Wednesday, April 16, 2014
John Patriquin/ Staff Photographer: Monday, January, 19, 2009. Judy Brown displays some gold jewelry, including bracelet and rings, customers bring into her Brown Goldsmiths shop in Freeport for cash.
Ever wonder why you see so many TV commercials and Internet ads for companies offering to buy your gold jewelry for cash through the mail?
Like a lot of things during an economic downturn, it comes down to money.
''Back in 2003, gold was selling at about $345 an ounce, and now it's more than $800 an ounce,'' said Judy Brown, who with her husband has run Brown Goldsmiths jewelry story in Freeport since 1972. ''So yes, we do find more people wanting to sell old jewelry.''
Gold was as low as $250 an ounce in 2001 but jumped to more than $900 an ounce by last winter. The price dropped a little as the country headed into a deep recession, but it has stayed relatively strong compared to most commodities.
It makes sense then, with so many people worried about money these days, that companies would pop up to buy gold while the price is so strong.
But everyone from Consumer Reports to the attorney generals of several states say it is probably better and safer to shop your gold jewelry around to local jewelers and appraisers than to send it off in the mail to some company you know very little about.
''While there's no specific policy for selling jewelry, we would certainly recommend that people thinking of selling bring their jewelry to a reputable jeweler, someone who is known and credible,'' said Kate Simmons, spokesman for the Maine Attorney General's Office.
So what should a person do if they are considering selling their gold for some needed cash? Many of the same things anyone selling anything of value would do, according to consumer alerts posted by attorney general's offices in several states.
Namely, shop around for the best price, deal with someone you believe is reputable and not fly-by-night, and don't give over the gold until you get the money.
''I would think that if people want to sell jewelry, they'd want to deal with someone who has a lot of experience and credentials, and longevity in the marketplace,'' said Donnamarie Timm, estate buyer for Springer's Jewelers stores in Portland, Bath and Portsmouth, N.H.
There is no state licensing in Maine for jewelers and jewelry appraisers, but most jewelry stores have appraisers with industry education and various certifications among their skills.
Timm said that bringing your gold jewelry to a jeweler may get you more money, because a jewelry store may have more interest in the piece than just for the gold. In other words, the piece may be more valuable resold as jewelry than melted down for the gold content.
''If you bring it to a pawn shop, they may put it on a scale and give you what the weight of the gold is worth now, but a jeweler may see something else about where the piece was made, or how it was made, and pay you much more than just the price of the gold,'' Timm said.
If gold jewelry is not resold as is, it's melted down for use in other jewelry. Only 24-Karat gold is pure, Timm and Brown say, so anything less has other alloys mixed in with the gold.
Timm has been buying people's jewelry for Springer's for more than 20 years. But a lot of people may not have thought to try to sell gold to jewelers before now, because until the past couple of years, the price of gold fluctuated very little.
You can keep up with the price of gold yourself at various Web sites, including Goldprice.org and Kitco.com. You can also find jewelry appraisers at the Web sites of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (www.najaappraisers.com) and the American Society of Appraisers (www.appraisers.org).
Depending on the purpose of an appraisal, say for insurance reasons, jewelers will charge varying fees. But if you tell a jeweler you are thinking of selling the piece, they will likely be able to give you an estimate of what they would pay you for it -- which is not a formal appraisal.
Once you get a price estimate from a store, don't be afraid to shop it around.
''I always tell people to (try to sell it) to someone they know who might enjoy owning it first,'' Brown said. ''We like to see people shop it around, so they get the best price they can.'' Or as Timm says, ''There's no reason not to test the market and get different prices, to see what the fair market price is.''
Timm also tells people that if they want to sell jewelry for cash, they shouldn't self-edit their items. They shouldn't assume something isn't valuable; they should just bring it all in for a look.
''Over the course of a (woman's) life, she might have accumulated a bangle bracelet that now has a broken clasp, one earring left from a pair, some broken chains,'' Timm said. ''By the time you add all that up, those small things will be worth something.''
Because most people will probably have a lot of questions about their jewelry, and because they probably have no idea of the value of their piece, Timm thinks it's crucial that people sit down with a potential buyer.
''The gold market is a world-wide market, but I do think there's some value for people who want to sell in being able to talk to someone about all this face to face,'' said Timm. ''And it's important to know the person you talk to will still be there next week.''
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: