Assessing the Performance of Sovereign Gold Bonds vs. Physical Gold

Risk and Return: Assessing the Performance of Sovereign Gold Bonds vs. Physical Gold

written by

July 6, 2023

5min read

Gold has long been considered a safe haven and a store of value for investors. Traditionally, investors have relied on physical gold, such as jewelry or gold bars, to hedge against inflation and diversify their portfolios.Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs) have gained significant popularity in India since their introduction in 2015 as an alternative investment option. The government’s initiative to offer a regulated and secure investment option in gold has resonated well with Indian investors.

In this article, we will examine the risk and return profiles of sovereign gold bonds compared to physical gold, helping investors make an informed decision.

Understanding Sovereign Gold Bonds:

Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs) are issued by the government as a substitute for physical gold. They are denominated in grams of gold and backed by a sovereign guarantee. Investors can buy these bonds during specific subscription periods, and the gold bonds have a fixed tenor with periodic interest payments. At maturity, investors receive the equivalent value of the bonds in cash based on the prevailing gold prices.

Risk Assessment

1. Liquidity Risk:

Physical gold offers high liquidity as it can be easily sold in the market. On the other hand, SGBs may have lower liquidity due to their limited trading volumes and specific periods for subscription and redemption. Selling SGBs before maturity may lead to price fluctuations and challenges in finding buyers.

2. Counterparty Risk:

Physical gold eliminates counterparty risk since it is a tangible asset owned directly by the investor. SGBs, however, carry a counterparty risk as they are dependent on the government’s ability to honor the redemption obligations. Though government backing provides a level of security, investors must consider the creditworthiness of the sovereign issuer.

3. Price Risk:

Both physical gold and SGBs are exposed to price risk, but they react differently to market conditions. Physical gold prices are influenced by global demand and supply dynamics, geopolitical factors, and inflation. SGBs, on the other hand, are influenced by changes in the price of gold as well as the prevailing interest rates. Fluctuations in interest rates can impact the overall return on SGBs.

Return Assessment

1. Capital Appreciation:

Physical gold’s return is solely based on the change in its price over time. SGBs, in addition to capital appreciation, offer fixed interest payments (currently 2.5% per annum) on the initial investment. These interest payments can enhance the overall return on investment. However, it’s essential to note that the capital appreciation of gold bonds is subject to the prevailing market price of gold at maturity.

2. Taxation:

Physical gold attracts capital gains tax if sold within three years of purchase. On the other hand, SGBs provide a tax advantage as they are exempt from capital gains tax if held until maturity. This tax benefit can boost the net return on investment for gold bonds compared to physical gold.

3. Holding Costs:

Physical gold ownership entails certain costs, such as storage, insurance, and security. SGBs, being paper-based investments, do not have these associated costs. This can be advantageous for investors looking to reduce holding costs and mitigate the risk of theft or loss.


When assessing the performance of sovereign gold bonds versus physical gold, investors need to consider various factors. SGBs offer the advantages of fixed interest payments, tax benefits, and no holding costs. However, they come with liquidity limitations and counterparty risk. Physical gold provides high liquidity and avoids counterparty risk but has associated costs and taxation implications.

Ultimately, the choice between SGBs and physical gold depends on the investor’s risk appetite, investment horizon, and financial goals. Investors seeking regular income and tax benefits may find SGBs more suitable. On the other hand, those prioritizing liquidity and direct ownership may prefer physical gold.

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