1. Check for antique value
Obviously, you wouldn’t sell a vintage Cartier watch for scrap. Before even thinking about melting down jewelry for cash, make sure that the piece isn’t antique or has any resale value beyond its worth as scrap metal. This goes the same if you are parting with gold coins. You can take your gold to a jeweler for an appraisal, but don’t pay an appraisal fee for something that you doubt will be worth much.(A neighborhood jeweler might be willing to do a free appraisal). If your jewelry has diamonds or precious stones, look for a reputable jeweler. With either jewelry or coins, a second opinion wouldn’t hurt.
2. Weigh and price it
If you’re sure your that your jewelry is ready for the scrap heap, try calculating its worth yourself. Check the karat of the gold, (24k is pure) which should be stamped somewhere on the jewelry. Weigh it using a good kitchen or produce scale, if you don’t have access to a gem or jewelry scale. Gold is weighed in pennyweights, troy ounces, or grams so use the International Gemological Institute’s online calculator to save yourself the math. Enter the karats and weight and it will spit out what the value is based on the prior day’s gold, silver or platinum price. You can check the current price of gold at the World Gold Council or Kitco.
Just so you know, a troy ounce is about 10 percent heavier than a typical ounce and is the standard measurement used for gold, silver and platinum; there are 20 pennyweights in a troy ounce. If you use a scale to weigh your gold, you can easily convert to troy ounces – or any other unit of measure – by simply typing into the Google search box a phrase like “3 grams to troy ounces”.
3. Think about where you want to sell it
The amount you’ll be offered for scrap gold will vary widely depending on where you try to sell it. A November 2009 Consumer Reports study found that cash-for-gold companies paid 11 percent to 29 percent of the market price for gold,while jewelry stores and pawn shops paid about 35 percent to 70 percent. Some online gold buyers – without the splashy infommercials of the big cash-for-gold companies – will pay 50 percent of the value of gold or more.
Refiners or smelters may offer the highest prices (even over 90p percent of the value), but they may not deal in small quantities of gold, and they might charge refining fees. Unlike the cash-for-gold companies, you’ll likely have to pay shipping costs and insure your items. If you’re looking at Internet buyers of gold, look for ones that display the price they pay for gold, and give you an estimate before you send in your jewelry. Also see if they will insure your shipment, and send a registered mailer to pack your jewelry in. You should also look for ones that will ship your items back to you if you’re unhappy with how much they offer.
With any gold buyer you do business with, check with the Better Business Bureau for a history of complaints.You may also want to see if the buyer belongs to any industry associations, such as the International Precious Metals Institute for refiners.
4. Shop around
Next call several jewelry, coin stores, gold buyers and pawn shops and ask them how much they pay for gold, or if they are in your area, stop by for a quote. Get all the quotes on the same day if you can since the price of gold fluctuates. Gold buyers, including the online ones, give better prices for larger volumes of gold and some may be willing to negotiate, so try haggling – especially if you think you’re being low-balled. Watch out for tricks, such as a gold buyer rounding down the weight of your item.
Michael Allegro is a New York-based personal finance writer who specializes in consumer interest, investing, banking products, and travel.