6 MIN READ
Cash for Gold: How to Sell Your Old Jewelry for the Best Price
You've seen the commercials. “Sell your gold and silver for cash!” say smiling people, showing off checks they received in exchange for their old jewelry.
Sure, it's great to get $700 for unused gold or silver items — unless you should have received twice that much! Ouch! The good news is that if you’re still holding on to items you’d like to sell, this guide can help you earn more money for your gold and silver.
Here are some of the things you might have at home that contain gold or silver:
- Wedding and engagement rings (gold)
- Class rings (gold)
- Necklaces (gold or silver)
- Miscellaneous jewelry (gold or silver)
- Tooth fillings that have fallen out (gold)
- Bullion bars or “rounds” (gold or silver)
- Silverware (silver)
- Old serving dishes (silver)
- Pre-1965 quarters and dimes (silver)
For more about silver coins, see my post on coin roll hunting.
How to Sell Gold and Silver
While some people choose to send their items to one of the many buyers who advertise online or on television, many decide to sell them to a local buyer.
The advantage of selling locally is that you get your money much sooner — sometimes at the same time you receive the offer. Bring your gold and silver items to a precious metals buyer or coin shop. Many of them will test your jewelry’s gold or silver content right there, and offer you a price based on the amount of precious metal.
Selling to the national buyers who advertise on television and the Internet is a little trickier. Typically, these companies send you a mailing box or envelope to use to ship your items back to them. After a few days, they make an offer and either accept it, or decline. If you accept the offer, you get a check. If you decline it, the company will return your jewelry or bullion, but the postage is usually on you this time.
This process sounds simple enough, but a Kiplinger article on selling your gold notes that hundreds of complaints are filed each year with The Better Business Bureau against gold, silver and platinum dealers. Some companies send a check before you agree to their price, others assume you agree if you don't respond quickly enough — and some don't send the jewelry back or pay you.
Janet Fritz told Kiplinger about a small experiment she conducted that showed how some companies take advantage of uneducated sellers. She sent identical gold bands to nine different buyers. The best offer she received was 60% of “melt value” (the value of the gold in the item). The worst was just 9%!
To avoid these problems when selling your gold and silver, make sure to ask these three questions:
- How long do I have to make a decision on your offer?
- How will I get my jewelry or other objects back if you say no?
- What percentage of “melt value” do you pay?
The company may answer the last question with a range, since it costs more to recover the precious metals in some items, but if the company hesitates to give any answer, move on.
Before sending your jewelry to a company, research its reputation online. A bad review doesn't always mean it’s a scam. For example, some sellers will inevitably complain because they didn't understand that 10-karat gold is actually less than 50% bullion (more on that in a moment). On the other hand, if 20 out of 25 reviews are negative, you can probably find a better company to work with.
The best reviews are those that involve tests of companies using identical items. This feedback helps you discover which companies are difficult to deal with and which consistently pay the most.
Get the Best Price for Gold and Silver
You’ll find current gold and silver spot prices online, but only institutional sellers get the “spot price.” Why? Companies that buy your bullion or jewelry pay for advertising, overhead, melting jewelry, etc. — and they have to make a profit — so they buy below spot.
Many sources, including the Kiplinger article mentioned above, suggest that you should aim to get 90 to 95% of the spot price when selling gold and silver bars or coins, and 70 to 80% of melt value for jewelry and other items.
Find the Melt Value of Your Items
Buyers weigh gold and silver using troy ounces, which are equivalent to 31.1 grams. If you have solid silver or gold coins or bars, the weight will usually be noted on them.
Pure gold is too soft to be used in jewelry, so it's mixed with other metals. To determine the “melt value,” you need to weigh the item and find its karat-mark (or have the piece tested). A karat is “a unit of measure for the fineness of gold, equal to 1/24 part.” This means your 12-karat gold band is 50% gold.
With the weight and purity (as measured by karats), you can find the metal or melt value using an online bullion value calculator. Use this melt value to determine if you're being paid enough by the buyer.
Compare Prices From Multiple Vendors
To sell locally, go to coin shops. I've sold silver bars to a coin shop at the spot price. That's unusual, but the owner sells them to other customers for $2 over spot, and at the time, he was short on inventory.
The possibility of visiting at the right time — when a vendor needs more of what you have to sell — makes it worth at least trying small vendors. Most coin shop owners I've queried pay 85 to 95% of the spot price. The heavily-advertised storefront silver and gold buyers I've called or visited paid from 60 to 70% for bars and one-ounce rounds, which is terrible.
To sell by mail, compare companies online. Where2SellGold.com does periodic reviews of many gold buyers. In a recent test, they sent 10.5 grams of 14-karat gold to seven different buyers and received offers that ranged from $188.93 to as low as $87.87. Another test they did in 2012 yielded an incredible range of offers, from $237.50 down to $48.96!
They also note how long it took for requested “gold packs” (the mailers you use to send your gold) to arrive, and how long it took to get their gold back when they refused an offer. Not too surprisingly, the companies paying the least tended to take longer to return the gold.
Make Sure the Jewelry Isn’t Valuable
Before you send any jewelry off to be melted down, first determine if it's worth more than the melt value of the silver or gold. Get an appraisal or ask a used jewelry dealer how much he'll pay for your things. Who knows, you may have an antique on your hands!
Once you're sure your items are worth no more than their melt value, here's a four-step process to get the most money when cashing in your gold and silver:
- Determine your items’ worth. Find the karat-markings, weigh the items and calculate the melt value.
- Visit a local coin shop or two to see how much they'll pay for your items.
- Find comparison-reviews of silver and gold buyers online. If the company seems reputable, request a mailer from whichever one has been paying the highest prices.
- Sell your items to the local shop, or send them to your chosen company. Accept the offer if it's a reasonable percentage of the melt value.
Your Turn: Do you have some old jewelry or other items that have valuable silver or gold in them? Have you tried selling them?