Sunday, September 4, 2011

Selling Your Silver & Gold

Here's something you may not know about me.  On Sundays I spend my day at a kiosk in the mall buying silver and gold.  Right now gold is WAY UP!  And it may be the time to cash in on whatever old or broken jewelry or old silver coins you've got sitting on your dresser.  Before you go, here are a few tips.
The first thing you're going to want to do is check the market price of gold and silver.  As I'm writing this, the current price for is $1,882.33 per ounce of 24k gold, and it's NEVER been higher!  Silver is currently sitting at $43.21 per ounce, and is also at an all time high.  You may decide to go right away, or you may decide to wait a month or two to see how prices fluctuate.  It's up to you.

Next you're going to want to sort through all your jewelry, silverware, etc. to try to separate what's real from what's fake.  There are several ways gold buyers test your precious metals.  The first thing they will do is something you can do right at home.  Gold and silver are NEVER magnetic!  Take a magnet to whatever you plan on bringing in and anything that sticks should stay home (unless you're going to, say, a pawn shop who will take costume jewelry and resell it).  If a clasp sticks to the magnet, but the rest of your chain doesn't, you're fine.  The spring inside the clasps aren't usually gold.

Now check carefully for any markings. 
Silver should be marked .925 (sterling silver) or .999 (fine silver)
Gold is usually marked simply with the karat, but not always:
10k or 417
14k or 585
18k or 750
22k or 917
24k or 999
Anything marked with one of the codes below is gold *plated or filled*  or just plain not gold at all.  Most places won't take it.
EPNS (usually on flatware)
14k PT
Gold plated (duh)
Anything with a fraction involved: 1/10, 1/20 etc
Rolled Gold
And some popular brand names:
Sarah Conventry
Lia Sophia

If you've got silver candlesticks they are weighted in the base with sand.  Don't expect to get paid for the full weight.

OK, so now you know what's real and what's not.  For the most part.  Some jewelry isn't marked at all and just because it's not magnetic doesn't mean it's gold.  And just because it's not marked gold doesn't mean it isn't.  So your gold will be tested further by the gold buyer.  Before you go though, if you can, weigh your gold.  Where I work the unit of measurement we use is the pennyweight, or dwt.  To put it in perspective, there are 20 dwt in an ounce.  Some places use grams, but I'm going to go ahead and continue with dwt because it's a unit of measurement I feel comfortable with.  If you can weight your gold at home you'll be able to give yourself your own estimate of what to expect when you sell.  Remember those gold codes?  10k or 417 etc?  Those numbers are important.  10k gold is 41.7% pure gold.  14k is 58.5% pure gold.  And so on.  So in order to figure out how much your gold is worth you will take the current gold price, multiply it by the percentage of pure gold in your particular karat, divide by 20 (to get the price per dwt), and multiply by how many dwt you have. 

Example:  Gold is at $1,882 and let's say I have a bracelet that's 10k gold and weighs 6dwt.
1882(price of 24k gold/oz) x .417 (amount of pure gold in 10k) = 785 (worth of 1oz of 10k gold)
785 (what 1oz of 10k gold is worth) / 20 (dwt in an oz) =  39.25 (how much 1dwt of 10k is worth)
39.25 x 6 (weight of my bracelet) = $235.50

Now... just because your bracelet is *worth* $235 you aren't going to get that price for it.  It still needs to be taken and melted down at a refinery and your gold buyer needs to make a profit.  This is where it gets tricky and you really need to shop around for the best price.  Look in your paper, look on craigslist.  Tell your potential buyers what you've been offered before.  Tell them how much YOU want and they can either afford it and accept it or they'll make you an offer they can afford.

Before you start talking prices, your gold will be tested.  Aside from the magnet test and checking for marks (which you've already done, right?) the gold buyer will take a residue from each piece.  This doesn't harm your pieces (unless it's really fake and spray painted on there), it just makes a mark on their stone so they can swipe some acid over it.  This will confirm the gold (or silver) is real, and also tell what karat the gold it if it hasn't been marked.  It should be separated by karat before it's weighed.  And ALL of this should be done in front of you (which also means you SHOULDN'T send your gold through the mail!!).  If it seems like they are going to take it away to a separate counter, speak up!  Ask questions.  "What karat was that?"  "How much did that weigh?"  And so on. 

Just a one more tip before I send you on your merry way.  If you've got gemstones in your pieces they can probably removed.  You are being paid for the weight of the gold, not the gems or craftsmanship of the peice.  If you think your jewelry is worth more than just the price of the gold, absolutely try to sell it elsewhere.  Craigslist is always my suggestion.  Happy selling!