You’ve heard the buzz. Maybe you’ve even heard friends and family chattering about it. With the price of gold soaring to more than $1,900 per ounce Monday, selling your old jewelry is a way to get back some of that money the roller-coaster stock market’s been taking away.
But before you scrounge up all the gold jewelry you’re willing to “scrap” — sell purely for its gold content, by weight — hold on just a bit. I did my own test run to give you some tips on getting the best prices.
First, I rounded up a mix of 14- and 18-karat jewelry and took it to three different types of places: a “we buy gold” business, a jewelry store and an antique market’s gold and coin dealer. Each gave me a weight total for my gold and how much money I could expect to get for it. And their quotes in each category varied drastically. I didn’t identify myself as a reporter to ensure the businesses wouldn’t give me “special” pricing — which could give you overly optimistic expectations.
If you do good prep work, you can make some serious cash. But if you don’t know how much your gold is worth, and that includes how much it weighs, you’re more likely to get less than what you deserve.
(Don’t even consider “gold parties,” which are akin to the old-school Tupperware parties. They sound like fun, but you’ll pay a premium to the hosts and make much less than you would elsewhere.)
So gather up those broken chains, earrings and bracelets you don’t wear anymore and take these steps to become an informed gold seller:
1. Inspect. You’ll need a jeweler’s loupe ($5.31 on Amazon.com) to inspect your jewelry. Pay attention to clasps and the inside of rings, looking for markings that indicate the gold content — 14 karat or .585 (585 parts per thousand gold), 18 karat or .750. Use an online search engine – seriously — to identify any unfamiliar stamps. You may also want to buy a gold test kit ($12.99 on Amazon), especially if your pieces are unmarked.
2. Remove. Detach any stones or non-gold parts from the jewelry. If you don’t, a dealer will have to estimate the actual weight of gold content, and the guessing will likely not be in your favor.
3. Weigh. If you don’t have a small-item scale — like for weighing food portions — borrow or purchase one, as long as it measures in grams or pennyweights ($6.59 on Amazon). Separate your pieces into batches based on gold quality (14, 18 or 24 karat) and weigh.
4. Calculate. Use an online calculator to evaluate the full market value of each metal. (I found a link to this one from Clark Howard’s website.) Understand this is a 100 percent valuation — and any middleman who buys from you has to make some money when reselling. Professional dealers, who regularly sell in volume, usually get about 90 percent, while 70 to 80 percent is about the maximum you’ll see as an individual seller.
5. Research. Call around to ask businesses what percentage they pay (70 percent of the full price? 65 percent?). My experience was that people who wouldn’t tell me — even a store that claimed it “paid the highest prices in Georgia” — actually offered the lowest price. Buyers who pay more usually have no problem disclosing their percentage.
Now that you’ve educated yourself, you can do some shopping in person. I had confidence oozing out my pores when I walked into each store because I knew what I had. It’s kind of like when you’ve done the research to buy a new car and sell your old one.
(A quick word about safety: It’s something you need to consider if you’re lugging around hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of precious metals. For instance, I took an associate of mine with me as a precaution.)
The stash I took to the three business weighed, according to my scale, 25.9 total grams — the 14-karat items totaling 18.2 grams; the 18-karat ones weighing 7.7 grams — for a full market value of $974.18. Here’s what I found:
These stores and pawn shops will probably offer you the least amount of money.
The gold-buying shop I visited initially offered me a paltry $321.55 (including a supposed 20 percent internet discount) – about 33 percent of what I knew my assortment was worth at its current full price. When I didn’t take the bait and told the employee I was doing some comparison shopping, she hit me with a tell-tale question: “How much are you trying to make?”
I hedged on an exact amount, saying a dealer friend of mine — who sells in higher volume and usually gets 90 percent of the true value — might be able to lump my pieces in with hers.
The employee then told me because I had an 18-karat piece – a rarity for that store – she would call a manager to see if they could make me a better offer (see, it’s exactly like buying a car). Afterward she offered me the “employee discount,” a price of almost $200 more than the original offer.
But the most telling part of the visit was how much the business said my jewelry weighed: almost 10 grams less than what I — and the next two businesses — figured.
Jewelry weigh-in: 16.8 grams. Offer: $515. Percent of total value: 52.9.
Jewelry stores tend to offer more than “we buy gold” stores, although sometimes the payout is in the form of a store credit, so ask ahead of time. This can be a great way to recycle your pieces if you’re simply looking to update your collection.
The jeweler I visited pays by check and quoted me 70 percent over the phone. Upon arrival she immediately tested each piece and completed the entire process in less than 15 minutes — a third of the time I spent in the gold-buying store.
Her offer was a hair under what was quoted, but it was hassle-free.
Jewelry weigh-in: 26.2 grams. Offer: $660. Percent of total value: 67.8.
A gold and coin dealer had been recommended to me by my dealer friend, and it turns out she knew what she was talking about. The antique market dealer was also efficient about testing for karats and offered me the best price – more than $250 than the we-buy-gold shop. His offer, also hassle-free, was almost 80 percent of the true value of the gold.
Jewelry weigh-in: 26 grams. Offer: $766. Percent of total value: 78.6.
The moral of the story? Research should be the gold standard when selling your precious metals.
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter