Hard times? More selling Grandma's ring for cash

Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:54pm EST
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By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In economic hard times, investors traditionally buy gold, but more people hit by the recession are now selling the precious metal, jewelry, and even gold teeth, to raise cash.

People are scouring through attics and jewelry boxes for gold, silver, diamonds and anything else of value to help pay the mortgage, the gas bills, or to buy gifts to put under the tree, gold industry observers said on Thursday.

"When the price of gold upturns, a lot of people start rummaging through their closets looking for gold to sell," said Eric Harris, co-owner of Niletti Creations, which sells jewelry in New York's "Diamond district," on West 47th Street.

"They use the money for whatever they need. It could be for necessities, it could be for vacation, it could be for Christmas presents."

Harris said his scrap gold business was about 50 percent higher this year over 2007. Gold bought back from consumers is usually melted down by refiners and used to make gold bars.

With the recession starting to bite and gold hovering around $850 per ounce, more and more people are turning to the family jewels as a source of quick money.

The Internet is full of sites buying wedding rings and heirloom diamonds, while cable TV ads offer the highest prices for necklaces and bracelets which the seller can just pop in an envelope and deposit in the mailbox.

One site, Empire Gold Buyers (empiregoldbuyers.com), offers secure Federal Express shipping and advertises it will pay 98.5 percent of the current market price. For a 24-carat gold item weighing 25-50 ounces, it currently will pay $845 per ounce. For dental gold, the price is lower -- $568.   Continued...

<p>Diamond rings are shown in a New York shore in this file photo dated December 22, 2006. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>