The aim of this paper is to examine the role of gold in the global financial system. We test the hypothesis that gold represents a safe haven against stocks of major emerging and developing countries. A descriptive and econometric analysis for a sample spanning a 30. year period from 1979 to 2009 shows that gold is both a hedge and a safe haven for major European stock markets and the US but not for Australia, Canada, Japan and large emerging markets such as the BRIC countries. We also distinguish between a weak and strong form of the safe haven and argue that gold may act as a stabilizing force for the financial system by reducing losses in the face of extreme negative market shocks. Looking at specific crisis periods, we find that gold was a strong safe haven for most developed markets during the peak of the recent financial crisis. © 2009 Elsevier B.V.