Modern-day gold rush as heirlooms are cashed in
Recession woes mean business is booming for buyers of the precious metal, writes Alison O'Riordan
WITH gold rush fever sweeping the country, cash-for-gold outlets are as hot as D4 property was a few years ago.
Old gold chains, coins and jewellery abandoned in the bottom drawer are now drawing premium prices from eager gold dealers.
"We get everything from chains, bracelets, sovereigns, rings, pens, even gold teeth -- whatever you can buy in a jewellery store comes through our hands at some stage or another. I have paid out up to €4,000 to individuals in the past," says Joe Walsh, owner of the Dublin Gold Exchange.
"These people collect up all the jewellery from their family, including their sisters and mothers, and then bring it all in to me to sell," says Walsh, who operates from a shop in Townsend Street in Dublin and claims to "pay top prices for old/broken gold".
The gold these traders evaluate and then purchase is sent to Britain and further afield where it's melted down to be re-cast. All sorts of people come in to these shops, including the elderly, people who have lost their jobs, people who work in the city and couples.
As the price of property has slumped the price of gold and other precious metals has been rising spectacularly.
A Galway-based company, Goldparty.ie, urges people to rummage around the backs of their sofas and in their jewellery boxes and hold a party where a Goldparty agent will evaluate their loot.
Richard Walsh, of the family-run Goldparty.ie, says it's a very competitive business and with six people employed and 10 agents around the country he has never been busier.
"To do well your business has to be ethical and truthful so we decided to have our own parameters and created our own code of practice such as measuring the items in grammes and photographing the items we receive.
"Any person who sells gold to us must sign a declaration that they own the gold and we also require a passport or driver's licence," he said.
Thegoldretriever.com is another cash-for- gold outlet that has joined the booming postal business in scrap gold. It also has a walk-in premises on Harcourt Street in Dublin, but 90 per cent of the business is done via the post.
Company director Greg Heaslip, says: "A lot of people are a bit dubious and so send in a small piece first and then after they get their cheque they ring us back and get another envelope and send in more jewellery.
"It's been fairly steady business since November as people are selling the pieces because they really need the cash. The more we advertise the more business we get, so you are encouraging people to take action."
In the past 12 months the price of gold has gone from €604 to €713 per troy ounce
However, some cash-for-gold business-owners are demanding legislation to be introduced because they feel that consumers could be at risk from unscrupulous dealers. "I wouldn't have any objection to being regulated as sending jewellery in the post means there is no direct contact, which can be a recipe for disaster and open to abuse.
"The only country in the world that regulates is France and by having it regulated here it will mean a proportion of the money I pay to people would then have to be held back for the Government," says Joe Walsh, who has opened 15 shops around the country in the last eight months to cash in on the demand for scrap gold.
"What happens in France is [that] because 8 per cent of their money is being held back, people cross the border into Belgium and sell the gold there," says Walsh.
Meanwhile, Heaslip, who holds a PhD in material science and is an expert in the field of metals analysis and gold, says: "I think it should be regulated as I turn away some people who are looking only for cash because they won't take a cheque and that seems a bit strange to me, as with cash there is no traceability.
"There is always going to be somebody pulling a fast one. I have definitely turned away people who have been trying to sell me jewellery that wasn't theirs."
With the phenomenal growth in the number of outlets popping up on main streets and in shopping centres throughout the country, the service is a target for abuse by thieves hoping to launder stolen goods.
This has led to a call by Fine Gael Senator John Paul Phelan for regulation of the mushrooming industry.
"There is a need to legislatively require companies offering this service to keep all transaction details, including electronic photos of the property submitted, so that the authorities can, in the event of both criminal and civil cases, establish a chain of evidence/ownership in the event of any dispute" he says.
"It should, if necessary, be possible to check and certify with the local garda station as to the person and address being used for the transaction; or a garda stamp and signature should appear on paperwork. Elderly people, particularly those in isolated, rural areas, are living in constant fear of attack and robbery because of a phenomenal growth in the number of totally unregulated cash-for-gold schemes," he claims.