Financial Resource Center

Money Management


Is There a Gold Mine in Your Jewelry Box?

by Jennifer Garrett / June 9th, 2021


Almost everyone has some old gold lying around—somewhere. An earring without a mate. A necklace without a clasp. Maybe even gold from old dental work. There isn't much of a market for such items, but there is a market for gold. Getting cash for cast-off gold isn't complicated, but experts agree that you're probably better off doing a bit of comparison shopping in your own neighborhood than mailing it to an online buyer. Chances are there is someone in town—maybe even the jeweler who sold you your wedding rings—who'll buy your gold or direct you to someone reputable who will.

First, you probably need to adjust your expectations. Most people aren't going to get rich from selling scrap gold, and many aren't going to get as much money as they think they will. For instance, an average size 14-karat man's wedding ring could be worth $30 or $40. If you have several pieces, it makes sense to shop around to see who'll give you the best price.

Most people believe their jewelry pieces are much heavier than they really are and that the gold jewelry they have is all gold. Jewelry is never made of pure gold. Pure 24-karat gold is too soft to be fashioned into jewelry, so gold is alloyed with other metals to add durability and strength along with color, affordability, and other features. The amount of gold in any ring, necklace, or other item is indicated by its karat weight which, according to U.S. law, must be inscribed somewhere on the piece. To find the karat weight, look on the inside a ring or in the clasp of a necklace (a magnifying glass will help). U.S. law also requires that each piece of jewelry contain a trademark symbol as well. That allows the jeweler to trust the imprinted karat weight.

Go to a reputable jeweler to sell your pieces.

In the U.S., gold jewelry is 10-, 14-, or 18-karat, with 14-karat being the most popular. The karat weights translate into percentages of gold—41.6%, 58.3%, and 75%, respectively. You won't receive money for any of the other metals alloyed with the gold, and the value of just the gold is going to be far less than the purchase price of any piece. If you paid $150 for a ring, you're not going to get $150. Further, most jewelers or others who buy gold will not pay that day's full trading price of gold. There is a cost in melting the gold down and reselling it. So, to cover their expenses, most gold buyers pay a percentage of the current trading price.

Gather your gold

If you have gold to sell, most experts recommend that you gather it all and sell it in one transaction. The economies of scale kick in, and you'll likely make a better profit than if you sell things piece by piece. Once its gathered, take stock of what you have and then sort the pieces — the broken chains, gold from teeth, single earrings, and anything else that you definitely don't want.

The remaining items are those that might have some value: rings with gemstones or heirloom jewelry in good condition. You might want to consider having all or some of these appraised. Jewelers that buy and resell vintage jewelry might pay you more than a jeweler who is going to melt it down.

Get appraisal

Appraisals cost money so be selective. Some appraisers will do an initial sort for a fee. They won't determine what every piece is worth, but they will separate things with potential value from those without. Then you can decide whether you want to have any items appraised individually to sell them in their current form or have the melt value of the gold.

Look locally

Whether you're looking for an initial appraisal, someone to buy your gold, or both, experts recommend that you look in familiar places first. Call the jeweler who sold you your wedding rings or who appraised the jewelry from your grandmother's estate. If that person can't help you, they might recommend someone who can.

Do Some Investigation

It's not something you do every day, but there is nothing unsavory about selling your unwanted gold. It's a legitimate thing to do and there are reputable businesses with which to work. Spend a little time researching the company to find out where it's located and what its policies are, especially whether individuals have a right to refuse the sale amount if they aren't happy with it. Make sure the company is legitimate, especially if it's an online business. Look for an actual business location and mailing address, and be leery of any company that doesn't have contact information or has errors and misspellings in its website.

Facebook Post