Aug. 23, 2011 -- In today's swerving economy, stocks are out, and gold is in.
The price of gold is up 20 percent since the beginning of 2011, and by mid-August gold was going for over $1,700 per ounce. At times on Monday, its spot price hovered near $1,900 per ounce.
So how do you cash in?
If you're like thousands of Americans, you go to a gold party, the hottest trend on the block, where you can have your jewelry appraised and get paid cash on the spot.
But not so fast.
With every good deal comes a case of buyer's and, in this case, seller's beware, a reminder that consumers should do their homework before selling their jewelry at gold parties or in a local jewelry store.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers that while gold parties may be a fun and convenient way to make some cash, they may not provide you the best deal.
Follow these tips from BBB to make sure you're getting the best value for your gold.
1: Understand the Scales
The weight of gold helps determine its value, but keep in mind that jewelers use a different measurement standard called a Troy ounce. U.S. scales will measure 28 grams per ounce, while gold is measured at 31.1 grams per Troy ounce. Some dealers may also use a system of weights called pennyweight (dwt) to measure a Troy ounce, while others will use grams. A pennyweight is the equivalent of 1.555 grams. Be alert that a dealer does not weigh your gold by pennyweight but pay you by the gram, a sneaky way for the dealer to pay you less for more weight of gold.
2: Know Your Karats text: Pure gold is too soft to be practically used so it is combined with other metals to create durability and color. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that all jewelry sold in the U.S. describe a karat fineness of the alloy. One karat equals 1/24 of pure gold by weight. So 14 karats would mean the jewelry was 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals. It is illegal for jewelry to be labeled "gold jewelry" if it is less than 10 karats. It is important to know the karats of your gold to make an informed decision on the scrap value of your jewelry.
3: Keep Your Karats Separate
Don't let jewelry of different karat value be weighed together. Some dealers will weigh all jewelry together and pay you for the lowest karat value. Separate your jewelry by karat value before attending a gold party.
4: Know the Value
Call a local jewelry store or check with an online source, such as www.goldprice.org, to verify the current market price for gold before you sell. Some dealers know people are just looking for quick cash to put in their pockets and will offer you money for your gold that is lower than the actual value.
5: Know Your Buyer
Check out jewelry stores and gold buyers registered with BBB at www.bbb.org. A BBB Business Review tells basic information about the business as well as any complaints and whether the complaints have been resolved when presented to the business by BBB.
6: Know What You Are Selling
Some gold items may be worth more when sold as they are, rather than if they are melted down. If your gold necklace or bracelet comes from a well-known designer or maker, it may have a value to some buyers beyond the gold it's made of.
7: Know the Fine Print
If you choose to use a mail-away service, make sure you understand the terms and conditions. Send the items insured. Find out how long before you get reimbursed, how long they will keep your gold before melting it down, and how many days you have to turn down the offer. Take photos of your items before sending and make sure you hold on to all relevant paperwork and filings.
8: Shop Around
Remember, you don't have to jump at the first offer for your gold. Shop around for a few different bids. To ensure you are really getting the best price for your jewelry, have it appraised before selling. This may cost you more up front, but your jewelry may be worth more than its weight when you include workmanship, artistic value, and embedded gems for the piece as a whole.
9: Be Realistic
Keep in mind that gold parties, often hosted by friends and neighbors, are really more about fun than value. Taking all factors into consideration, sellers at gold parties will likely get between 70 and 80 percent of the real value of their item.
10: Bring Your I.D.
Gold buyers are required by law to ask sellers for government-issued identification, This requirement is designed to protect consumers by helping police investigate the sale of stolen property and prevent money laundering. All reputable gold buyers comply with these rules, so ifyou don't get asked to show your I.D., be warned.