Precious metal: India's love affair with gold

Over the past 20 years, India has become one of the fastest growing economies on earth. As a result of this, India has become the world's largest consumer of gold and in India, there is no possession more valuable than gold. Weddings have been the driving force behind this, as gold is custom in India weddings.

February 12, 2012 7:10 PM
CBS News

(CBS News)

India's love for gold is almost a religion. Beyond being a symbol of wealth and status, gold is part of worship and culture - a tradition that goes back thousands of years. From birth to death, for men and women, among rich and poor - acquiring gold is a goal for the people of India. All of which has made India the world's largest consumer of gold and thus a powerhouse in industry. "If India sneezes, the gold industry will catch a cold," says Ajay Mitra of the World Gold Council. Follow Bryon Pitts as he reports from India's exotic bazaars to its lavish weddings on the country's golden path.

The following script is from "India's Gold" which aired on Feb. 12, 2012. Byron Pitts is the correspondent. David Schneider, producer.

In the past 20 years, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies on earth. Today, as a result, India is now the world's largest consumer of gold. Why gold? Because in India, there is no possession more valuable. Just as part of the American dream is to own a home, the dream in India is to own gold. For Indians, gold jewelry is wearable wealth, financial security that's also a fashion statement. India's love for gold is as ancient as its culture.

And with its growing prosperity, the one event that drives most of that demand is an Indian wedding. There may be no wedding like an Indian wedding. The events can last for days with music and dancing and traditions that go back centuries. Everywhere you look, there's a collection of colors, flowers and food. And then there's the gold: breathtaking. Here it's a symbol of purity that also shows off the couple's wealth and wellbeing.

Byron Pitts: I've heard several times since I've been here, "No gold, no wedding."

Divya Chauhan: Yes, absolutely.

Vithika Agarwal: It's very true.

Divya Chauhan: The bride is ready, the groom is ready, the venue is set, the food is set, but if you don't have gold, there's no wedding.

Divya Chauhan and Vithika Agarwal are former beauty queens. Today, they're business partners as wedding planners. In November, in the small southern city of Tumkur, they pulled together the wedding event of the season.

[Chauhan: She's very late, could you ask them to come quickly...]

Two of the town's elite families joined through the marriage of Nivedita Keshavmurthy and Akshay Bavikatte - both doctors.

Agarwal: Unlike Western cultures, where it's about the bride and the groom, here, it's about anything but the bride and the groom.

Chauhan: Yeah.

Agarwal: It's about two families coming together.

Chauhan: Together.

Half of the gold that Indians buy each year is jewelry bought for a wedding. And this was one of the estimated 10 million weddings that take place in India every year. But few rise to the level of this lavish affair, stretched over five days. The tent was custom built for the ceremonies. Water piped in for fountains and musicians flown in from Mumbai, the entertainment capital of India. The lighting, audio and video orchestrated like a Bollywood movie set. The families spent over $200,000 just on gold.

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