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Frank Gray

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File | The Journal Gazette

Got gold? Then why settle for tin prices?

Just before Christmas last year, Julianne Lassus discovered that her diamond wedding ring was missing from the spot where it was normally stored in her home.

The only person, besides Lassus, who was present in the house when the ring disappeared, Lassus said, was a maid who had been sent to her home through a local service.

Lassus immediately contacted the maid service and contacted the maid, offering to buy the ring back. It wasn’t until Dec. 27, six days after the theft, that Lassus filed a theft report with Fort Wayne police.

Eventually, the maid admitted to police that she had stolen the ring. She pleaded guilty to felony theft and was placed on probation and ordered to pay restitution.

The ring, though, was long gone. Lassus eventually learned that immediately after leaving Lassus’ home on the day of the theft, the maid took the ring, which had been appraised for $19,800 in 1997, to one of those we-buy-gold places where she sold it for $85.

Lassus has since sued the maid service, the maid and the business that bought the ring, seeking return of the ring or other compensation. Nearly a year after the theft occurred, that lawsuit has yet to be resolved.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from Lassus’ experience. If someone steals something from you, report it to police right away.

And if you are thinking about selling some of your jewelry to one of the slew of places with banners offering to buy gold, it pays to shop around.

A lot of us can’t tell a ruby from a garnet. We have no idea how to rate the color or quality of a gemstone, much less determine its current value. When it comes to gold, we really have no idea what something is worth.

For example, I took an informal survey of about a dozen people asking them what they thought an ounce of gold was worth. The answers ranged from $20 to $40, $50, $200, $203, $350 and up.

Actually, the price of an ounce of 0.999 fine gold – a chunk about the size of a silver dollar – was slightly more than $1,700 on Tuesday.

But how many people have any idea exactly how much gold is in the ring they are wearing? It’s hard to tell without an accurate scale and knowing the purity of the gold, and the current price, which can change daily.

Shopping around, a seller might get a wide range of offers.

This week, we took a collection of rings to one of the we-buy-gold places. One ring was 14-carat gold and the others were 10-carat gold.

At our first stop, the rings were weighed and we were offered $120 for them – $20 apiece.

Later, we went to Fairfield Coins, a coin and bullion dealer that posts the spot price for precious metals at the start of each day. The spot price for gold that day was $1,711.

After determining the purity of the gold in each of the rings, the rings were weighed and we were offered a price – slightly more than $300, or 2 1/2 times as much as we had been offered earlier.

As we said, it pays to shop around.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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