PORTLAND — The decade-old pair of earrings in your jewelry box may be worth more than you think.

Area jewelers say record high gold prices are enticing more and more consumers to sell their old gold jewelry back to jewelry stores in exchange for cash or store credit. And in some cases, buyers-turned-sellers are getting back much more than they originally paid.

“We are probably seeing double the number of people coming in” to sell old gold jewelry, said Jeff Corey, president of Day’s Jewelers, which has seven locations, including one in South Portland. “People are sometimes getting double what they paid.”

On Monday, the market price for an ounce of gold was around $1,360, more than twice the price in early 2006. In 2001, gold traded as low as $250 per ounce.

Three weeks ago, Laurie Laliberte of North Yarmouth sold some of her jewelry to D. Cole Jewelers on Exchange Street in the Old Port. On Monday, she was back at D. Cole, picking up some repaired items.

“I took in some earrings that were mismatched, and some broken necklaces and bracelets. I got $395. More than I paid,” she said. “I am cashing that in to purchase other gifts.”

Judy Brown, owner of Brown Goldsmiths in Freeport, said Laliberte isn’t alone. “A lot of people are coming in with pieces that are broken or loose, or an earring that lost its partner,” she said.

“It’s like trading in a car,” said Dean Cole, owner of D. Cole Jewelers. “You have old jewelry that has value. It’s time to trade in and trade up.”

There is a downside to the high price of gold: Sticker shock is keeping some buyers at bay.

“People want to buy other things because (gold) costs more now,” said Edith Armstrong, owner of Folia Jewelry on Exchange Street.

Laliberte, who was shopping Monday in the Old Port, is one of the people staying away from gold this year.

“I am sticking to silver because it is less expensive,” she said.

It costs the jewelers more too, and some are designing jewelry with less gold and more gemstones.

“2010 has been a good year … But it has made it more difficult when your raw materials go up,” said Cole.

Jewelers caution, however, that a piece of jewelry is not always worth its weight in gold. There are refining and shipping fees, and new jewelry prices include workmanship expenses such as wax casting, polishing and stone setting.

Since the price of gold spiked in the last few months, Cole said he has bought back out-of-style designs, like 1980s herringbone chains. He’s paid some customers $5,000 to $6,000 for their jewelry.

Some shops are holding gold-buyback events. The day after Thanksgiving was “Gold Friday” at Day’s, an event intended to encourage consumers to sell back unused gold, silver and platinum jewelry.

Rising gold costs have also created pricing paradoxes, with jewelry stores selling similar items for vastly different prices.

D. Cole Jewelers, for instance, has two nearly identical gold rings for sale. One, made prior to the spike in gold, is hundreds less than a newer ring.

Cole said changing hundreds of price tags every time gold prices fluctuate is too time consuming.

He added, “It’s still sitting there at $400. If you change it to $800, will it sell at all?”

 

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or: [email protected]