smart spending

Bring your bling to a gold party

Highlights
  • Sell your gold in a neighbor's living room as a buyer assesses its value.
  • If you have a sentimental attachment to your gold, don't sell it.
  • Invite your friends and earn money by hosting your own gold party.

The 1980s called; they want your gold chains back.

Thanks to the growing popularity of gold parties, it's easier than ever to cull those disco casualties from your jewelry box, sell them for cash and party like it's 1989.

Modeled after the Tupperware parties of old, gold parties started to crop up in living rooms in early 2008 when gold prices spiked at more than $1,000 an ounce. Suddenly, scrap gold buyers were thick as Mr. T's man-chains, testing and buying the precious metal at home parties and hotel suites.

Once the recession hit, a gold buyer became the must-have party accessory to primarily all-female gatherings around the country and across the economic spectrum.

One year ago, Matthew Zvacek, a former fitness club manager, started Gold Buyers of America of Delray Beach, Fla., as a two-man operation with his jeweler partner Steven Livshin after the two hosted a couple informal parties for family and friends in South Florida.

Today, Gold Buyers of America is a $24 million company with 250 buyers that averages 100 parties a week nationwide. They melt down the scrap gold they buy, including the booty from other gold party companies, and resell it on the New York Mercantile Exchange and to jewelry manufacturers.

"We started out buying maybe 50 ounces of gold a week," Zvacek says. "Today, we buy about 500 ounces to 600 ounces a week, roughly the equivalent of 5,000 wedding bands."

Sell your gold in a friend's living room

Theirs is one of a growing number of gold party companies, including Red Swan, Golden Girls, the Gold Refinery, MyGoldParty and the Gold Exchange.

It's not hard to appreciate the sparkle of gold parties. Where would you rather sell your unwanted necklaces, earrings, watches and bracelets -- in a caged-in pawnshop on the wrong side of town or in your best friend's living room sharing a glass of Chardonnay with friends?

But authorities suggest you do your homework on the gold party company before liquidating your unwanted gold, as there are plenty of scam artists riding the gilded coattails of this fashion trend.

Here's how gold parties typically work: A group of women will organize a party with a gold buyer from one of the many gold party companies. During the party, those with jewelry to sell meet individually with the buyer, who appraises the value of their unwanted jewelry and makes them an offer for it. Gemstones and nongold attachments are usually removed by the buyer and returned to the customer.

After the party, the hostess receives a commission, typically 10 percent to 12 percent of what the buyer purchased that evening.

"Basically, we pay for happy hour at your house," says Zvacek.

Because the host and gold buyer take a cut, partygoers never receive 100 percent of the salvage value of their gold.

"We give 70 percent, and sometimes 80 percent, of what is considered scrap value," Zvacek says.

And forget "Antiques Roadshow." If you have sentimental attachment to your bling, this is not the place to sell it.

"We don't buy for resale value; all we want is the gold content," Zvacek says. "People don't understand that the retail mark-up in jewelry is 300 percent. We don't pressure anybody. If they don't want to sell, we totally understand."

To avoid being conned or shortchanged by shady dealers, check out the safe gold-selling tips from the Better Business Bureau.

Magee Jaski, a stay-at-home mom in Cary, N.C., struck gold at her first gold party, arranged through the Golden Girls, a Fort Myers, Fla.-based company.

"A mom at my preschool had sent home a gold party flier with everybody. The party was in the morning when all of our kids were in preschool together," she says.

Jaski brought with her a handful of rings, earrings and broken chains. Was she surprised at what she was offered?

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"I was way surprised," she says. "I made $520 at that party for about a half-full snack baggy of stuff. I would have been thrilled to get $100."

Impressed, Jaski and a friend hosted their own gold parties -- Jaski's in the morning for stay-at-home moms, her friend's in the evening for their friends who work. Jaski earned $150 for her trouble.

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