Britons will go to the voting booth on 23 June in what could mark a historic date for the country, while the outcome could have a lasting impact on the global economy as a whole.

Although much has been said and written about the potential Brexit, the consequences of a ‘leave’ decision are still unclear. Overnight, for instance, George Soros warned that an exit from the EU risks ‘Black Friday’ for the United Kingdom, as reported by The Guardian, while others suggest that Brexit would be a complete non-event.

One way or another, the upcoming referendum vote has created much uncertainty which has played with the emotions of investors around the world. Equity markets endured sharp sell-offs as investors sought the safety of cash, while the price of gold – often considered a safe haven during times of volatility – also skyrocketed.

Will gold lose its shine?

According to Business Insider, HSBC believes that the gold price could explode as much as 10% in a short space of time if Britain does elect to leave the EU. Suggesting it could go to US$1,400 an ounce, they noted it could go even higher if concerns are then raised regarding the future direction of the European Union without the inclusion of the United Kingdom.

Indeed, gold prices have rocketed higher so far in 2016 due to uncertainties regarding items such as the oil price and even terrorism. Brexit fears have spurred it on even more in recent times, pushing it to around US$1,300 last week.

However, the precious metal has since retreated to just US$1,270 an ounce. And while the gold bugs are waiting for a sharp rebound to happen after Britons vote, it could actually go the other way.

The perceived odds of Britons voting to leave the EU this week have fallen marginally in recent days, helping to settle the market’s nerves. Although the vote could still go either way, a vote to stay would likely play a huge role in reducing the market’s anxieties.

As such, buying gold or shares of gold miners is a risky move, particularly given the enormous returns already achieved by the miners thus far in 2016. Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX: NCM), for instance, has already gained 67% year-to-date, while St Barbara Ltd (ASX: SBM), EVOLUTION FPO (ASX: EVN) and Northern Star Resources Ltd (ASX: NST) are up 107%, 63% and 67%, respectively.

Indeed, history is littered with circumstances in which investors feared for their wealth. And while some have proven to have been major speed humps, including the Global Financial Crisis, many others have turned out to be nothing but non-events (Grexit, anyone?). In other words, if Britain elects to stay in the EU, gold mightn’t be the risk-free asset it’s cracked up to be, after all.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.