price in Rupee is based on the average IBJA closing price during the proceeding week for 999 purity gold.

The bonds are for an 8 year term, and pay a fixed interest rate of 2.75% per annum, paid semi-annually in arrears. Premature redemption of a bond is permissible from the 5th anniversary of the issue date, but only on interest payment dates. Capital gains tax is charged at the same rate as for physical gold. The minimum investment into the bond each fiscal year is the equivalent of 2 grams of gold, the maximum per year is the equivalent of 500 grams per year.  Essentially, this bond creates counterparty risk for the bond holder against the Indian Government, and the Government’s ability to pay back the redemption proceeds.

The first tranche of Sovereign Gold Bonds was issued on 30 November 2015[67], but the Indian public’s response was very underwhelming, and the demand was not equal to 917 kgs of gold, with The Economic Times of India stating:

Maiden sales of the bonds, however, have collected a paltry Rs 246 crore from 63,000 applications representing 917 kg of gold“.[68]. A crore is an Indian monetary measurement equal to 10 million. A crore is also equal to 100 lakh (with 1 lakh = 100,000).

The 2nd tranche of Sovereign Gold Bonds were subscribed between 18 January and 22 January 2016[69]. This tranche was slightly more popular than the first tranche and collected Rs 798 crore, representing 3071 kgs of gold[70].

Gold Refineries in India

MMTC-PAMP Refinery

In conjunction with Swiss precious metals refiner PAMP (which is owned by Swiss group MKS), MMTC operates an Indian gold refinery joint-venture called MMTC-PAMP India Pvt, which is based in the Mewat area of Haryana state, just south of New Delhi. (The MMTC-PAMP corporate office is located in New Delhi in the Qutab Institutional Area). The MMTC-PAMP refinery is the only Indian refinery on the LBMA’s good delivery list for gold, and is under the direct technical direction and supervision of PAMP.

MMTC has an annual refining capacity of 100 tonnes for gold, and 600 tonnes for silver, and refines both gold doré and domestic gold jewellery scrap. Gold bars produced by MMTC-PAMP include a variety of minted and cast bars up to 12.5kg (400oz) cast good delivery gold bars. MMTC-PAMP also produces a gold sovereign coin in India under licence from The Royal Mint, with an ‘I’ mintmark. [71].

Rajesh Exports – Valcambi Refining

In July 2015, Rajesh Exports, headquartered in Bangalore, India[72] acquired major Swiss precious metals refinery Valcambi. Valcambi had previously been owned by Newmont Mining and a consortium of private Swiss investors[fn]. See Bullionstar blog “Swiss Gold Refineries and the sale of Valcambi” for more details on this acquisition.

The Valcambi refinery is the largest gold refinery in the world with a combined precious metals production capacity of 2000 tonnes per annum[73]. The refinery can output 500 tonnes of kilobars per annum as well as 400 tonnes of smaller sized bars[74]. Before the Valcambi purchase, Rajesh Exports already operated a precious metals refinery at Rudrapur in Uttarakhand in the north of India, to the east of New Delhi. This refinery has a production capacity of 400 tonnes of precious metals per annum[75]. Following the Valcmabi acquisition, Rajesh plans to harness the expertise of and synergies with the Swiss refinery to upgrade its Uttarakhand refinery and then to apply for LBMA Good Delivery accreditation for Uttarakhand, which would mean two LBMA accredited refineries operating out of India.

Other Indian Refineries

Shirpur Gold Refinery Ltd operates a gold and silver refinery in Shirpur, Maharashtra[76]. National India Bullion Refinery (NIBR) operates a gold refinery in Mumbai[77].

Bullion importer, exporter, and producer of gold bullion Zaveri & Co has its own refinery based in Gujarat [78]. Similarly, fellow bullion importer and exporter Edelweiss Metals runs a scrap gold and silver refinery in Ahmedabad, in Gujarat which has a production capacity of 70 tonnes of gold and 200 tonnes of silver, but which Edelweiss projects will eventually rise to 200-250 tonnes of gold and 1000 tonnes of silver[79].The Kundan Group produces gold bars at its Kundan Gold Refinery, located at Haridwar, Uttrakhand, to the north-east of new Delhi[80]. Gujarat Gold Centre (GGC) operates a precious metals refinery at Ahmedabad in Gujarat[81]. Chemmanur Refinery, backed by Chemmanur International Jewellers[82], is a gold refining operation located in Cochin in Kerala state in the south of India [83].

