I can’t give a comprehensive guide to purchasing bullion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [KSA], as I personally haven’t done the leg work myself, but I can point you in the right direction to companies you should check out, and using the knowledge you should have gained from the buyer’s guide, you will be able to judge what is a good deal and what isn’t, and hopefully comment on your findings.
Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arabian Penninsula and is the largest producer of oil in the world. Saudi Arabia has an LBMA approved gold mint since July 2010, L’Azurde, but unfortunately the company only deals in gold jewellery and not bullion. According to the World Gold Council (WGC) as of June 2010, the Saudi Arabian central bank has 322.9 tons of gold, equivalent to 2.7% of its total reserves. Gold and silver mining in Saudi Arabia has been going on since the Saudi government setup Ma’aden (Saudi Arabian Mining Company) in 1997 and half of the company went public in July 2008 (stock symbol 1211 on Tadawul). Another company dealing in gold exploration is Arabian Gold. Saudi Arabia will soon be the home of the world’s largest gold factory, which is currently being built by Taiba for Gold & Jewels Co. Ltd. in Jeddah’s Industrial Estate-II and covering an area of 22,000 square meters. Saudi Arabia is the largest jewellery manufacturer in the Middle East, which is being done by around 10 to 15 large companies situated mostly in and around Jeddah, Riyadh and Damman and produces mainly 21 karat jewelry. Popular times of year to purchase gold and silver are during religious holidays including Ramadan (Islamic month of fasting) and Eid-Al-Fitr (celebration after Ramadan), Hajj (yearly pilgrimage to Makkah), Eid-Al-Adha (celebration after Hajj), and the wedding season.
Saudi Arabia Gold and Silver Prices
I would assume that the daily gold (Au / XAU) and silver (Ag / XAG) prices would be published in the forex sub-section of the business section of the daily English and Arabic newspapers in Saudi Arabia, as they are done in the Emirates and Qatar. You can find the current gold price in Saudi Riyals (SAR) at GoldPriceWeb.com, GoldPriceRate.com and GoldPriceNetwork.com, while the current silver price in Saudi Rials can be found at GoldPriceData.com.
If you wish to do the calculations on your own, then take the spot silver or gold price found on sites like kitco.com and multiply it by 3.75 and then divide that by 31.1 to get the price per gram, or in short – multiple the spot price by 0.120579. The actual gold price per gram will likely be 3 to 10 riyals over the spot price including its making charge.
Where to Go and What to Buy?
Where ever you are in Saudi Arabia, you should head to the gold souks (indoor or outdoor market areas with many jewellery shops) in order to find gold and silver bullion. You should also check in the official yellow pages for gold and silver shops near you. I have read that you can find bullion in a number of money exchanges, which is similar to Qatar, like Al Amoudi (they confirmed that they dont) and Al Rajhi. Other places that you can find bullion would be in the jewellery shops in shopping malls, though it will likely be slightly more expensive than the souks, especially the regionally known jewellery shops like Malabar Gold, Damas, and Joy Alukkas.
Gold bullion in Saudi Arabia is primarily Swiss with the Lady Fortuna (PAMP/HTBM Suisse) design on it, as packaged/assayed small bars from 1 to 100 grams. Investment grade gold bars like the 116.6 gram (ten tola/TT) bars from Credit Suisse and 1 kilogram bar will also be found. Its possible that you could find Swiss silver bars in Saudi, but I’d assume the premiums would be quite expensive. Silver bullion bars in Saudi Arabia will likely be primarily minted by Dubai-based Emirates Gold. Someone had mentioned to me that they found Emirates Gold 1 kilogram silver bars in Saudi Arabia, but I wouldn’t recommend it be purchased if its premium is over 200-300 riyals over the spot price. The Saudi Arabian Silver Riyal coin is widely available and is currently selling for 60-65 riyals (as of Jan 2012, which is a ~70% premium over it silver content). Another silver coin that is widely available in the Maria Theresa Thaler (MTT) central european 28 gram 22 karat silver bullion coin that is currently selling for 140 riyals (as of Jan 2012, which is a ~50% premium).
As most of the shopkeepers are local Saudis, Arabic will be the main language of communication, though they will know basic English terms like gold, silver, karat, tola, grams, etc. So here are some of the words in Arabic – dha-hab (gold), fid-du (silver).
Central Region – Riyadh
Riyadh has a number of gold souks, with the most popular one being located near the But-haa shopping area in Al Markab district. The Batha gold market jewellery shops are located along Al-Rass Street in Souk Al-Qasman [map] near the Nesto Hypermarket. If it is difficult to find parking (this normally happens on the weekends), the 4th to 6th floor of the Nesto Hypermark building is for parking (flat rate of SR 3 or free if you show them a Nesto receipt). Otairi Trading [01-4864411] is a shop in this area that is a wholesale gold dealer that has the lowest premiums (approx. 1 riyal over spot). Another shop to check out is Al Seary Gold and Jewellery [01-2873013], who have PAMP gold bars and pendants, Malabar gold coins, turkish Nadir Metal Rafineri 1/2 kilo silver bar, silver riyal coin, and MMT silver coin. ‘Saudi Gold’ [01-2868660] is an exclusive bullion dealership with 10gm, 1oz, 50gm, and 100 grams gold bars, TT bars, 1 kilogram gold bars, and 1 kilo Emirates Gold silver bars (shop has LCD in Arabic showing the live rates).
