Follow-up: Evaluating and Selling Jewelry

My first article on Evaluating and Selling Jewelry met with excellent response and many readers sent me some great questions. I felt like the answers would benefit others as well, so I've written this follow-up to the original article.

Enjoy and keep those questions and comments coming!

Update: Precious Metal Prices

Lets start with a quick update on the precious metals market. Note that these prices are as of July 22, 2008 and of course are subject to change. I've also detailed a range of per gram prices for gold and platinum. This is because some places use the standard gram to ounce measurement (1 ounce = 28.35g) while some use troy ounces (1 troy ounce = 31.1g)

Gold is currently at a whopping $972.50 per ounce, which comes out to about $31-34 per gram. This is some of the highest prices we've seen on gold ever, and right now is a great time to sell off that extra jewelry if you're going to do it.

Silver, the red-headed step-child of the precious metals, is at $18.57 per ounce. Keep in mind that a solid figarro chain necklace weighs a little more than an ounce, maybe up to two ounces. If you paid more than $20-40 for it, you're paying for the craftsmanship.

Platinum, my personal favorite, is at a very impressive $1854.00 per ounce and looks to be still rising. Some quick math and this turns out to be about $59.60-65.40 per gram. Platinum is a hell of an investment, but as one of the strongest and rarest metals on Earth, it can only go up (unless people stop wanting to buy precious metals...unlikely).

Will pawn shops and other retailers buy gold rings or other jewelry that have dates or inscriptions printed on them?

The honest answer is maybe. Depending on the shop you take it to, some of them might have someone that comes from a smelter or other precious metal reclaimer. These shops will take just about any gold you have, because it's going to be melted down anyway.

Others may take it for the inscriptions themselves. Some rings are especially valuable because they were minted many years ago. They have historical value, and it's always possible a long-lost wedding ring could be returned to the current family for a nice finders fee.

Some shops may also do in-house work on their jewelry and have a way to scour off "I Love Bubba" from that old Vegas wedding ring. In this case they may offer less for it since it requires more work to make sellable.

How can you tell what kind of metal you have if there are no numbers or other identifying marks on it?

I have to say first that just about every real precious metal ring or piece will have some sort of marker on it. The marker is the way the seller/maker can prove that the item is real without having to resort to chemical testing. You should find something akin to 10K, 14K, or 18K for gold, while silver is measured as .995 or .999. Platinum has about 15 different ways it could be marked, but is normally written as parts platinum to parts other metal (it's an alloy). You may see a platinum ring marked as "850 PlatIrid" which means it is 85% (or 850 parts) platinum and 15% (150 parts) iridium, which is a common mix.

If you don't see a jewelers mark denoting metal content, then chances are it's a fake. Unless that ring has been in the family for 50 years and worn every day, the chances of the content markings being rubbed off are slim.

There are test kits you can find for gold that allow you to chemically assess the general gold content of a piece. These tend to run anywhere from $50-60 and you'll need chemical refils down the line if you use it often. They include several solutions of acids that react with gold, and either test pins made of gold, or battery powered testers that run a small current through the tested object. I prefer the electrical option, but you can find the chemical & gold pin option here:

Finally, some jewlery stores will test your gold for you either for free of small fee. Even if you're not planning in selling your stuff, tell them you are and they'll be more likely to help you out.

I've heard that pawn shops do not deal in platinum, is this true?

I've never heard this one before, to be honest. I managed a pawn shop in Salisbury, MD for a while, and we accepted platinum. In fact, the owner was always very happy when we took it in, because it meant we were about to get a huge return on the investment.

Platinum is one of the most durable and expensive prescious metals. Since it was first put to market, it has been debated on what constitutes pure platinum, since all the rings and things made from it are actually platinum alloys (iridium is a common mix). It was decided recently that the official "pure" values would be at least 85% platinum, and as much as 15% other. This being true, every ounce of alloyed platinum is worth about $1576 at market value today. This is just an amazing price.

Now it is also true that pawn shops are not required to buy, offer to buy, or otherwise guarantee the price of an item. Even if you come in with the Mona Lisa and offer to sell it for $5, a pawn shop does not have to buy it. Also, if they offer you $50 for that ring, and then find out it isn't gold, they don't have to buy it at all. There are no laws (at least in Maryland) saying that pawn shops have to buy something. This being true, you may have found a shop that doesn't deal in platinum. Considering how hard it can be to work, test, and resell (it's expensive after all) they may have decided it simply wasn't worth it.

Is it true that most pawn shops buy gold at value and sell at retail?

Well, yes and no. It really depends on the mode in which the shop does business and how they sell their gold. In our case, we bought gold at between $2-7 per gram and sold it at $10+ per gram. The market value of gold is currently at 31 or so per gram. We were hardly selling retail. These prices have changed, of course, but the fact still holds that when you buy something as a pawnbroker, your goal is to turn it around and make money off it. The general rule is, the more you put into it, the more you need out of it.

In this case, we would buy thin 10K rings at $2-10 a piece and sell them for $30-40. This was normally jewelry the seller didn't want and the customer obviously gets a good deal when they find a ring in our shop for half the price of retail.

Many major dealers will buy at or just below weight value of the precious metal, and then proceed to sell at retail. In this case they may offer you $50-60 for your little ring but sell it for $300 or more. In this case, pretty much everyone gets screwed over except the shop.

If you want to get the full retail value possible out of your gold (and have the time to wait), then sell to someone on eBay or another cheap/free listed site. If you intend to sell to someone independently and in person, then make sure you always meet somewhere public with lots of people, and never make the jewelry obvious on your person. If possible, sell to established businesses or by proxy, as opposed to in person.

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Comments 2 comments

guidebaba profile image

guidebaba 8 years ago from India

Great Work.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Excellent, very helpful information.

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