Gold jewelry of any kind, in any condition, is a hot commodity. With gold prices at all-time highs and consumers desperate for extra cash, there are more than a few places and people willing to buy your bling.Les Harrell is one of those buyers. The cash was flying at a private gold party Harrell attended in Cherry Creek."It's only $1,160," Harrell said sarcastically as he counted out cash to one of the guests.Friends and friends of friends had come together for cocktails and cash, having their gold jewelry appraised and bought by Harrell on the spot."We were high-fiving when people left with all this money," one guest said."I just believe we're in a time right now when a lot of people are struggling financially and it was just a really good way for people to make extra cash," said another party guest.It is a new trend in a tough economy -- private gold parties where the buyer comes to you.Harrell is a certified gemologist, appraiser and custom jeweler. He said he came up with the idea for The Gold Exchange while brainstorming for a fund-raising idea. He thought selling gold was one way people could give to charity when money is tight, without reaching into their pockets.Harrell said what happened next is a sign of the times."Two hours later I had a business plan and a week later, I did my first fund raiser, " Harrell said.He is booked for private parties months in advance, based on personal referrals from people hoping to make some extra money for themselves."Because gold is so high today, it's higher than it's ever been ... Today it $800, $900 an ounce. It just inspires people to think of ways to get rid of it," he said.Harrell said he pays on weight and strikes a price each day based on the value when the gold market closes.His business plan is simple. He pays partygoers 70 percent of market value and the host gets 10 percent. The person who referred him gets 5 percent and Harrell keeps 5 percent.The gold is sold directly to the refinery for a total of 90 percent of the market value and made into bouillon or gold coins."I actually had a client who brought in a bag of gold teeth," said one partygoer."I bought a bridge, an entire bridge. It weighed 70 grams. It was Uncle Louie's," Harrell said.Call7 decided to test out another gold buyer. Harrell appraised a small sample of jewelry from a Call7 producer at $100.The same sample was sent to Cash4Gold, a company that says it is "America's #1 Gold Buyer." In the company's terms and conditions, Cash4Gold said it will pay whichever is least: the liquidation value, 1/3 of the appraised value if you include your own appraisal, or $100. Within a week of sending the items, Call7 received a check for $18, less than 1/5 the price Harrell appraised it for.The Director of Consumer Protection for the District Attorney, 18th Judicial District, Mason Finks, has these tips for consumers:
It's best to deal with a local business rather than send items to an unknown agent.
Heirloom jewelry may bring more money when sold to a business that deals in heirloom jewelry rather than a business that will simply melt the jewelry down.
If you choose to send the jewelry to an out-of-the-area business, be sure you have pictures and detailed descriptions of what you sent, fully insure the package and send it "Return receipt requested."
Find out in advance how the business determines the value of your gold: market value on the day it arrives or some other date?
Find out what fees and commissions the business will charge.
Get all of the information in writing BEFORE you send anything.
Remember that you will not be paid based on the total weight of each piece, but on the weight of the actual gold in the piece.
Check out any business, local or otherwise, with the Better Business Bureau and by Googling it on the Internet.You can find out more about hosting a gold party by visiting The Gold Exchange.