LAST month, one man did more for the price of gold in a day than most have managed to do in the last 13 years. Mr George Soros, the Hungarian-born financier, started the first gold rush of the 1990s, and only the second since 1986, with a simple deal involving American gold mining shares worth $400 million. . When the man from whom Mr Soros bought the mining stock, Sir James Goldsmith, immediately put his cash from the deal into gold options, while telling one journalist, ''I'm a colossal bull of gold'', then everyone was suddenly convinced that the precious metal was on the mend. Does this mean that now is the time to buy? As usual, the investment camp is divided. But, as far as the Soros/Goldsmith deal is concerned, many analysts said it was part of a larger plan involving US bonds, and that Soros was probably no more confidentin gold than he was in Hongkong's chances of winning an Olympic gold medal. And, besides, advice from experts is that if you follow the large players into a market two weeks after they get in, you are probably already too late. The gold prospector's term ''a flash in the pan'' is an appropriate one in this case. Turnover on the Hongkong Gold and Silver Exchange quickly fell off the record highs experienced shortly after the Soros deal. Mr Paul Giles, Credit Anstalt Private Banking executive vice-president, said that regardless of investors' perceptions of the Soros deal, gold is an anachronism as an investment. ''Gold was great during the time of King Arthur, but its been losing its appeal ever since,'' he said. Gold has always been a long-term play, and a blip in its price over a number of weeks is not the substance of a boom. At the end of the 1970s, gold had reached its all-time high of just under $825 per troy ounce, compared with today's value of around $355. For 13 years, pundits have been waiting for the second golden coming, something which has never arrived, despite claims that George Soros is gold's saviour. In the past few years the price has been so stubborn, that traditionally favourable factors have had little or no effect on the metal's price. Gold prices traditionally fare well in times of uncertainty, especially during wars and political upheavals, and it has always been one of the best hedge's against inflation. But markets have grown more sophisticated and appear to have edged gold out of the picture. The break up of the Soviet Union failed to rally gold prices and the Gulf War also fell short of the desired effect. And, as for inflation itself, most of the world's major economies have it beaten, except Hongkong and China. But can gold investors hang on to the gains they have made over the last two months? Mr Giles thinks not. ''The fundamentals just don't support gold at its current price, and once the euphoria [of the Soros deal] has gone, the price will slip again. ''I really think gold is out of date as an investment,'' he said. It would seem gold has lost much of its glitter over the last 10 years as a result of more sophisticated investment products. Gold bears are quick to point out that returns on equity investment in Asia, for example, would make gold's potential look very unappealing. As one analyst put it: ''Gold is all right if you are putting it around your girlfriend's neck, but that's about all its good for.'' People in China, keen to avoid the inflationary effects of the devaluation of the yuan, have been buying gold. And it is not just individuals. The Chinese Government is believed to be bolstering its reserves. But is the China factor one which will save gold on international markets? ''The yuan has stabilised now, so buying has slowed down,'' said Anderson Cheung, associate director and chief dealer of Swiss Bank Corporation.