Diamonds and Coral: Anglo-Dutch Jews and Eighteenth-Century Trade

By Gedalia Yogev | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The trade in precious metals and
bills of exchange

The Jews were active in the London market for precious metals as importers and sellers, as buyers and exporters, and as brokers. It is difficult to form any conclusions about their activities as importers, because of the unreliability of statistical material, but if the Jews are considered as sellers rather than as importers — for they usually sold the gold and silver they had imported on the London market - there is some information from the account books of the Bank of England and the East India Company. From the books of the Bank it is clear that the Bank's purchases from Jewish firms or individuals during the second and third decades of the eighteenth century were only a small fraction of the Bank's total purchases of either gold or silver. Much more significant were the loans given by the Bank on the security of gold and silver deposits. There are very accurate figures relating to this branch of the Bank's business. 1 In the period 1713-25, a large proportion of the total lent by the Bank on such security was to Jewish firms, and even if the loans made to the broker Abraham Mocatta be omitted, on the grounds that much of the silver he deposited belonged to unnamed clients, there remains a total of £362,000 lent to individuals on the security of silver, of which £157,000 - 43 per cent was to Jews.

Prominent among both sellers and depositors of gold was the house of Medina, 2 followed by that of Salvador. After 1720, however, the Medinas ceased to sell gold, while the Salvadors too disappear after 1724. There were numerous other Jewish firms, such as the houses of Mendes, Mendes da Costa, Nunes, Rodrigues, and d'Adranda, but their total sales were often less than that of the Medinas alone. 3

There is a different situation with loans given against silver deposits. The Medinas were prominent in this field too, though not to such an extent as in the gold business, but we find also some merchants who do not appear at all in the gold transactions

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