• Despite facing a heavily controlled gold market, Vietnam’s physical investment ranks 7th globally.
  • The structure of jewellery consumption is changing, with the dominant 24-carat segment losing market share to lower purity items.
  • High tael bar premiums underpinning the growth in demand for chi rings.

Vietnam features the 7th largest physical investment and the 17th largest jewellery consuming markets globally. Despite the restrictions imposed on the gold trade, Vietnam still benefits from a large network of retail stores across the country. Even though imports are tightly controlled, there is no shortage of gold in the market. This is largely due to the highly organised parallel trade and a vibrant recycling market. A large part of the gold in Vietnam comes from unofficial supplies from neighbouring countries, mainly Laos and Cambodia. Much of this gold arrives in kilobars, which is then sold to various players across the value chain.

As noted earlier, investment demand exceeds that of jewellery, an unusual dynamic in the global gold market. In 2023, investment demand reached some 40t, compared to just 17t for jewellery; this shows the importance of gold as a key form of investment. Retail investment remains vibrant despite the restrictions on selling and marketing investment products.

This has been primarily due to the lack of trust in the currency. As covered in Chapter 1, hyperinflation and the Vietnam War still resonate with consumers . While the economy has shown signs of a strong recovery, investors remain sceptical and so where possible continue to hold gold.


The Vietnamese jewellery market has changed in the last decade concerning size of the market and product profile. Taking each in turn, during this time, jewellery demand in Vietnam has increased modestly, from around 11t to 15t. This has been primarily due to economic growth, rising incomes, continued restrictions on investment products, and depreciation of the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Despite these positive factors the only modest growth reflects the changing profile of the country’s jewellery demand.

Primarily, consumers have transitioned to lighter pieces. Metals Focus’ discussions with the jewellery supply chain revealed that average weights have fallen by 10-15% over the last ten years or so. Furthermore, the share of 24-carat dropped from 80-90% before 2010 to about 60-65% in 2023, due to the impact of rising gold prices and better designs available in lower carats, namely 18-carat, 16-carat and, to some extent, 14-carat. The rise in demand for lower purity items also reflects changing consumer demographics. Interestingly, 24-carat is essentially used for bridal and investment purposes. By contrast, consumers prefer daily wear jewellery in lower purities as these products tend to be available in more fashionable and lightweight designs.

Kim-Thanh Vietnamese 49s Gold “Refugee” Bar

Metals Focus’ recent trip to Vietnam revealed that the key demographic for the retail jewellery industry is between 24-45 years of age, with those below 35 preferring lower-carat plain and studded jewellery. This trend is apparent across much of East Asia, and Vietnam is little different.

Furthermore, gold faces competition from lifestyle products, including mobile phones, bikes, cars, and holidays, especially among the younger generation. That is why their focus when it comes to jewellery is geared towards reasonably priced, lightweight pieces. Metals Focus believes that as incomes rise among the youth demographic, the share of 18-carat and 14-carat jewellery will likely increase.

Turning to the main companies and key “gold” regions, the top three retailers in Vietnam are Phu Nhuan Jewellery (PNJ), SJC, and Doji, which have a combined 60-70% market share. Some 10,000 jewellers and about 5,000 manufacturers are registered with various trade bodies across the country. Regarding the key regions, around half of gold is sold in Ho Chi Minh City, a wholesale and retail hub, followed by around 35% in Hanoi and the balance in the central provinces.

Source: Metals Focus, Bloomberg

Physical Investment

While jewellery demand has risen during much of the last decade, the opposite is true for physical investment (covering small bar and coin purchases), which has more than halved, falling from 88t in 2013 to 40t last year. This reflects government restrictions on minting and selling investment products. According to Decree 24, only the SJC is allowed to mint and sell investment products in Vietnam. Anyone intending to sell bars and coins at the retail level must buy their products from the SJC. Since the government owns the SJC, it can control bar and coin production. It is also worth noting that the SJC has not minted a single new bar in the last 5-6 years; it relies on the secondary market. Despite the restrictions and growing popularity of equities and other financial assets, Vietnam still ranks among the top 10 investment markets in the world.

Looking at key investment products, retail gold investors tend to buy bars or chi-rings. Explaining this phenomenon, as alluded to earlier, the SBV restricts minting and selling bars in the market, which has increased premiums on investment bars. For example, premiums on investment products in Vietnam range from $250 per tael (1 Tael = 37.8g) to $650. Since the supply of investment bars is limited, premiums tend to surge when demand strengthens.

The combination of a lack of investment bars and exceptionally high premiums has encouraged investors to look for alternatives, with chi- rings proving to be a popular choice. These 24-carat rings are quite bulky and carry low making charges, and can therefore fulfil a dual adornment/ investment role. Importantly, the premiums are also far more attractive, at around $100-150 per tael over spot. As touched on above, most investment products sold in Vietnam are struck in 49s gold. Some popular bar and ring denominations are one tael, 0.5 tael (also called 5 Chi), 2 Chi (7.5g) or 1 Chi (3.75g).

Source: Metals Focus, Bloomberg