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The gold fix - the procedure by which the price of pure gold is determined twice each business day on the London market by the five members of The London Gold Market Fixing Ltd - reached a record high of $1862 per ounce on Friday, August 19. Its reputation as a 'safe haven' at a time when stocks and shares entered a tailspin has seen the price of gold jump 20 per cent since July.

The price of silver has proved more volatile. It reached an all-time high of £30.13 an ounce on April 25 but had subsequently fallen back. As the price again touched £20 per ounce last week, precious metals dealers reported large amounts of teasets, salvers, trophies and flatware being sold for melt.

Brighton-based dealer Michael Bloomstein said that he had received good quality pre-War silver for the pot as well as large Victorian wares and Georgian silver salts. Flatware, including Kings and Fiddle, Thread and Shell patterns, were also being scrapped.

He bought an attractive 1940s teaset, the like of which antiques dealers were offering for sale at £400 three years ago, last week for £850 scrap. However, Mr Bloomstein rescued it from the melt, instead deciding to use at his personal tea-service.