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Portuguese run out of gold

August 16, 2012 - Harry Eagar
For a lot of people, including on Maui, gold jewelry is their backstop in hard times. Times are so hard in Portugal that, according to a report by , ordinary Portuguese are beginning to run out of gold, and the stores that sprang up there — as they did on Maui — to buy gold are beginning to close.

This is really remarkable. Portugal has been a magnet fort gold since its navigators reached India 500 years ago, and continued to amass gold from mines in Brazil, which was a colony until later in the 19th century.

Nut grafs:

“ ‘We have no more gold to save us from being kicked out this month,’ the 46-year-old said as he stood in the area of downtown Lisbon popular with cash-for-gold stores. ‘Everyone I know is struggling, even the gold stores are empty because nobody has any more gold left to sell.’

“Oliveira encapsulates a growing trend in debt crisis- stricken Europe as household gold supplies dry up after record prices and a deepening recession prompted a proliferation of places to exchange the metal for money.

“In Portugal, the historical home of some of Europe’s biggest gold reserves, the number of jewelry stores, which include cash-for-gold shops, increased 29 percent in 2011 from a year earlier, a study commissioned by parliament found. In the first quarter, an average of two new stores opened every day, the report said. Now some of them are closing.

“ ‘Business has gone from great to terrible in a matter of months,’ Luis Almeida, whose family has owned a gold store near Lisbon’s Rossio Square for more than 40 years, said in an interview. ‘The sad truth is that most of my clients have already sold all of their gold rings.’ ”

UPDATE: I should have said that the flow of gold into Portugal began before its navigators reached India. The initial impulse for the exploration of the African coast was largely to find the sources of the gold that was showing up in North Africa at the end of the caravan route from Timbuctoo, not that the 15th century Portuguese knew about Timbuctoo.

I was the more remiss in starting the gold flow too late because of the recent news from Timbuctoo about the destruction of the saint's tombs there. Those tombs were built with the wealth of the trade in gold and slaves more than 500 years ago. I ought to have remembered that.


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