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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.

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.

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 gold prices have been going up. However, the ounce quote is for pure gold only.

Have you thought about making a few extra dollars by selling some of your gold jewelry? Whether you do it through a gold-party (in-home party usually held with a group of friends), over the Internet, by mail, or through a local jeweler, be careful.

BBB offers the following TIPS regarding cash for gold offers:

1. Calculate what your gold is worth on the spot market--

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

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

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

d) Calculate what percent of your jewelry is actual gold.
*24-karate gold is 100 % gold
*18-karat gold is 75 % gold
*14-karat gold is 58.33 % gold
*10-karat gold is 41.67 % gold

e) 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.

2. 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.


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.

Keep in mind that the value of the gold may not be what it was worth when you originally acquired it.

3. If gold is worth $1000 per ounce, you aren't going to be paid $1000 for every ounce of gold you have.

a) Ask what you will be paid (if an online company, make sure you ask for specifics and give details on items you'll be sending).
b) ounce quote = pure gold only.
c) 14-Karat gold is composed of just 58.5 % gold. Ask how much the company's going rate is for each ounce of each karat you are sending.
d) The lower the karat, the less the gold content.

4. Your jewelry may be stamped "14-Karat," but that does not mean it is gold. Some necklaces can have catches stamped as such, but the number alone means little.

5. For an appraisal, if possible, go to someone locally whom you know and trust by checking with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Look to see if others have reported issues with a particular jeweler or jewelry store. The BBB suggests obtaining two or three appraisals to compare prices, prior to any sale.

6. Check out any online or by-mail companies with the BBB too, and use a search engine to see what other consumers are saying about their experiences with the companies.

7. Don't let anyone steal your diamonds from gold pieces. Single gold stud earrings might be worth $5 or $10, yet diamonds in the earrings can be saved. Some are too small, and the labor to remove them might exceed their value, but engagement ring diamonds, for example, should be given a value separate from the gold.

8. Gold pieces with less color, or fewer stones, are worth more. A jeweler must break the stones out before the item goes to the refinery.

9. Make sure your items are insured when being shipped, so if they are lost you can recover the value.

10. Obtain appraisals in writing prior to mailing items, so if they are lost you have proof of their value.

11. Check the company's policy as to what they will reimburse if they lose your product. Many limit their liability.

12. Make a list of the items included in the package, keep a copy for yourself, and put a copy in the envelope.

13. Take a picture of the items you are sending, including any identifying marks.

14. Ask about the company's guarantee if you are not satisfied with the price offered.

15. Can you get your product back, if you return the check (many companies melt down the items in 10 - 14 days)?

16. If you send the check back, send it "return receipt requested," so you have proof when it arrived at the company.

BBB recommends that as much as possible the selling of valuables face-to-face and with all agreements and stipulations clearly set out in writing and carefully reviewed!


The BBB offers a checklist to help you find the finest quality jewelry at the best value.

To locate a reputable jewelry store:
** Check the store's reputation by questioning friends, relatives or coworkers who have shopped there.
** Be sure the store has a long-standing, solid reputation in the community and in the industry.
** Obtain a report on the business from BBB ( This will give you better insight into the company's past performance history.
** Find out what organizations the jeweler belongs to and their membership requirements. Many trade organizations require strict adherence to good business practices before accepting a store for membership.
** Ask about the gemological and appraisal education of the store's salespeople.

Before you make a jewelry purchase:
** Educate yourself about the special features of the particular jewelry (pearls, gemstones, gold, platinum, etc.) you are considering. The Federal Trade Commission ( offers an online booklet on buying jewelry, as does BBB (
** Shop around. Compare quality, price and service.
** Ask about the store's refund and return policy. Carefully read all warranties and guarantees and ask questions if the terms are unclear.
** Make sure the jeweler writes on the sales receipt any information you relied on when making your purchase, such as the gem's weight or size. Some jewelers will supply a grading report from a gemological laboratory.

If you are shopping for jewelry online:
** Shop with companies you trust. If a store is unfamiliar, check with BBB for a report. Stores that meet standards for ethical online business practices are authorized to display a BBBOnLine Reliability seal on their Web site.
** Get product details, as well as the merchant's refund and return policies.
** Look for an address to write to or a phone number to call if you have a problem or need assistance.
** Print out a copy of the receipt for your records.

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