Time to Cash in On Your Gold

September 15, 2009

gold in hand

By Nicole Andriso:

With no shortage of “Cash for Gold” commercials on TV and online, it seems like everyone is jumping on the gold cash cow, hoping their old boyfriend’s high school ring and Mom’s antique necklace will be worth something. I was one of those people.

I had a few gold remnants that were taking up space in my jewelry box: a gold toe ring my friend bought me that never fit; a single gold earring missing its mate; random pairs of small gold hoops I never wore; and multiple sterling silver rings that had seen better days. I gathered them into a plastic bag and headed out for the nearest jewelry store to share my wares. I had pretty high hopes, as one of my friends actually made around $300 on her trade-ins.

I read the papers and saw the commercials, so I thought I knew what cash for gold was all about, it was just a matter of finding the right place to trade. I took them to a local jeweler who had a solid reputation and was a staple in the community for over 50 years.

When I entered the store, I saw nearly 20 people lining the glass counters with sandwich bags of gold and silver similar to mine. Clearly, the word is getting out and people are ready to trade in their gold for quick cash. Driving down a main highway in my city, I saw at least three different signs, stores or billboards promoting cash for gold events. It proves there are a number of different places people can take their jewelry – local jeweler, pawn shop, online, mail-in, jewelry event and, of course, the classifieds.

How it Works

According to the gold resource website www.kitco.com , gold prices are set each day and that standard is what a majority of jewelers and outlets use for pricing. Gold is paid by the gram, which isn’t very much, so a small bracelet or earrings probably won’t go for very much money.  Gold is also weighed in troy ounces, which translates to 31.1034768 grams per one troy ounce. Some jewelers charge by the penny weight, and there are 20 penny weights in one ounce. What they charge beyond that is up to the individual jeweler.

Throughout the store, people were leaned over the counter tops talking to salespeople who were looking at jewelry through small magnifying glasses. I walked up to a counter and a woman greeted me carrying three plastic containers. She took my jewelry and divided it up into containers. She took each silver piece and ran a magnet over them to ensure they were sterling silver. Then, she took a small magnifying glass to the gold pieces to determine whether they were 10, 14 or 24 carat. Each piece has a certain stamp that signifies its weight in carats, and each is priced according to the carat’s value.

As my gold and silver were divided among the containers, I kept seeing dollar signs. It’s like a garage sale for jewelry without having to get up at 6am, and knowing each piece will make me a profit! The saleswoman took my jewelry to the back to weigh it and get me a price. She returned and offered me a total of $62.80.

She broke down the actual amounts they could offer me; more money for the 14 carat gold and less for the 10 carat and sterling silver, which didn’t amount to much considering the light weight of the items. $62.80 was slightly more than I had expected. Not bad, I thought, for a few scraps of light gold and cheap sterling silver taking up space in my jewelry box.

Don’t Forget to Negotiate

As I waited for the saleswoman to return with my money, I watched two women next to me talk about their items with another salesperson. They had some serious, heavy-looking gold necklaces and old brooches, definitely much bigger and heavier than mine. I overheard the salesperson offer them $249 for their jewelry. One of the women said, “The place down the street offered us $279.”

The salesperson left to talk to the manager, and returned with a $279 match on their jewelry.  I caught the eye of one of the women and just smiled and said, “Good job.” They both smiled at me and shrugged.

It Pays to Shop Around

Much like it is when you buy anything at all – it pays to shop around. At that moment, I wanted to kick myself for not doing the research and getting quotes from other places around town or on the internet. If I had taken them to a few different venues, I might have bargained for a higher price and left with a $100 or more!

I chalk this one up to experience. And while I pride myself on researching almost everything I buy, I admit I got a little caught up in the quick cash-for-gold phenomenon. I was blinded by the dollar signs.

Next time I want to turn my cash into gold, I’ll follow the lead of my new friends who bargained for more money at the jeweler. Here are a couple of things I’ll do differently:

  • visit a few different places for quotes
  • don’t be afraid to speak up about the pricing

And, with that, I’ll hope my gold and silver scraps turn into a little more cash.