Vegas's Gold Standard
by Dominic Rushe
fashion photography by Gail Hadani
Beaded strapless dress, Roberto Cavalli (price on request). Crystals, CityCenter, 702-736-7300. Pear earrings, Judith Ripka ($14,000). The Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-792-5900. Antique coin necklace ($6,900), Serpenti bracelet ($46,800), and Serpenti ring ($3,550), Bulgari. Crystals, CityCenter, 702-583-4747
|Samantha evening gown, Elie Tahari ($898). The Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-732-2454. Gold swirl collar necklace, Oscar de la Renta ($625). Wynn Las Vegas, 702-770-3487. Yellow crystal ring ($540) and yellow crystal snake bracelet ($830), Roberto Cavalli. Crystals, CityCenter, 702-736-7300|
Gold Counsel: Rick “the Spotter” Harrison pawned his way to TV history when he led his Pawn Stars boys to a record-breaking, 80-episode contract with the History Channel, the biggest reality-TV renewal ever. The show, which debuted in 2009, catapulted his Downtown Gold & Silver Pawn Shop to worldwide stardom. Life will never be the same for him, dad Old Man “The Appraiser,” son Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison, and friend Austin “Chumlee” Russell.
L’oeil dress with metal sequin detail, Alexander McQueen (price on request). Wynn Las Vegas, 702-369-0510. Gold chameleon shoes, Fendi ($950). The Shoppes at The Palazzo, 702-369-0587. Gold ball earrings ($2,500), gold ball necklace ($10,000), and hammered dome ring ($1,295), Ippolita. Neiman Marcus, Fashion Show, 702-731-3636. Pathos Diva watch, Carl F. Bucherer ($29,700). Wynn Las Vegas, 702-770-3520
Doug Parker has been looking for gold for 20 years and sometimes even finds it. A long-standing member of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, the devoted enthusiast had never once tried to make a penny off his gold-finding skills. But since the gold price started to soar, visitors from all over the world have started asking the 60-year-old to take them out in search of the yellow metal. No wild-eyed gold bug, the former head slot machine technician at Flamingo says, “I tell people if you want to make $1 million in gold, start with $10 million.”
Thought finding gold was an easy paycheck? Parker calculates that every ounce of gold he’s collected has cost him about $1,500, when he adds in equipment, the long drives from his home in Las Vegas, and the hours he could have spent working elsewhere to his gold claim. When Parker started, gold was selling for only $300 an ounce, so prospecting was just another moneylosing hobby like fishing or golf. Plus, he liked to keep his hands on the gold he had collected. In the past decade, however, the value of gold has soared to new highs, with the price doubling in the last two years. Even Parker couldn’t resist selling a couple of ounces when the price hit $1,800. “When the price got that high,” he says, “I thought I might as well.”
A Gold Rush
Across the world, investors have caught gold fever. In these scary, uncertain times, the ancient currency looks like a safe haven compared to wobbly governments and stock markets rocked by wild fluctuations. While some analysts think gold may now have reached its peak, others are predicting it may reach $2,000 an ounce.
The rise has sparked its own gold rush. There are reality-TV shows based on prospectors; in Utah, legislators have moved to make gold legal tender again in shops, while New Yorker Raffi Stepanian became a media star after claiming to make $500 a week sifting the dirt of Manhattan’s gold district for tiny fragments of gold dropped by local jewelers.
Gold has been on the up for the best part of a decade, but it reached new heights as investors fretted about the ability of governments around the world to sort out their fiscal problems. And as those fears have grown, investors have been buying physical gold at record levels. The University of Texas Investment Management Company recently converted all its gold futures holdings into physical bullion, worth about $1 billion. The 6,643 bars of gold are now stored in a New York vault. And it is not alone: In 2010, total physical bullion investment soared 66 percent to 880 metric tons, says London-based gold analyst GFMS.
Fear has been the most powerful spur to gold’s soaring value. US government bonds and the dollar have always been traditional safe havens for investors, but those, too, have looked vulnerable in recent months, especially after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on US debt for the first time. Europe looks worse, as the sovereign debt crisis sparks riots in Greece and demonstrations from London to Rome. After the property crash, no one says “safe as houses” anymore. Amid all of that, gold bricks in deep vaults start looking like the ultimate safe bet.
This is not the first time the world has put its faith in gold over government. “You have a choice between the natural stability of gold and the honesty and intelligence of the members of government,” wrote George Bernard Shaw. “And with all due respect for those gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the capitalist system lasts, vote for gold.”
Styling by Todd Hanshaw
Hair and makeup by Paul Innis
Model: Melody Woodin/Muse Model Management/NY
Lighting assistance by Todd Lussier
Digital assistance by Ben Holden