BEIJING (Commodity Online) : World's largest gold producer is also set to take India's centuries-old gold crown as the world's top gold consumer.

After knocking South Africa out of first place as the world's largest gold producer in 2007, it now appears China will overtake India as the world's leading gold consumer when industry figures are released in mid-February.

In 2008, the Chinese bought more than 395 tones of gold and that is expected to soar to about 450 tones when the results are in for 2009.

Since ousting South Africa as the No. 1 producer, the gold Chinese buy is pretty much all Made in China.. There are gold mines in more than half a dozen Chinese provinces.

The Chinese have valued gold since ancient times, but for much of the past century they were too poor to buy it or their government wouldn't let them.

More than 85 per cent of Chinese shoppers buy 24-karat, 99.9 per cent gold, analysts said.

China banned gold trading in 1950 and not until 1982 was the gold jewelry market open to general consumers. Between those dates there was no gold at all available on the general market.