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The Three Original Christmas Gifts (Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh): What They Are, And How Much They Cost

The OG Christmas gifts


Christmas is a season of gift-giving. Most people enjoy the gift-giving aspect, even if they do not ascribe to religious connotations of Christmas.

Many of us would have heard of the Christmas carol “We Three Kings” which describes the journey of the Magi bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. These wise men were the original gift-givers of Christmas and they brought the gifts gold, frankincense and myrrh. Historically, these were precious gifts given to honor royalty. Another ancient story that mentions gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts is King Seleucus’s offerings to the god Apollo.

So what exactly are gold, frankincense and myrrh and how valuable are they?

Read Also: 5 Christmas Gifts To Kickstart Your Child’s Financial Future

Gold

Gold is commonly accepted as one of the most valuable metals in history and in modern times. Closely associated with royalty and kingship, this precious metal has lasted through the ages to become an accepted store of value today.

Today, gold is regarded as a “safe haven” asset class that holds its value well amid financial market crashes and acts as a hedge against inflation or uncertain market conditions. Currently, the spot price of gold is around S$78 per gram. If you want to buy a physical gold bar or coin, it is around $78,500 for a kilobar of gold or $2,500 for a 1 oz gold bullion coin.

While you don’t have to be royalty today to own gold, a kilobar of gold is probably not an item that you would casually gift to someone.

Cost: about $2,500 for a 1 oz gold bullion coin (about 30g)

Read Also: Want To Buy Gold? 5 Ways Investors In Singapore Can Invest In And Gain Exposure To Gold As An Asset Class

Frankincense

Frankincense is actually an aromatic resin, gathered from the sap of Boswellia trees. The burning of frankincense is associated with ceremonial worship of a deity. The Roman Catholic Church continues to use frankincense as a ceremonial incense today.

Frankincense is still used today in perfumery, cosmetics and incense. In fact, the highest grade of frankincense is sought-after as a perfumery ingredient. Aside from its solid form, which is used more commonly as an incense, frankincense can be distilled into an essential oil. According to Business Insider, frankincense essential oil can be sold for as much as $6,000 per litre. Sales of frankincense essential oil generated more than US$190 million in 2018 and is expected to exceed $406 million by 2028.

One reason for the high price is the long growth and tapping process. The Boswellia trees start producing resin at about 8 to 10 years and tapping is done about two to three times a year. Overtapping damages the trees. The Boswellia sacra, one of the primary frankincense species and one of the most aromatic species, was indicated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be “near threatened” in 1998.

With such scarcity, frankincense is likely to continue to be expensive. If you are still keen to gift frankincense, consider the lower grades of frankincense, especially those cultivated in the Horn of Africa which produces some of the cheaper resins.  Its scent is described as woody and smokey incense.

Cost: Essential Oil Frankincense, $45.90, 10 ml, Hysses

Read Also: 3 Alternative Investments To Consider Besides Stocks & Bonds (And The Risk Of Investing In Them)

Myrrh

Myrrh is another aromatic resin with similar usage as frankincense, gathered from the sap of the Commiphora trees. While also used as incense and perfume, myrrh is often used as an embalming ointment. In ancient Egypt, it was used for the embalming of mummies. Today, it is still used in some religious settings; the Eastern Orthodox Church uses myrrh in the preparation of sacramental chrism, an anointing oil.

Similar to frankincense, it also has a long production process due to the long growth and tapping process. The trees are native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa and some parts of the Arabian Peninsula. While the Commiphora has not been classified as “near threatened” as the Boswellia sacra, overtapping is an issue that affects the sustainability of myrrh production.

Aside from its use for its aromatic properties, myrrh is also used in traditional medicines. It is used in dental treatments in form of tooth powder or as gargles in its tinctured form. It also used in both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine.

While it is not commonly used as medicine today, myrrh can still be appreciated for its scent which is described as woody and balsamic.

Cost: Essential Oil Myrrh, $43.90, 10 ml, Hysses

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