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Cashing in


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POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Whether it's a “;breakup”; piece of jewelry, heirloom or single earring without its matching pair, Honolulu residents are turning in karats for cash.

The stash of gold hidden at the bottom of a jewelry box is proving to be a good backup for those struggling to pay bills in tough economic times. The high price of gold on the market, meanwhile, is also making it an opportune time to cash in on those trinkets.

Gold is trading on the stock market for $930 to $965 per ounce, according to a recent Marketwatch report.

“;There's a definite demand out there,”; said Michael Han, owner of the Wedding Ring Shop on Kapiolani Boulevard, which began to offer buying services last summer. “;It's been a worthwhile endeavor. We feel like we're bringing a service to the community.”;

Han, whose retail shop has long specialized in selling engagement and anniversary rings, says he followed suit after seeing fine-jewelry counterparts on the mainland offer the service.

“;There's a real need for a place to go,”; he said. “;It's not always about selling jewelry for cash, but about what do they do with this jewelry they don't want anymore.”;

Jewelry fashion trends have changed, and Han says he's seeing people come in with pieces they bought in earlier decades like the '70s and '80s—when the bold, gold look was in.

The Wedding Ring Shop has a table set up just outside its showroom, and purchases gold, silver, platinum and diamonds.

               

     

 

HOW IT GENERALLY WORKS

       

In order to pay you for your gold, silver or platinum jewelry, dealers will ask you to provide a state or federal-issued ID, like a driver's license, along with a thumbprint.

       

Dealers generally won't question where you got your jewelry, but are required to collect the two pieces of information by the police department.

       

They're mostly focused on testing the jewelry for purity and weighing it in ounces. Sometimes what's stamped on the piece is not the same as what dealers determine it to be after testing.

       

Gold comes in varying karats, anywhere from 10 to 14, 18 and 24. The karat is a unit of purity, with 24 representing 100 percent. The more karats, the more the piece is worth.

       

Platinum is more expensive than gold, trading for upward of $1,200 an ounce on the stock market, but gold has recorded higher percentage growth over the last few years and is trading for about $950.

       

 

       

The value is based on the stock market, along with the weight and karat of the piece. Trained professionals on staff assess the value, using testing equipment.

Jeff Kemplin, a Salt Lake resident, recently went to the shop to sell some broken gold chains, the wedding ring from his first marriage and some inheritance jewelry given to him by his mother.

He decided to keep a gold pendant upon discovering there was a photo of his dad in Navy uniform inside. But there were other pieces he wouldn't be wearing.

Kemplin said he was just clearing out some “;old stuff,”; and with the $160 he got in cash, he can put gas in the truck and take his wife and son out to dinner.

Some pieces are collectibles that can go into the estate jewelry case, but the majority are sold back to refiners that melt them, according to Han. The shop offers either cash or 50 percent more than the assessed value in store credit.

Jordan Shamir, owner of Joe's Gold and Silver, sits behind a window from his office on Kalakaua Avenue. He said this was an opportune time to open the shop on Oahu. The store has been open since May.

Customers can walk up to the window, offer jewelry for examination and testing, get a quote and walk away with cash in hand.

Shamir's father, Joe, owns two other Joe's Gold and Silvers in California, with a third expected to open there soon.

Joe's Gold and Silver is not a pawnshop or wholesaler, Shamir explained. It specializes specifically in buying gold, silver and platinum and in turn sells it to refiners who melt it down.

Shamir says because his overhead is low and that he specializes only in buying, he offers competitive prices that are based on a percentage of the gold price for the day. So if it's high, customers get more.

He's seen people who bring in jewelry from their exes, unwanted inheritance pieces, and earrings without the matching pair. He also has some teeth, some gold coins, bullion and bangles.

If there's an item he can't buy, he refers them to the pawnshops just down the street. The pawnshops, in turn, refer customers to him. It was his strategy to be located near them.

But in general, he said his price for gold and silver jewelry would be higher than a pawnshop's.

“;I've seen it all,”; Shamir said. “;People have been coming in because of hard times and also because of the value in jewelry. A lot of women have old bangles that either don't fit anymore or remind them of something they don't want to remember.”;

One woman walked in with jewelry that was given to her 30 years ago, and walked out with $1,500.

Raymond Rapalee, owner of the 30-year-old, family-run Kamaaina Metals & Jewelry in Pearl City, says he's seen a 50 percent jump in the number of customers coming in to cash in on jewelry.

For some it isn't easy to part with sentimental pieces, but they need to pay off mortgages and, in one case, unexpected medical bills.

It's a sign of the times, though selling teeth is not commonplace yet.

“;I wouldn't say people are pulling their teeth and selling them to us,”; Rapalee said. “;It's not quite that bad yet.”;

Then there are the regular few who come to cash in on jewelry sitting in a box to fund a trip to Las Vegas.

There are also plenty of broken engagements. Sometimes the guy comes in saying, “;It didn't work out,”; and sometimes the woman comes in saying, “;He's not getting it back.”;