There may be money in your mouth

People selling gold fillings, old jewelry as price soars

Friday, March 21, 2008
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Jon Sosnowski, co-owner of Mayfair Jewelers in Glenville, looks through a pile of gold jewelry on Thursday.
Photographer: Meredith Kaiser
Jon Sosnowski, co-owner of Mayfair Jewelers in Glenville, looks through a pile of gold jewelry on Thursday.

— Don’t even think of getting out the pliers, but those gold crowns your dentist installed years ago could bring a profit today that you could sink your teeth into.

With the glittering price of gold this week, local jewelers are seeing dozens of hopeful peddlers arriving every day clutching old jewelry — and those odd, custom-made bits of bridgework designed for molars.

“I’ve had more than one person come in with an old cap from a tooth, and surprisingly, there’s often a good value there,” said John Sosnowski, co-owner with his brother Victor of Mayfair Jewelers in Glenville. “Some of the dental gold can be very high karat.”

Karats are the percentage of pure gold used in a particular piece, with 24 karat the most valuable, followed by 18, 14 and 10 karat. Most gold resold today will be melted and recycled into new pieces but must be reconditioned to sift out contaminants like mercury and sulphur resulting from time and wear.

With the value of gold, measured by weight, dipping slightly Thursday to about $912 per ounce,

the sense of urgency is growing. Sosnowski said people have been pleased with the profit they’re walking away with.

“People bring in a handful of old smashed rings and chains, and although many are non-gold items we need to sort out, they leave with $50 or $100, and they’re happy,” said Sosnowski.

Eager sellers have the option of heading to a large retailer or checking telephone directories and stepping into a shop to have a seasoned scrap gold appraiser squint at their jewelry with a loupe (the magnifying eyepiece they wear).

Bill Petronis has been buying and selling jewelry for more than 40 years out of his store, Historical Investments, in downtown Albany. Petronis advises people to follow the rule, “Seller beware.”

“In any type of market activity, people dash out to participate; that’s what we call a forced liquidation rather than an orderly one,” said Petronis, who is also an estate jewelry expert. “People need to take their time and follow basic common sense.”

That means shopping carefully, going only to jewelers you trust and getting more than one quote.

“People compare prices when they buy a car or groceries, but for some reason, they don’t think to talk to competitors before they sell jewelry,” said Petronis.

Jumping at the first offer can take much of the luster out of the gold sale.

“Historically, people get 50 to 65 percent of what the true value is,” said Petronis. “If you have an antique piece, for example, its value will far exceed the value of the gold content.”

Petronis also advises people to keep a close eye on their items once inside a store.

“Have them test your items in front of you, and don’t leave them overnight,” said Petronis. “These are business transactions that should happen up front, not in a back room.”

Marian Barba, an artist, jewelry maker and collector in Ballston Spa, said she can’t fathom why people would part with their possessions.

“It’s only money,” said Barba. “I think everything has been made into an industry today, and people have forgotten that personal adornments carry intrinsic value and beauty far beyond money.”

Barba said she has a few items, such as a tie clip worn by her late husband Harry Barba, that she considered selling in the past.

“For practical reasons, I thought about it, but I have a deeper belief that it’s important to consider the meaning behind our possessions,” she said. “The universe has gold, diamonds, quartz, pebbles, sand, and what these mean to people is a personal thing. You can’t put a price on that.”

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March 21, 2008
8:35 a.m.
renedushay says...

I beg of you to not encourage people to "sell'' teeth. The Nazi's pulled the gold teeth of concentration camp internees- to even mention any value[ which is minimal compared to the price paid to a dentist] in dental gold is horrendous.

March 21, 2008
1:04 p.m.
jgrandy says... I know how I will fill my gas tank up next week....

March 18, 2009
7:53 a.m.
asemetals says...

I have to agree, "shop around" is the best advise for anyone looking to sell their gold, silver or platinum jewelry, bullion or coins. Do business locally, compare prices, make sure the company you're working with can properly assess the value of any antique or vintage items you may have, and make sure their payouts are not a mere 50% of the gold value, as those of some nationally advertised companies are. Do your homework. For more information check out

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