Biz Buzz: Jewelers see rush of gold sellers

The rise in gold’s value has fueled a “cash for gold” craze that is sweeping the nation — and the Central Coast.

People are sifting through their jewelry boxes and picking out broken and out-of-style pieces in hopes of at least getting enough money to keep bill collectors at bay.

“People are desperate,” said June Ellart, manager of Pan Jewelers in Paso Robles. “They are trying to keep food on the table. There are a lot of people selling old jewelry they don’t wear anymore because styles have changed, but the majority of people are selling their jewelry to get money to pay bills because they have no money. It’s a sign of the times.”

Ellart has been in the jewelry business for 22 years and said she has never seen gold prices this high or people so willing to part with precious heirlooms.

On Tuesday, gold closed at a price of $1,388 an ounce on the Commodities Exchange. At one point in November, gold closed at more than $1,400 an ounce.

Some of the items that have come into Ellart’s store have been passed down from generation to generation.

“We have had tears. People don’t want to part with their things, but they’re doing what they have to do,” she said.

It makes for a sensitive situation. Oftentimes, people think their items are worth more than they actually are. Sellers believe they can “cash in,” but what they don’t realize is that “the value of gold is based on 24-karat pure gold,” Ellart said. “Most people do not have 24k gold. Most people have 10 or 14 karat. The standard in America is 10 and 14 karat. We’ll give them in-store credit or cash if we are buying the pieces as scrap. But we do not buy pieces for resale. We are not a pawn shop.”

Customers are coming in to K-Jon’s Fine Jewelers in Atascadero to inquire about selling their gold as well.

“We are in the business of selling jewelry, not making money off people’s gold,” said Stan Sherwin, K-Jon’s owner. “I want to be able to face people in the community and say that I gave you the best value for your gold.”

Sherwin is urging sellers to do some research and get informed about the current price of gold.

“There are many Internet and phone-order companies that say you can get fortunes for your jewelry. Even in San Luis Obispo County, there are jewelers that give cash for gold. But don’t be fooled. Some companies pay as little as 20 percent of what your gold is worth. Make sure you know the value of your jewelry before you sell it.”

B. Anthony & Co. Jewelers in San Luis Obispo also has customers wanting to make a deal.

“I’ll see people wanting to trade their gold jewelry in and have something made or want cash,” said Brad Bilsten, co-owner of B. Anthony.

“For about 20 years, gold was probably the worst investment you could make. Now we’re seeing it at a historical high, and no one knows where it’s headed next. If someone told me it was going to be this high a year ago, I would have told them they were crazy. We don’t know where it will be a year from now. The price changes every 30 seconds.”

— Stacy Daniel