The Association of Gold Refineries and Mints (AGRM), whose full name ‘All India Association of Gold Refiners, Bullion Manufacturers and Mints’, is a trade body representing 17 medium and large Indian gold refineries, with combined gold production capacity of over 800 tonnes per annum. Many of the smaller refineries in this organisation don’t utilise their full refining capacity due to the limited supply of gold jewellery scrap/recyclable material. The AGRM member list can be viewed on the Bullion Bulletin website[84]. AGRM’s executive body is made up of representatives of member companies, for example from MMTC-PAMP, Shirpur, Chemmanur and Gujarat Gold Centre (GGC)[85].

The refineries of Kundan, Edelweiss and Shirpur are on the NCDEX’s ‘Good Delivery List of Acceptable Indian Gold Refiners[86].

Gold Smuggling into India

If gold demand in India in a certain year is greater than recorded imports for that year, then the excess demand has to, by definition, have been met by either smuggling and/or recycling. Given the penal import duties and the state and local taxes on gold purchases in India, and the Government’s strict import criteria, gold smuggling into India is prevalent, and the news-flow out of India on gold smuggling is constant. Indian gold smuggling is also facilitated by the country’s geography and vast borders, with India bordered by 6 countries (by land), namely Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar/Burma and also adjacent to Sri Lanka by sea. Smuggling gold into India by air from Dubai and London is also popular, even by Air India flight staff[87].


India perennially vies with China for the title of world’s largest gold consumer. However, with its lack of significant gold mines, India also vies for the title of world’s largest gold importer. But whereas the Chinese authorities have been successfully able to centrally control their domestic gold market, the Indian authorities have not been so successful, and are constantly fire fighting their own market, in a seemingly permanent but failed battle to dampen down and harness the Indian populations’ love of gold.

This bureaucratic keystone-copesque failure by the Indian authorities is not helped by the fact that the Indian population will always prefer to hold physical gold rather than its derivatives or paper products, therefore trust in the Government’s scheming on everything from being enticed to hand in their gold (gold monetisation scheme), to being channeled into a paper gold scheme (gold bond scheme), to being forced to pay excessive import duties and taxes (resulting in widespread smuggling) is limited.

With relatively popular gold futures products from MCX and NCDEX, it will be interesting to see if the upcoming IBJA government-backed gold spot exchange on the Bombay Stock Exchange meets with any success. But given the sheer volume, and smooth operational throughput, of crates of gold kilobars arriving into Mumbai, Chennai and other ports on a daily basis from Switzerland, South Africa and Dubai, and then onwardly distributed all over India, its debatable whether an exchange based spot gold contract is even necessary, as the market looks to be working just fine.

References and Links

1.^ Indians hoard 20k tonnes gold worth record $1.16 trn”, The Financial Express, November 2012:

2.^ 18,000 – 25,000 tonnes quotation – “Gold Deposit Scheme – Will it work this time?”, Bullion Bulletin, November 2015:

3.^ “An Introduction to the Indian Gold Market”, Nigel Desebrock, Grendon International, 2002:

4.^ Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), Foreign Trade Data  DGCIS data – Historic India Gold Imports

5.^ Indian gold import data:

6.^  Central Board of Excise and Customs, Department of Revenue:

7.^ Tariffs on gold imports, Central Board of Excise and Customs, Chapter 71:

8.^ “India raises import duty on semi-pure gold dore bars”, Bullion Desk, 29 February 2016

9.^ “Guidelines for import of Precious Metal by the Nominated agencies”, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Department of Commerce, 2009:

10.^ “Star Holder Scheme Revamped”, Department of Commerce, 2007:

11.^ MMTC Precious Metals division:,-gemsjewellery

12.^ Project and Equipment Corporation of India Ltd (PEC), bullion imports:

13.^ State Trading Corporation (STC), bullion operations, archived link:

14.^ Handicraft and Handloom Export Corporation (HHEC), bullion operations:

15.^ Diamond India Limited (DIL):

