© By Margaret Olsen, ASA

The price of gold is once again near all time highs and above its record-setting price of $850 an ounce in January 1980.  That combined with tough economic times has many people anxious to take advantage of high prices by selling their gold and gold jewelry as scrap.  Margaret Olsen, Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers, suggests that consumers do a bit of homework before jumping into the gold marketplace.
With gold parties springing up in people’s homes, out-of-towners in hotel ballrooms across the country, and mail-in gold businesses multiplying, it is important for consumers to become educated about the gold market before selling their gold.

 Margaret Olsen, ASA, (, offers the following tips to consumers.
--Start by looking for a stamp on the jewelry, which states the karats (purity).  
24 karat gold is .999 pure,
18 karat gold is 0.750 pure, (18/24)
14 karat gold is 0.583 pure (14/24)
12 karat gold is 0.50  pure (500) and
10 karat gold is 0.417 pure (10/24).  

It is important to note that not all gold jewelry contains the EXACT purity that is on the stamp.  Gold from other countries may be less pure than stamped, depending on the country’s hallmark laws, and older 14 karat jewelry, like that produced in the 1970’s and earlier, may have a purity of 13.5 karats. 
--Sort your gold by the karat markings located on the item.
-- Find out the current price of gold by looking at Web sites such as  The price is quoted per troy ounce.  A troy ounce is 31.1 grams.  To get the price per gram, divide the daily price of gold by 31.1 grams and you will get the price for a gram of 24 karat gold.  Most items are not pure gold, so, if you have 18, 14, 12 or 10 karat gold it will be a percentage of pure gold.  (Multiply the gram price times 0.750, 0.583, 0.50 OR 0.417 to arrive at the respective actual gold content).    

--Understand that the price of gold changes constantly.
--Try to weigh your items.  A kitchen scale or diet scale can work, but remember that they weigh in Avoirdupois (16 ounces to the pound), and metals are weighed in Troy ounces.  Also, any gemstone or synthetic stone weights have to be subtracted, since they do not have gold value.
--Ask the buyer what percentage they take from the sale and what percentage the metal refinery takes and then you will have an idea of what you should be paid.  Remember, the buyer has to be able to make some money as well.
It is a bit complicated for the average person to know exactly what they have to begin with and to do the math to figure out what they should be paid, which is why it is very important to deal with a reputable local buyer with ties to the community.  When selling gold via the mail, the owner no longer has control of their gold and is subject to a variety of potential problems.  Many times the owner does not keep a record of what they sent and cannot be sure if they are fairly compensated.  Also, their package may be lost or delayed in the mail.  Another potential problem is the timeliness of the price of gold, if you sell it locally, you will know what the price of gold is at that time and can make educated decisions about whether to sell or not based on the price of gold.  However you sell your gold, check out the reputation of the buyer.
Take time to assess your gold jewelry. Broken and mismatched jewelry are the best candidates to be melted down.  Something that is common, like a man's wedding band, with no decoration, is probably worth the gold's weight and a good sale item.  Gold objects that are lying around and no longer worn are a good choice for gold sale.  However, some pieces may have more value when sold whole or as a set or ensemble to an estate jeweler OR BUYER.  Pieces from well known designers, well crafted antique pieces, or pieces with gem stones may need to be valued separately because melting them may not be the best option.
For consumers who want to have a piece of jewelry appraised, they should choose an appraiser who is an accredited member of a nationally recognized appraisal organization, such as the American Society of Appraisers (  Also, ask about an appraiser’s credentials and make sure the appraiser’s education and references are current.
Remember, that you will likely do better if you deal with a reputable, knowledgeable, local buyer who has community ties.

Margaret Olsen, ASA

President, Westminster Appraisal & Consultation, Ms. Olsen has been an appraiser for more than 35 years. Her American Society of Appraisers designations are Personal Property-Sports Collectibles and Memorabilia and Numismatics (coins and currency). Ms. Olsen is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer. A recognized authority on Personal Property, she is often called upon for expert witness consultation, testimony and appraisal related corporate, estate, charitable contribution and tax consultation She has been seen on PBS, heard on radio stations, quoted in USA Today, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Smart Money, The Chicago Tribune and numerous other publications. She has published articles about the appraisal profession, professional development, sports memorabilia, and co-authored "The Gold Book, A Guide to Commonly Traded Gold Bullion Coins and Bars" and "The Platinum and Palladium Buyer's Guide."

Ms. Olsen has taught Personal Property Principles of Valuation, Connoisseurship and Professional Development Courses at The University of California at Irvine (UCI), Northwestern University (NWU), George Washington University (GWU), The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC), Pratt Institute, The University of Missouri at Columbia (UMC), University of Georgia (UGA), University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She is an Education Consultant to Pratt Institute, and a member of the UCI Advisory Committee and is the recipient of the Distinguished Instructor Award from UCI.