• The Krugerrand is South Africa’s most renowned gold product, with an estimated 60 million in circulation.
  • There are only limited Special Economic Zones (SEZ) targeting the development of precious metals products.
  • Outside of compliance with local legislation a number of businesses in the gold value chain submit to international benchmark standards.


The South African gold jewellery market is extremely modest in relation to its mine production and even recycling capabilities. Given the size of the population and the economic challenges resulting in around one-third of the eligible workforce being unemployed, the market for luxury goods and investment products is quite modest. While the country has, over the years, developed several programmes to target export jewellery markets, success has also been limited. The country’s gold bullion coin programme, in sharp contrast, has been one of long-term success for South Africa.

First struck in 1967, during the past 13 years alone almost 470 tonnes of gold has been used in the gold Krugerrand programme. (More recently, a silver Krugerrand and platinum bullion coin series have been introduced.)


According to the Jewellery Council of South Africa its membership, and therefore participation of South Africans within the gold jewellery fabrication sector, contracted by 2% year-on-year in 2022 due to COVID. From a longer-term standpoint, the Gauteng province has taken the lead in jewellery manufacturing, with 57% of Jewellery Council Members based there. While the number of participants has been helped by the authorities establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZs), and other jewellery development programmes supported by large companies (as part of their social responsibility programmes), the success and sustainability of these initiatives have been varied, but mostly modest. Examples of the SEZs are the Jewellery Manufacturing Precinct (JMP), adjacent to the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, and the Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project housed within the Rand Refinery Jewellery Village. Aside from manufacturers, the Jewellery Association also represents 140 wholesalers, importers and approximately 1,000 retailers.

Number of Jewellery Manufacturers in South Africa by Province

Source: Jewellery Council of South Africa

Bars and Coins

The South African Mint, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank, produces the 22-carat gold bullion Krugerrand coin, which is distributed and marketed by Prestige Bullion, a joint venture between the Rand Refinery and the South African Mint. The vast majority of gold Krugerrands are sold overseas and especially in Germany, where the Krugerrand is arguably the most widely recognised investment gold product. In 2022, a 24-carat gold bullion coin programme was introduced in the form of the “Big 5”, targeting overseas markets where 24-carat coins are popular, including in the US.

Closer to home, the Krugerrand dominates the South African retail gold investment market, this being the only gold investment product that is zero-rated for VAT. Overall though, local demand remains extremely modest, although it is worth noting that investors there have access to private vaulting and safety deposit box storage (which naturally extends beyond precious metals). Historically, this was dominated by Standard Bank, before IBV International Vaults, in 2022, acquired their safety deposit vault facilities.

Government support structures

Over the past three decades the South African government has maintained and enhanced several initiatives to bolster the country’s industrial and manufacturing capabilities. Several of these initiatives attempt to capture the abundance of its minerals and promote, enable and facilitate downstream beneficiation and fabrication, for either local or export consumption. We provide details of some of the key structures most applicable to the gold sector.

Special Economic Zones

SEZs within South Africa are geographically designated areas set aside for specifically targeted economic activities to help promote national economic growth and exports by using support measures to attract foreign and domestic investments and technology. Some benefits operating within an SEZ includes preferential corporate tax and /or tax relief, a building allowance, custom-controlled areas offering customs and excise benefits. There are eleven SEZs listed on the Department of Trade, Industry and Competitions website. A United Nations conference On Trade And Development reported that in 2019 SEZs in South Africa employed 110,000 people. However, of these SEZs only one specifically focuses on the beneficiation of precious metals (OR Tambo SEZ), while two others focus broadly on metals and metallurgical beneficiation in general.

