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Herald-Zeitung Online

Sellers seeing dollar signs for old jewelry

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Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 12:13 pm | Updated: 2:09 pm, Wed Jul 23, 2014.

NEW BRAUNFELS — The skyrocketing prices of gold and silver are attracting plenty of sellers to Ernesto’s Jewelry Factory.

On a recent Monday, one seller had laid out on the glass counter top a sizable and varied collection of gold and silver.

The collection includes a gold tie clasp bearing a Masonic crest, a set of thumb-sized silver salt-and-pepper shakers, a gold ring bearing a single pearl wound with gold wire, a heavy silver candlestick holder, a gold and silver bracelet, pieces from a silver tea service, and more.

The customer mentioned that this is his second trip to the jewelry store to sell gold and silver. “We brought in some stuff the other day and got a big check,” he smiled.

Terry Verburgt, the buyer at the jewelry store in New Braunfels Marketplace, checks out the cache.

Terry is a veteran who can pretty much tell the difference between 10K and 18K gold just by holding it in his hand and eyeballing it.

“You can tell a lot just by the color, the weight of it,” he said.

Using a jeweler’s magnifying glass, he peers at the Masonic tie clasp and points out that it’s stamped 14K.

“Look at the 14. You can see the normal wear marks on it. It’s not brand new. It’s a nice sweet mark.” Terry explained that there are, unfortunately, con artists who place bogus stamps on gold and silver jewelry.

But this one’s legit. He places it on an electronic scale.

Next, he picks up little, antique-looking hinged silver bracelet and rubs it.

“It’s a baby’s bracelet,” the customer said.

Terry rubs it with a finger and holds it to his nose.

“This is sterling,” said Terry. “You can rub that like you do a copper penny and it’ll smell like ammonia. And see how fast it shines up.”

Terry sets the baby’s bracelet on another scale.

He picks up the little salt shaker.

“This is silver plated. You can see it peeling off the sides. And see the green in it?”

It’s not something Ernesto’s will buy.

Now he checks out a delicate shell-shaped gold ear ring. It goes on the scale with the Masonic tie clasp.

He looks at the digital readout on the scale with the silver baby bracelet and punches the buttons on a pocket calculator.

“That’s 32 grams. So he just got $18.56.”

He does the same with the gold.

“That’s $121.52.”

“OK,” the customer said, smiling.

Terry continues his examining, weighing, pricing.

•  •  •  •  •

Many people are selling off their old gold, Terry said.

“They’re bringing in a lot of it,” he said. “A lot of people who are selling aren’t selling because they have to. They’re selling because it’s worth so much, and they want to sell while the prices are high.”

He’s seeing a lot of “broken gold,” things like chains with broken clasps and earrings that the wearer has lost the partner to.

It used to be common practice to replace broken golden chains with new ones, which could be purchased for just a few dollars.

“But that was when gold was $300 or $400 or $500 an ounce,” he said. “Now it’s $1,700, nearly $1,800 an ounce today. And that one little 4-gram chain is worth $100.”

Bring in four or five or six pieces of old gold jewelry, he said, and it adds up.

“You’d be surprised,” Terry said. “It doesn’t take much. It starts adding up fast.”

He looks over a stack of little manilla envelopes where the purchased gold is held. Each one contains a handwritten notation on the outside.

“This one’s 10 grams. This one’s is 8.8 grams. This is 10.9 grams and we wrote them a check for $628.”

On the average, customers bring in $300 to $600 worth, he said.

“But some of them run into thousands.”

Some customers bring in sets of sterling silver flatware, he said.

“The price of silver’s gone way up, too. Actually, silver’s up higher than gold on percentage.”

He reaches into a desk drawer and extracts a sterling silver fork, sets it on a scale. “That silver fork is 61.67 grams, so that’s just under $60-plus dollars for a fork. For a fork!”

Now he pulls out — from somewhere beneath his desk — an old sterling flatware set in a felt-lined wooden box. The craftsmanship of the forks and spoons is beautiful.

“Just in weight, this is anywhere from $1,100 or $1,200 up to $2,000 for some of these sets,” he said. “And this will get melted.”

The gold jewelry or silver flatware isn’t typically resold as-is by buyers like Ernesto’s. Instead, the precious metal is sent off to different refineries to be melted and refined back into pure gold ingots or silver bars.

“Then the different individuals and industries and governments are buying it and turning it back into coins and other things,” he said.

Buyers like Ernesto’s resell the gold and silver to whichever refinery is offering the best deal. “We’ll market it and find the refinery paying the best prices,” he said.

He walks over to his computer and logs on to, which shows the up-to-the minute prices for gold and silver.

“Here’s today’s market. Today gold’s at $1,795.20. Five years ago, gold was at $605. Five years ago, silver was at $8 and now it’s at $37.”

Customers, he said, bring in not only broken gold and collections of silver forks and spoons, but silver cigarette cases, old gold pocket watches, Chinese silver coins, tin-type photos with gold frames, silver bowls and platters and cups and eggholders.

“You’d be surprised what all we get. We get everything.”

“I recently had a guy come in with 12 wine goblets he bought at a garage sale up on the hill above Landa Park. He gave $200 for 12 of them and we gave him $96 apiece times 12.”

“I have ‘em bring in whole jewelry boxes and big old trunks full of stuff.”

But watch out

If you’re thinking about selling your gold or silver, Verburgt recommends finding an established, trusted store to sell to.

He said that “hotel buyers” have been coming to town to buy gold. “Even if the same company comes back, it’s not the same employees any more,” he said.

“Ernesto’s has been here for 30-plus years. We’ve got a reputation.”

The local jewelry store goes out of its way to treat sellers right, he said.

“We show everybody what we do. We’ve got scales out there. We show them how we calculate everything. We pay fair market value based on what the market is — and it changes. We’ve increased our price three times today.”

He said some buyers might misrepresent the value of what is brought in by sellers by telling a seller that an 18K piece is actually a less pure and less valuable 10K item, for instance.

“We want them to know what the purity is, so we acid test it right in front of them. We’ve had customers who’ve been told their gold was 10K when in fact if was 14 or better. We tested it for them and we paid them for 14.”

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