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Cash for Gold
Across the country people are responding to TV spots, billboards and newspaper ads that promise to turn rings and trinkets into cash.

Most discover that the metal is worth a fraction of the purchase price - a ring that sold for $150 a decade ago might be worth $50. But many sell the items anyway, figuring that a bit of cash in the hand is better than an old ring stuck in a drawer.

Compared with other used items, this may be a particularly good time to sell gold, experts say. Collectibles and other commodities are flooding the market, driving prices down. But recent gold prices have been near record highs.

Gold has historically been a haven for investors in tough times because many people have confidence that the precious metal will hold value when other commodities are tanking. That faith persists in the current meltdown.

Combine high prices with a growing number of people nervous about their cash flow and you generate the kind of revenue that pays for the tv and newspaper ads offering cash for gold.

BBB offers the following general advice regarding cash for gold offers:

Calculate what your gold is worth on the spot market:

* Find out what your gold weighs. Unless you own a jeweler's scale, you'll probably need to go to a jewelry store.

* Find today's spot price for gold for whatever units of weight you have - troy ounces, grams, pennyweights.

* Find out what karat your gold is. If you don't know, a jeweler should be able to tell you.

* Calculate what percent of your jewelry is actual gold.

24-karate gold is 100 percent gold

18-karat gold is 75 percent gold

14-karat gold is 58.33 percent gold

10-karat gold is 41.67 percent gold

* For example, a 5-gram ring made of 14 karat gold contains 2.91 grams of pure gold. If pure gold is selling for $29 a gram on the open market, 2.91 grams of pure gold would be worth $84.58.

* The offer you get will be some fraction of the open market value, minus the cost of handling and processing - usually the material is sent to a smelting company - and the profit taken by the buyer.

A primer on units:

* Karats are a measure of the purity of the gold. Pure gold is 24 karats. Most jewelry is 14-karat gold, which means that the other 10 karats are copper, nickel or zinc. (Carats are different, used with gemstones.)

* Troy ounces are a little bit larger than the 16 avoirdupois ounces that make up a pound.

* A pennyweight is 1/20th of a troy ounce.

For those interested in cash for gold, keep in mind that the value of the gold may not be what it was worth when you originally made the purchase.

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