Vincent Tie

Posted by Vincent Tie on 17 May 2024

Here's How the Best Bullion Audit Practices Should Be

If you have a significant investment in gold and silver bullion, you could already be storing your precious metals with a custodian or directly with a third-party vault operator. However, how do you ensure that you truly own your precious metals and they are really stored in the vault?

The answer to this question is bullion audits. However, this term may be unfamiliar to those who are new to the bullion storage industry. We explain how bullion audits work and share tips for assessing a custodian’s bullion audit processes from our years of experience operating our precious metals vault, The Safe House.

What is a Bullion Audit?

A bullion audit is a service usually provided by a bullion vault to customers storing precious metals to ensure that the gold, silver, and other metals are present and accounted for correctly.

Even the official gold reserves of countries are subjected to audits to ensure that they exist, although U.S. gold reserves at Fort Knox have been famously unaudited for many years.

Bullion audits provide answers to common questions like:

1. “How do I know my bullion is stored in the vault’s premises?”
2. “How do I know the amount of my bullion stored in the vault is correct?”
3. “How do I know that I am the sole owner of my bullion?"
4. “How do I know that my stored bullion is genuine?”

Trust is probably the most important commodity in the bullion storage industry and is not a given. The custodian or vault operator must earn customers’ trust by having the best bullion audit practices to address such questions.

Bullion stored in a vault can be audited by the client, custodian, or an external auditor. The outcome of an audit is stronger when there are multiple parties checking the gold and silver bars and coins. It is important that the checking parties have different interests in the audit’s outcome.

For example, clients intend to ensure that their stored precious metals are accurately accounted for. Custodians or vault operators want to gain clients’ trust by properly storing their precious metals. External auditors ensure that custodians’ stated assets and inventory are correctly stated and that any discrepancies in audit findings are adequately explained.

Robust bullion audit practices should incorporate multi-party audits. In addition, here is how answers to the 3 questions above should be provided when bullion audit practices are done right.

Bullion audit at The Safe House

How Do I Know My Bullion is Stored in the Vault’s Premises?

It is a major problem if clients’ silver and gold bars and coins, thought to be stored in a vault’s premises, are not physically present. While it seems like a basic and common sense matter when buying bullion to store with a third-party custodian, this scenario does happen when physical precious metals are not allocated for client orders.

Consider this scenario: A man buys and stores 100 Canadian Maple Leaf gold coins with a bank or custodian. He receives a document stating that his account has 100 pieces of Canadian Maple Leaf gold coins.

There are banking practices where the bank receives the client’s money to buy the gold coins but does not buy physical gold with it. The bank plans to buy the gold coins from the gold market when the client decides to take delivery of the coins in the future. Such a practice would save the bank on costs to insure and store physical gold.

Therefore, the bank’s document issued to the client does not show physical ownership of any gold. Rather, it is merely a claim on gold owed by the bank to the client. The risk of such a practice is often exposed in periods of financial crisis when gold shortages become acute, and the bank cannot purchase gold to deliver to the client.

A good bullion audit process should allow the auditing party to visually ascertain that the physical gold exists in the vault.


The Safe House encourages our clients to make an appointment to visit the vault and inspect their bullion holdings. Our robust security measures are not compromised by client visits. If you are storing precious metals through a custodian at The Safe House and is not our direct client, please contact your custodian about visiting the vault or performing a bullion audit.


How Do I Know the Amount of My Stored Bullion in the Vault Is Correct?

While visually inspecting stored precious metals confirms their presence, it is also important to ensure that the amount of bullion stored is correct.

If a client purchased 100 gold Maple Leaf coins, it is important to ensure that all 100 pieces are accounted for. The simplest way to do this is to count the coins physically.

It is common for smaller bullion pieces to be kept in opaque mint-original coin tubes or boxes. Such packaging should be opened, and the bullion should be counted for certainty.

However, if the bullion quantity is large enough that a full physical count is impractical, then a partial count could be performed together with weighing bullion stored in packaging.

The best bullion auditing process should accommodate such client requests, giving them peace of mind when storing physical precious metals in a private vault.


Clients visiting The Safe House to inspect their silver and gold holdings can request for bullion to be counted or weighted to ensure that the amount of bullion stored is correct. However, where bullion bars or coins are sealed in uniquely-numbered tamper-evident bags, opening such bags to check the bullion within will require repackaging with a new bag thereby changing the bag’s serial numbers.

Weighing gold coins, bullion audit at The Safe House

How Do I Know That I Am the Sole Owner of My Bullion?

Ascertaining sole ownership of stored bullion is also very important in a bullion audit. This question aims to ensure that bullion shown to the clients or auditors is not also owned by multiple clients of the custodian.

For example, suppose you visit a vault to perform a bullion audit as a client and are shown five 1000 oz LBMA silver bars on a pallet that belongs to you. In that case, it is important to ensure that the custodian is not showing the same five silver bars to another client. You should be the sole owner of the bullion in the vault storage.

Many account-checking services provided by bullion dealers or custodians allow clients to verify their personal silver or gold holdings. However, they do not allow proper verification of sole bullion ownership.

For example, while clients can check the serial numbers for all their bullion, they are unable to ascertain if another client could own bullion with the same serial numbers. This inability to check for sole ownership could be due to their custodians not providing the information or the means of checking to be cumbersome and time-consuming.

The best bullion auditing practices address this issue by providing a master list of all stored bullion in the vault. This list is anonymized, only showing client account numbers, unique identifiers, and types of vaulted precious metals. Identifiers can be serial numbers stamped on bullion bars and coins or uniquely numbered tamper-evident security bags that hold multiple pieces of precious metals.

A uniquely numbered bullion should only appear once under one client’s account number. Anything more will indicate that multiple parties own the same bullion. The custodian maintains this master list, which is used for verification by clients and external auditors.

Given that the master list could be a PDF file, serial numbers can be quickly searched to detect the possibility of multiple ownership.


S.T.A.R. Storage, the bullion storage program of our parent company, Silver Bullion, jointly produces a Parcel Ownership List with The Safe House showing anonymized records of bullion stored. This master list is made available to all S.T.A.R. Storage customers as a PDF file and is also used by our external auditors when auditing bullion in the vault. With this master list, our clients can easily verify that they are the sole owners of their stored precious metals.

Auditing gold bars using the Parcel Ownership List
Auditors inspecting stored gold bars using the Parcel Ownership List

How Do I Know That My Stored Bullion Is Genuine?

Determining the authenticity of your precious metals stored in the vault is also crucial. Ideally, the bullion you purchased should be verified to be genuine at the point of purchase or during a bullion audit.

Unfortunately, many custodians and vault operators do not provide on-site bullion testing services. While your bullion could be weighed, it is but a single method of testing that is insufficient to detect counterfeit gold and silver.

Testing gold bars held at the vault upon the client's request during a gold audit will dispel doubts about authenticity.

The best bullion audit practices address this issue in a few ways. First, the custodian could have used several non-destructive testing methods to authenticate your bullion when it entered the vault. The test results should be provided to you.

Secondly, bullion testing equipment should be available on-site to authenticate precious metals during a bullion audit. This option may incur additional costs if requested.

Thirdly, the custodian could have an authentication guarantee for tested bullion accepted into their storage. However, this feature is rare, and only the best and most competent bullion storage providers offer such guarantees.


The Safe House vault has an on-site precious metal testing laboratory that authenticates bullion coins and bars using non-destructive testing methods. You may request bullion testing for your stored precious metals at your expense. Furthermore, our parent company, Silver Bullion, offers an authenticity guarantee for precious metals stored under its S.T.A.R. Storage program.

Types of Bullion Audits Offered by Vaults

Now that you understand bullion audits and the issues they address regarding bullion storage, the following are the types of bullion audits offered by different bullion dealers or custodians.

In-Person Inspection Visits

As a client storing precious metals with a custodian in a vault, you should be allowed to inspect your stored bullion in person.

Bullion custodians may cite ‘security reasons’ to reject client requests for an in-person audit. With over a decade of vault operating experience, we disagree with such excuses. In our view, a well-managed vault with state-of-the-art security systems can more than accommodate client bullion audits.

Moreover, the locations of commercial vaults are not secret, especially in safe countries like Singapore.

In addition to inspecting your stored precious metals, in-person visits are beneficial as they allow you to meet the custodian’s staff and ask them questions about the vaulting facility and its processes.

The Safe House encourages our clients to make an appointment to visit the vault in-person and inspect their bullion holdings.

Third-Party Auditor Inspections

As mentioned, the best bullion storage vaults employ multi-party checks to ensure on-site precious metals are accounted for. It is pointless if bullion audits are only performed by the custodian.

It is common practice for vault storage providers to engage external auditors to perform independent bullion audits. Sometimes, such audits are performed as part of a company’s annual audit to verify the company’s and clients’ assets.

Check with your custodian on the frequency of third-party bullion audits and ask for bullion audit reports.

Bullion stored under Silver Bullion’s S.T.A.R. Storage program is audited quarterly by two independent external auditors. An audit report is produced and published on Silver Bullion’s website upon completion.

Online Audits

Online audits are often offered as an audit solution if clients cannot be physically present at the vault. For example, if you store in a vault outside of your resident country, you may not be able to travel due to your schedule or other reasons.

Online audits could refer to two different ways of checking bullion. It could refer to the custodian’s publishing of the aforementioned bullion master list so that clients can check the details of their stored precious metals online. It is important that you can ascertain that you are the sole owner of the precious metals using the custodian’s online means for this option as mentioned previously.

A less common online audit service is the option for customers to visit the vault and view their precious metal holdings via videoconferencing. Such an online audit allows you to experience the same process as an in-person audit from the comfort of your home. However, there are limitations as well, including the Internet bandwidth strength for the connection as well as potential time zone differences to arrange for such an audit.

With Silver Bullion’s S.T.A.R. Storage program, The Safe House generates the weekly-updated S.T.A.R. Storage Parcel Ownership List, allowing clients to audit their precious metal holdings easily. This master list is a PDF file, allowing easy searching by your account number and bullion parcel numbers.

An Example of How Silver Bullion Conducts Precious Metal Audits at The Safe House

It is uncommon for custodians or vaults to show publicly how bullion audits are performed. Given our experience operating the vault for over a decade, we believe in educating our clients by providing transparency in how their precious metals are stored, tested, and audited.

The video below shows the rigor with which a Silver Bullion audit was performed at The Safe House, where staff from both companies audited client and company precious metals stored at the vault.

Bullion audits need not be opaque if the custodian or vault operator follows best practices for vault security, bullion storage, and precious metal authentication. We believe having transparent and efficient verification processes to check stored bullion establishes trust with our clients and gives them peace of mind in safekeeping their valued assets with us. With bullion audits demystified, you can now assess if your current custodian has the same rigorous storage and audit procedures to safeguard your precious metals.

Do contact us should you have any questions about bullion storage!