16.^ Gems & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (G&JEPC):

17.^ Rajesh Exports:

18.^ Edelweiss precious Metals:

19.^ RiddiSiddhi Bullions:

20.^ MD Overseas, Bullion:

21.^ Zaferi & Co, Bullion:

22.^ Reserve Bank of India (RBI) – Nominated Banks for the importation of gold and silver:

23.^ “India allows more banks to import gold in easing of curbs”, Reuters, March 2014:

24.^ Bank of Nova Scotia, India:

25.^ RBI circular, May 2013, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks/Agencies”,

26.^ RBI circular, 04 June 2013, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks/Agencies”,

27.^ RBI circular, 27 June 2013, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks/Agencies”,

28.^ RBI circular, July 2013, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks/Agencies”,

29.^ RBI circular, August 2013, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks/Agencies”,

30.^ RBI circular, May 2014, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks / Agencies / Entities”,

31.^ RBI circular, November 2014, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks / Agencies / Entities”,

32.^ RBI circular, February 2015, “Import of Gold by Nominated Banks / Agencies / Entities”,

33.^ Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS):

34.^ Zauba:

35.^ Multi Commodity Exchange of India Limited (MCX):

36.^ MCX Gold Futures contracts:

37.^ MCX Gold Global product:

38.^ MCX ‘Gold’ futures contract

39.^ MCX Delivery Warehouse details:

40.^ MCX Stock Position and Quality reports:

41.^ MCX Commodity Connect monthly review September 2015, see page 11 for gold delivery data

42.^ National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX):

43.^ NCDEX Gold Kilo

44.^ NCDEX Gold 100 grms:

45.^ NCDEX Gold Hedge:

46.^ “Brinks increases ownership in Brinks Arya India to 78%”, September 2009:

47.^ NCDEX, ‘Gold Now’ forwards:

48.^ National Spot Exchange Limited (NCEL):

49.^ NCEL gold products, archive link:

50.^ India Commodity Exchange (ICEX), gold products:

51.^ ACE Commodity Exchange (ACE) gold contract:

52.^ ACE contracts discontinued:

53.^ National Multi-Commodity Exchange of India (NMCE):





58.^ Platts polled ‘Gold Premium 995 India’:

59.^ NCDEX ‘polled premium for 995 gold in Ahmedabad’,spreadsheet format:

60.^ IBJA daily prices:

61.^How Indian Gold Prices are Fixed“, The Hindu Business Line, March 2015:

62.^ Gold Monetisation Scheme, 2015

63.^  Gold Monetisation Scheme, 2015 – Interest Rate, RBI Circular

64.^ Gold Monetisation Scheme, 2015, Collection and Purity Testing Centres (CPTCs)

65.^ “Government mobilises 900 kg of gold under monetisation scheme”, Economic Times of India, 23 January 2016

66.^ Sovereign Gold Bonds 2015 tranche

67.^ Issue date of first tranche of Sovereign Gold Bond

68.^ “RBI may revise gold bonds’ pricing mechanism to boost demand”, Economic Times, Times of India, 23 December 2015

69.^ Sovereign Gold Bonds 2016, and also pay a fixed interest rate of 2.75% per annum, paid semi-annually in arrears.

70.^ Results of 2nd tranche of Soverign Gld Bonds, January 2016

71.^ MMTC-PAMP gold sovereign

72.^ Rajesh Exports

73.^ Valcambi refining capacity

74.^ Rajesh Exports – valcambi profile page

75.^ Rajesh Exports – Uttarakhand refinery

76.^  Shirpur Gold Refinery Ltd

77.^ National India Bullion Refinery (NIBR)

78.^ Zaveri & Co

79.^ Edelweiss Metals

80.^ Kundan Gold Fefinery

81.^  Gujarat Gold Centre (GGC) refinery

82.^  Chemmanur International Jewellers

83.^ Chemmanur Refinery

84.^  Association of Gold Refineries and Mints (AGRM) member list

85.^ Association of Gold Refineries and Mints (AGRM) letterhead, November 2015

86.^ NCDEX Good delivery List of Indian refiners

87.^ “Air India crew member detained on gold smuggling charges in Jeddah”, Business Standard, June 2015