By Andy Serwer

(FORTUNE Magazine) – It really shouldn't be a surprise that gold has been on a mad tear of late. In early December the yellow metal crashed through the $500-an-ounce barrier, a price not seen since the 1980s. A quick check of the world zeitgeist suggests that conditions for a gold rush are optimal. Interest rates are beginning to climb, while the dollar has been weak. Demand from millions of gold-loving Chinese and Indians is escalating as the economies of these countries grow. Then there's global skittishness over terrorism and pandemics, which contributes to gold buying. And one more thing: Gold enjoyed a huge run-up that began in the early 1970s and ended in 1980 when it traded at about $850 an ounce. The price then went into a long slide, bottoming out in 2001 at $250 an ounce. (Ergo: It must be somewhat true that every investment vehicle has its day.)

Of course the $8,400 question (that's the price of a pound of gold these days) is, Will gold keep going up? Maybe the best way to answer it is to ask another question: Are the previously described global conditions going to persist for a good amount of time? If the answer is yes, then it could be that the price of gold rises further.

Believers can satisfy their gold lust by buying the metal directly in the form of coins such as American Eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs, South African Krugerrands, Austrian Philharmonics, or Australian Kangaroos. You can also buy a gold mining company stock. Tanya Jakusconek, analyst with National Bank Financial in Toronto, recommends Barrick Gold, a so-called senior producer, and two smaller companies, Glamis and Eldorado. There are dozens of gold mutual funds, including top performers from Fidelity, Franklin, and USAA, or gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) like StreetTracks, which holds some $3.8 billion of gold bullion. Final thought: The gold bear market lasted two decades; the recent gold bull is only four years young. Those Kangaroos and Krugerrands may still have some hop to them.