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Selling jewelry for top dollar

You've heard the commercials. Everyone wants to buy your old or broken gold. And it's no wonder. Gold prices have skyrocketed as investors stockpile the precious metal as a hedge against inflation.

As families begin making tougher decisions, many are deciding to sell. If that time comes for you, use these MoneySmart tips -- based on interviews with local experts and Web research -- to be sure you're getting all you deserve:

* Buyers don't care about how much your jewelry cost or what label it was sold under. All they care about is the weight and purity of the gold content. Don't be surprised if you don't recoup what you originally paid.

That's because when you buy jewelry, you're buying on emotion. You pick up a gold ring because it looks nice, not because you're making an investment. That is why retail jewelry is often priced 300 percent to 500 percent above precious metal value.

* If you have a stylish piece of jewelry in pristine condition from a sought-after designer, you might want to try your luck on the second-hand market before selling it for scrap.

* Watch out for buyers who begin negotiations by asking what you think your gold is worth. Instead, ask a potential buyer to quote you a price per gram or troy ounce, then compare offers from jewelers and coin shops.
* Try to keep mum. Some jewelers use a (sleazy) tactic of casually pumping you for information, like making small talk about your family, to see how desperately you need the money. That way, they can offer as little as they think they can get away with. Their offer should be based on market rates, not your personal situation.
* Don't let too much time lapse between calls when comparison shopping, because prices fluctuate quickly. Both and quote current gold prices online.

Consumer Reports suggests you aim for about 85 percent of what your gold is worth that day.

* Market prices are based on 24-karat gold, but most jewelry is 10 or 14 karats. The buyer's offer will usually be based on a percentage of the gold's purity.

Use an online calculator to find the value of what you have.

* Beware of a jeweler who disparages your jewelry, then offers to trade it for something else. It may seem nice of them to give you a bauble in return for your "junk." But what they're really doing is giving you a lower-quality piece.

* Watch for signs of a shady dealer. He or she should ask you for identification and have you sign a statement swearing the goods are not stolen or from an otherwise disreputable source.

* Shop around for a local buyer. Some national companies will offer to send packaging for you to fill with your gold and mail back. Those shipping costs will come out of your cut, not theirs. Placing your gold in someone's hand is usually a more profitable bet.

* Remember that cash value will be less than the appraised value.

* If you know your gold locket is 14-karat gold, don't let a buyer intimidate you into thinking it's only 10 karats. If he or she tries, take your loot elsewhere.

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