Special Economic Zones

Source: South African Department of Trade and Industry

SEZ Region
Atlantis SEZ Western Cape
Nkomazi SEZ Mpumalanga
Coega IDZ Eastern Cape
Richards Bay KwaZulu Natal
East London Eastern Cape
Saldanha Bay Western Cape
Dube TradePort KwaZulu Natal
Maluti – A- Phofung SEZ Free State
OR Tambo SEZ Gauteng
Musina/ Makhado SEZ Limpopo
The Tshwane: Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) Gauteng

Jewellery Incubators

The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) was established in 2004 through the National Small Business Amendment Act. It is an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry aimed at helping small business in line with the government’s national development objectives. Seda offers financial and non-financial assistance to small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). This includes the recently introduced Silver and Gold Mentorship Programme, which is a partnership between the Rand Refinery, the Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project, jewellery retailer NQ Jewellers, and the South African Diamond and Precious Metals Regulator. Seda also strives to create a shared, standardised national delivery network. It forms the reporting body for all government funded incubators. While there are several private incubation initiatives SEDA oversees and supports 110 incubators and 58 incubation centres across South Africa. Of these six are focused on jewellery manufacturing.


Source: Small Enterprise Development Agency

Centre Province
Centre Seda Limpopo Jewellery Incubator Limpopo
Seda Platinum Incubator North West
Global Jewellery Academy Gauteng
Northern Cape Diamond and Jewellery Incubator Northern Cape
Ekurhuleni Jewellery Incubator Gauteng
Motheo Rapid Free State


Mintek is a research and technology organisation in South Africa that serves the industry through research, development and mineral technology transfer. Mintek has some 780 permanent staff and an annual budget of R390m. It is seen as a Schedule 3B entity. (Schedules 3B and 3D are referred to as government business enterprises.) These entities generate income, but may be either substantially self-funded or heavily government funded. Mintek receives about 30% of its funding from the government. In the 1980s and 1990s, South Africa, through Mintek played an important role in the development of many gold and platinum jewellery alloys, resulting in the accumulation of a strong expertise and know-how at Mintek, which holds the following active patents.

  • Gold jewellery alloy systems
  • 18-carat gold with increased hardness
  • 22-carat gold with increased hardness
  • Spangold™: a 14-carat gold alloy containing 10% copper and 5% aluminium. It is a shape memory effect alloy, which recovers its original shape when heated above a certain temperature.

Trade Agreements

South Africa has trade connections and partnerships with global markets with preferential access to key export markets. Aside from South Africa being a member of the World Trade Organisation there are two key other agreements which offer benefits to the gold fabrication market.

The first is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is a trade agreement between Africa and the US that allows companies enhanced market access and duty-free exports. Currently, this agreement has been used with some success by jewellery manufacturers to access North America. Products from South Africa must meet specific rules of origin in order to qualify under this agreement, notably that: only products directly imported from the beneficiary country qualify; at least 35% of the value of the item must have been added in the beneficiary country.

While the European Union-Southern African Development Community Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-SADC EPA), a free trade agreement between the EU and South Africa offer similar benefits to the AGOA agreement, participants interviewed for this Spotlight found that the EU market was already well served by the local industry.

Government, Industry and Self-Governance

While the government offers a legislative framework within which the gold industry in South Africa can operate, the international nature of the gold market requires companies to demonstrate their ability to compete globally. Responsible stewardship and business ethics are also key, giving business social license to operate both locally and internationally. Aside from South Africa being a member of the World Trade Organisation, two other key agreements offer benefits to the country’s gold industry. As outlined in Chapter 2, the refining and fabrication of gold are mainly regulated through licenses that are issued under the SADPMR Act. Gold trading is regulated by the Reserve Bank Act 1989, but linked through the Precious Metals Act, 2005 and the SADPMR in their reference to Authorized Dealers.

Apart from government regulations, many market participants have also joined international governance bodies, and so adhere to self-regulating procurement codes, including auditing protocols. In particular, many mines in South Africa are members of the World Gold Council, while the Rand Refinery is accredited by the LBMA. Another body is the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) which was founded in 2005 by 14 member organisations. The RJC developed standards and certifications for the jewellery industry to provide supply chain integrity and sustainability in the global jewellery and watch industry. According to the RJC website, there are 17 certified members in South Africa. Of these, 12 also hold RJC Chain of Custody certificates, meaning their procurement processes have been independently audited. These include Cape Precious Metals, Kusasa Refining, Metal Concentrators and S.A. Precious Metals.