Wednesday, the blinking lights on Ross Metals in the Diamond District strobed the story: Gold was trading for $1,772 an ounce. In contrast, platinum – a traditionally more expensive commodity - was selling at a mere $1,734.
The Dow may have been foundering, but the skyrocketing price of gold — seen as a safe investment amid collapsing stock values — was prompting some New Yorkers to sort through their jewelry boxes to convert trash into cash.
In a plummeting economy, money “gives people a better feeling than jewelry they never wear – especially if they find out a necklace they bought for $300 twenty years ago could be worth up to $1,000 today,” said Sophia Kevorkian of Albert & Sons Inc. on 47th Street. She estimates that traffic is up 20 to 30% this week.
Blanca Zhanay, of Casa Blanca, said her regulars were bringing in their unwanted items “like never before. They’re going to the safe deposit box to get it.”
But other gold buyers said that business was not, in fact brisker.
“They’re scared to sell: They’re waiting,” until the market volatility drives the price of precious metals even higher, said Denis Gerasimov of Diamond District Gold Buyers.
Caryl, an NYC teacher from Woodmere who declined to share her full name, was selling two loads of jewelry on behalf of some friends. A savvy comparison shopper, Caryl stopped in to see her “old friend” Soso Haymof at A.K. 47th Street.
After sorting and testing a lot of dated rings and old mountings, and discarding the costume and gold-filled jewelry, Haymof quoted an offer of $452 for the remainder.
She took it. The other lot was problematic: The heavy, rich-looking bracelet that Caryl was sure was gold was not, in fact, the real thing.
“Only the ends are gold,” pronounced Haymof. He offered to clip off the valuable clasp and to give her $1,800 for that and the rest of her friend’s things.
Caryl declined. Another prospective buyer – who had probably only tested the bracelet’s clasp - had offered her $2,300 for the same lot. She planned to take his offer.
Vendor emptor, as the saying goes.
Surprisingly, the price of gold is often not the main variable that drives people to sell their glittering stash, observed Alex Kataev of A.K. 47th Street. Business is always most brisk, Kataev observed, “around the first of the month – when the rent is due.”