Friday, March 13th, 2009

The rush for gold

Record high prices, hard times have people turning in old jewelry in exchange for cash

By Betty Lawrence

Economic struggles and near record high prices for gold have people scrambling t. . .

Gold has hit record highs of nearly $1,000 an ounce, prompting a modern-day gold rush.
People are cleaning out their jewelry boxes, turning in that old, unused gold jewelry for cold hard cash. Coins, pocket watches and even dental gold have become the norm for gold buyers.
"We always have purchased gold and silver, but lately, we're seeing more than the usual number of people selling gold because of the current high price. If you never use it, it just makes good financial sense right now to turn it into cash," said Steve Jones, long-time owner/operator of Jones Jeweler in Celina.
Single earrings, broken bracelets, rings and necklaces also are prime examples of items that jewelers often see turned in. And don't forget the jewelry from ex-boyfriends and girlfriends or ex-spouses, which local jeweler Eric Mauter, of Hudson's Jewelers in St. Marys, refers to as 'celebration' rings.
"You also see a lot of herringbone necklaces from back when they were popular. They get kinked and people don't wear them anymore. Silver is the in thing now, so people are getting rid of their gold, at a good time financially," Jones said.
14K gold should pan out at nearly $8-10 per pennyweight, said Dave Jacobs, another long-time Celina jeweler.
"I already saw a high traffic in gold last summer, when the price was climbing," he said, adding he expects the price of gold to remain high.
Gold is weighed and sold by the pennyweight, which is a unit of weight equal to 1/20th of an ounce. Twenty pennyweights equal a troy ounce (the system of weights for gold).
"You have to determine what the gold content is in the jewelry, whether 10, 14, or 18 karat. Pure gold is 24 karat," Jones said.
The purer the gold, the more it is worth.
Jones said the last time he saw a surge in people selling their unwanted gold jewelry was in the 1980s when the price of gold also had escalated.
In addition to established jewelers, gold buying entrepreneurs have visited the local area, setting up shop at local hotels. Also, gold-buying parties, similar to Tupperware, are being touted online as a way to make a buck from your own home, and some companies are buying gold by having people send it through the mail.
Jones advises people to be cautious when selling their jewelry. Get more than one opinion on the value of your jewelry, he says, and find out what gold is going for that day.
"It's like anything else, sell your precious metals to someone you trust," Mauter said. "When buying, first you have to determine the gold content, and if there are gemstones involved, you subtract that from the weight."
Precious metals will have a karat stamp on it, but Jones warned that there is fake-stamped jewelry out there.
"Anyone can buy a jewelry stamp. I see it especially on chains, such as necklaces," he said.
Celina resident Deb Green and her daughter, Kelli Jones, recently visited a gold buyer in Celina. Green discovered her boxed set of silverware was not pure sterling and her daughter came home with a few less earrings and baubles.
"I can't wear earrings, so I thought, why not sell them." Kelli Jones said.
When Steve Jones buys gold, he sends it to a refinery where it is melted into either new metals or newly-refined gold. He also uses some of it for jewelry repair, as do other area jewelry stores.
Occasionally Jones comes across a unique piece of jewelry that he advises the seller not to sell for scrap metal and unfortunately, he adds, there have been cases when the seller's jewelry was suspicious.
"When I feel something is suspicious, authorities are contacted," he said.
One of the oddest pieces that Mauter says has been brought to his store is gold-capped teeth.
"I have three teeth in the store right now," he said, adding he didn't want to know where they came from.
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