They should have brought him shares

What price frankincense and myrrh? Two of the three gifts in the biblical story have been eclipsed by gold in the commercial stakes, writes Richard Phillips. But on a relative investment basis, they have outperformed the yellow metal - if only because the latter has been even more dismal.

Overall, the Wise Men would have been much wiser if they had bought stocks and shares for the infant Jesus. None of the products brought to celebrate his birth have proved a scintillating investment over the past decade. Gold has proved a dead loss: at the start of 1987 it stood at $391 (pounds 238) per troy ounce: on Friday it closed at a less-than-glittering $369 a troy ounce.

Gone are the heady days of the 1970s when its price peaked at around $800 an ounce as fears of world economic collapse and rampant inflation brought a flight to gold. But its solid image has been severely undermined by the unpalatable fact that as its monetary role has declined, so it has become more like other commodities. Its commercial applications are also in slow decline, with its use in electronics being squeezed by cheaper substitutes and more efficient use.

While gold is out of favour in the City, frankincense and myrrh at least have the merit of stability - even if they have underperformed inflation. Frankincense has been stuck at $1.70 a kilo since 1987, destroying any myth of preciousness, while myrrh has come off from $3.40 a kilo to $3.20 over the same period, according to Joseph Flach & Sons of Peterborough, one of the UK's leading importers of the two gums.

But they could yet forge a commercial revival, after centuries of relative decline.The advent of ever more exotic tastes in perfumery, a taste for authentic rather than synthetic fragrances, and growing interest in aromatherapy have helped them make a comeback.

A number of parfumiers, including Czech & Speake, and The Crown Perfumery, of Burlington Arcade, have introduced fragrances with frankincense and myrrh in them.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral