All That Glitters

A fail-safe option for nervous investors, gold could also help the world's monetary system

Illustration by Harry Campbell for TIME

Correction Appended: Dec. 18, 2009

Gold, that barbarous relic, is having a thoroughly modern moment in the spotlight. Its price in dollars ($1,170 per ounce when last I checked) is setting a new record every few days. Cash4Gold and its competitors have been flooding the airwaves with ads exhorting you to fork over your gold jewelry for dollars. And for the first time since 1971, when U.S. President Richard Nixon unilaterally yanked the world off the gold standard, gold is also attracting interest from a crowd that usually doesn't pay it much heed: the world's central bankers.

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