Give us your gold wedding bands for these patriotic steel rings

Adrian Ash at BullionVault traces the history of gold confiscation by Western government's through the past century, a practice more widespread than remembered.

Of course there is a confiscation by the US government in 1933, but over 30 years later a desparate Labour government in Britain clamped down on gold coin collectors since the government believed gold purchases were damaging the country's balance of trade. Ash says over 4,000 people were caught up in the Bank of England's scrutiny and prosecutions.

In 1939 after the Nazi's marched into Czechoslavakia, the Bank of England honoured a request of the victors by transferring the vanquished nation's gold reserves into Germany's accounts.

But the most poignant account of gold confiscation occurred in Italy:

December 1935 saw popular Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appeal to the patriotism of Italy's wives, urging them to swap their gold wedding bands for steel rings instead. Yes, really. On Wednesday the 18th, La Stampa gave over its entire front page to this financing drive:

  • "The most noble rite of 'faith' joins all women in Italy in one heroic will" ('fede' meaning both 'wedding ring' and 'faith' – clever, eh?)
  • "The Queen lays down her wedding ring upon the Altar of the Homeland"
  • "The proud and moving offer of the women in Turin"

Italian women were so "encouraged" by this popular show of patriotism that, fifty years later, they were still ashamed at being forced to part with their wedding rings. Mussolini got 35 tonnes all told.

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If you are worried about gold confiscation, there are lots of how-to videos on YouTube explaining how to bury and hide gold.

Image of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1939. Photo from The National Archives UK