LONDON -- Gold on the February contract has made modest gains since last Thursday and is currently up 1.4% on last Thursday's opening price, at $1,682.

Of course, the only practical way for most private investors to invest in gold is through exchange-traded funds. The largest gold ETF, the $63 billion SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEMKT:GLD), has gained 1.4% to $162.65 since last Thursday, while London-listed Gold Bullion Securities(LSE:GBS) has gained 2.6% to $162.50 over the same period. So far this year, shareholders of Gold Bullion Securities have seen their holdings rise by 1.2%, while SPDR Gold Trust holders have gained 0.4%.

Gold's big movers
Many investors prefer to invest in gold mining stocks, rather than gold itself, as gold miners are able to use their operational gearing to outperform the price of gold. Let's take a look at some gold stocks that have gained strongly recently.

Petropavlovsk (LSE:POG) has risen 7% to 397 pence so far today, after investors welcomed its fourth-quarter trading update. In 2012, the FTSE 250-listed Russian gold miner managed to produce 710,400 ounces of gold, a 13% increase on the previous year and ahead of its 700,000 ounces guidance. It's targeting a further increase for 2013 and is also benefiting from strong production at its iron ore business, IRC, which is expected to receive a $238 million investment from a new shareholder later this year.

Shanta Gold (LSE:SHG) has made further gains this week, climbing 30% to 24 pence over the last five trading days. The gains follow Monday's strong operational update, in which Shanta confirmed that Q4 gold production totaled 5,748 ounces. The company said that it is on course to meet its 70,000-oonce production target for 2013, having installed a tertiary crusher in early January at its New Luika gold mine in Tanzania. This has increased its crushing capacity from 390 tonnes per day in the last quarter to the current level of 870 tonnes per day.

Chaarat Gold Holdings (LSE:CGH) has climbed 17% to 24 pence so far this week, after it received clarification of the updated tax regime in the Kyrgyz Republic, where it operates. Chaarat believes the new laws, which it says are based around a "strict and simple revenue-based regime," will work in its favor. The main attraction of the new system is that the previous income tax has been replaced with a revenue tax that is tied to the price of gold. If the price of gold falls, so does the tax rate, helping to protect miners' profitability.

Shares vs. commodities
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Roland Head has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.