Brianna Costa, a petite blond in a black and white bubble dress, knew just what she'd do with jewelry she gotten from ex-boyfriends. The 22-year-old Cal State Fullerton student took an old Tiffany necklace, a tarnished locket and a heart and a key chain and joined her mom at a "Gold Party" this week in Laguna Niguel.
More than 30 people swarmed the home with bags of unwanted 14-karat gold, 18-karat gold, platinum and silver. There were necklaces, single earrings, heirloom jewelry and silverware. The guests ate appetizers, drank wine and socialized giddily with thoughts of making rather than spending money at a home boutique.
Jewelers from The Jewelry Box in Lake Forest put their expertise to work. They meticulously studied each piece of precious metal, confirming its value and its weight. They piled their black velvet trays with heaps of precious metals and jewels. In the end they shelled out $5,098 to 19 customers.
As the economy continues to suffer these parties become more popular. Jewelers Jack Levenson and Christine Anzell of The Jewelry Box have been putting in long hours and setting up shop in homes throughout South County and the beach cities. They've done 11 parties and are booked solid through the third week in April. They average 16 sellers and spend about $5,400 at each event. Gold buy-back at The Jewelry Box has gone up 300 percent since this time last year. Gold is valued by the London PM Gold Fix at around $929 per ounce for 24-karat gold.
Levenson and Anzell melt the precious metal and use it to make new pieces. Since they've been doing the gold parties, their business has picked up and is ahead of last year. As the popularity of the parties grow so do the number of people hosting them. In some cases amateurs are getting involved and putting sellers who are unaware of the value of their treasures at risk. A secondhand sellers license is required to buy legally, said Levenson.
Judy Belland, who works in commercial real estate, made sure to get jewelers who knew their stuff. She'd been to a party the week before in Mission Viejo and got $170 for stuff she said she would have otherwise thrown into the trash. Belland saw what people made at that party and wanted to host one of the same caliber.
The Gemological Institute of America, known as GIA, provides jewelers training and sets universal standards for determining gemstone quality. "I wouldn't be here if they weren't GIA-rated jewelers," said Paula DeMars, 54, as she stacked piles of 14-karat, 18-karat and 24-karat gold. To that she added a heap of silver – many huge bangle bracelets popular almost 20 years ago.
"I wouldn't have the level of trust in the person to know that they could determine the difference between 14 karat, 18 karat and platinum." DeMars got $1,750.
"I'm going to use it to pay taxes," said the Newport Beach paint color consultant. Sharon Woollley, 65, raked in $750 for what she called "old and broken jewelry."
"I turned out to be so much more than I expected," she said still in shock after almost 30 minutes. "
My husband lost his job as a machinist," said the Mission Viejo legal assistant. "This is going into our money market account or we'll use it to make house repairs."
When it was Costa's turn, she was anxious to see what she'd get. It turned out to be $72. She knew just what she'd do with it. She had her eye on some black gladiator heels at Nordstrom.