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Selling your gold? Shop around, get estimates

September 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you're looking to sell gold jewelry or coins for extra cash, you don't have to look very far. Drive down nearly any busy street in Southern California, and you're likely to find signs outside businesses offering to pay cash for your gold. What you get for that gold may not be anything close to what it's worth.With the price of gold at record highs, many consumers believe their gold could be worth a small fortune.

So Eyewitness News took several pieces of gold jewelry, a gold coin, even gold teeth, to jewelry stores and pawn shops to see what they'd pay. As we discovered, all that glitters doesn't necessarily turn into a wallet full of gold.

"Instant cash for gold."

"We buy gold."

"Cash for your gold."

The signs are everywhere: Bring in your gold and walk out the door with instant cash. But will you really get a fair price for your gold?

On a day when gold was selling for just under $1,200 an ounce, we had Master Gemologist Appraiser Teri Brossmer of Glendora appraise several pieces of gold jewelry, including a gold coin and a vintage watch. She even appraised a pair of gold teeth.

"I would expect you would be able to liquidate them for $103.36," said Brossmer.

Brossmer estimated what each piece was worth if the items were melted down purely for the gold content. The total appraised value for all seven items: about $2,330.

Brossmer weighed each item individually and used an electronic tester to measure the purity or karat content of the gold. The higher the number, the more valuable the gold.

You can often find the karat rating stamped in tiny letters on the jewelry, but it's not always accurate.

"[The gold pendant] is stamped 14-k, but when I tested it, it tests 8 karat," said Brossmer. Which is worth about half as much.

We sent an Eyewitness News intern to several jewelry stores and pawnshops to see what they'd pay for the gold. None of the stores knew she was with ABC7.

Like many stores, a pawnshop in Azusa wasn't interested in each individual piece, but offered $2,200 for everything, just $130 less than Brossmer's appraisal meltdown value.

In Pasadena, another pawnbroker offered $150 less than the first shop for the jewelry items in bulk.

The store offered $300 for the gold earrings and $1,000 for an Ebel watch, about one-third less than its appraised value.

And in nearby Covina, although the pawnshop tested the gold value of all our pieces, they offered the least amount of money for them: Around $1,600 for all the pieces together.

Next, we headed to downtown L.A.'s Jewelry District, by far the biggest concentration of gold and jewelry buyers and sellers in Southern California. In this one-block stretch of Hill Street, you can find shop after shop offering to buy gold on the spot.

For earrings that were appraised at $316, we got an offer of $500 from one Jewelry District store. The Covina pawnshop we visited only offered $165.

Our 8-karat zodiac pendant that was incorrectly stamped as 14 karats, and appraised at $56: In a downtown store, the offer was $105.

But in the building right next door, we received offers of $140 and $300 -- all way above what it was really worth.

For our Indian Head gold coin, appraised at $354, we received offers from a low of $215 up to $600, all from merchants on the very same block.

The bottom line: It pays to shop around.

Remember: If you decide to sell your gold, get at least three estimates on the same day, because the price of gold fluctuates daily and even a one-day-old estimate could be outdated.

By the way, none of the stores we took our gold to was interested in buying the gold teeth outright, only if they were melted down with the other items.

Part 1 of Ric Romero's gold series: Beware of sending away your gold for cash


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