Other Riyadh gold souks include the Deira gold souk (also called Souq al-Thumairi) located near the junction of King Faisal and Tariq bin Zayid streets in Al Dirah district [map], Tayeba souk (also called Kuwaiti market) located along Olaya Street in the King Fahd district [map], and possibly the Souq Hijab in Al Naseem West [approx. map].
Shopping malls in Riyadh will also have jewellery shops that will likely have gold shops that will carry small sized PAMP gold bars. In Shola Shopping Center on King Abdul Aziz Road in Al Dhubbat district, you can visit Asanofah for Gold and Jewellery for 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, and 100g gold bars (premium approx. 2 riyals per gram over spot) or Al Yoser for Gold and Jewellery for 1, 50, and 100 gram gold bars, as well as 8g 22k Saudi Arabian Guinea and ‘George V’ British Sovereign gold coins.
Malabar Gold – 01-4064228 (Lulu Hypermarket, Riyadh Avenue, Murabha)
Damas – 01-2535428 (Grenada Center), 01-2056911 (Hayat Mall), 01-2696547 (Taibah Mall)
West Region – Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah
Jeddah has a street called Al Dhahab Street, which means Gold Street, in its downtown district of Al Balad, so there should be gold shops on this street or somewhere else within the district. In the Al Sharafiyah district, on the west side of King Fahd Road, there is the Yamama gold market.
Other possible locations – Hera’ Mall, Souk Bawadi, Hijaz Mall, and Mujamma’ al-Sharq (Makaroonah Street)
Malabar Gold/Saudi Exhibition Jewellery – 02-6274938 (Sharbathili Building, Gold Souq, Al Balad)
Damas – Jeddah: Alba sateen Center, Arab Mall, Aziz Mall, Jeddah Mall, Al Andalus Mall, 02-6421579 (International Gold Center), Jamjoom Centre, Red Sea Mall, Souq Surrieen, 02-6695952 (Jeddah International) / Makkah: 02-5719104 (Abraj Al Bait), Souq Hijaz, Souq Al Deyafah, Suweqa 60th Street/ Madinah: Rashed Mega Mall
In Madinah, there are a number of gold shops North of the Prophet’s Mosque (Al Masjid Al Nabawi) at the bottom of hotels like Oberoi, Taiba, Dar ul Iman, and Al Majeedi. Some of the gold and silver shops that have bullion bars are located in the Taiba Commercial Center/Market [map] including Ba Bakar Ornaments & Jewellery – 04-8200256 [Shop 369] (has 10 tola), Mansoor Gold and Jewellery – 04-8201920 (has 1/2 oz, 1 oz, 50 gram and 100 gram), and Al Silani Silver & Beads, Gemstone – 04-8200448 [Shop 311]. Prices will be expensive here with 100 gram bars going for an additional SAR 25 premium over spot per gram, while 50 gram bars would have a SAR 40 premium.
East Region – Dammam, Khobar, Jubail
The gold souk in Damman seems to be located in the Al Dawaser district near King Abdul Aziz Road [map].
Malabar Gold/Saudi Exhibition Company – 03-8330771 (Gold Souq, Dammam), 03-8983946 (Lulu Hypermarket, Khobar) [map]
Damas – 03-8936556 (Al Rashid Commercial Centre, Al Khobar), 03-8098199 (Marina Mall, Dammam), 03-8684100 (Dhahran Mall, Khobar)
Joy Alukkas – 03-8998916 (Lulu Hypermarket, Al Khobar)
Possible Saudi Jewellery Shops
Saudi Arabian Guinea – Minted for just one year in the Hijri calendar of 1370 (1950-1951 AD) as a 22 karat gold coin of the same size and weight of the British Gold Sovereign (8 gram coin with 0.2354 troy ounces of gold), 2 million coins were minted with a face value of 40 Saudi Rials. The coin is sometime referred to as the Saudi Arabian Pound or Saudi Trade Guinea.
Saudi Arabian Silver Riyal – Minted between the Hijri calendar years of 1346 and 1374 (1927 to 1954 AD), these 22k (.917) silver riyals have the same design as the gold guinea, and were minted as 1, half and quarter riyal denominations. The 1 riyal was made up of 0.342 troy ounces (10.63g) of silver, while the 1/2 riyal had 0.175 oz (5.44g) and the 1/4 riyal had 0.086 oz (2.67g). This coin was minted in the US according to the specifications of the old Indian Rupee to pay for Saudi oil and can be classified as junk silver.
Saudi King Faysal Commemorative Medallion – This gold coin was issued to commemorate the reign of King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud from 1964 – 1975 and had the same size and weight of the British Sovereign.
Saudi Arabia buys $3.5bn of gold in two weeks – 13 Nov 2008 – Arabian Money
There has been an unprecedented surge in Saudi gold purchases in the past two weeks with over $3.5 billion being spent on the yellow metal, reported Gulf News citing local industry sources.
This page is still a work in progress, so if you have any comments, please do leave them below. Special thanks is due to Fahad for providing useful information related to Riyadh and Madinah.