Scoundrels and Schemers

Louise was a wealthy woman in her advanced stages of a terminal illness, was blind, completely deaf, and in her final stage of dementia.  She could no longer communicate and decisions were being made for her by an old friend she trusted.  Louise had never married and had no children, but did have four beneficiaries to her estate.  All four really loved her and provided the very best care for her in a beautiful health center for the remainder of her days.

One of Louise’s passions in life was purchasing fine diamonds; she had several pieces that were very large and easily worth in the six-figure range.  Everyday, she wore them because she loved them.  Louise bathed in them, napped in them, slept in them, and ate in them.

The beneficiaries started to grow concerned about these pieces of jewelry Louise wore on her person, for a number of reasons.

  • Most people don’t even have pieces as valuable as these, and if they did, the pieces would be kept in a safe, vault, or safe deposit box.
  • The beneficiaries did the right thing in requesting the rings be removed while Louise was napping, to have the genuine diamonds replaced with less expensive stones, in the event something should happen to the rings.
  • The genuine diamonds would then have been turned over to the trustee of the estate and secured.  Who could possibly blame them for wanting the diamonds protected?

Unfortunately, the decision-maker overseeing Louise’s assets insisted that Louise should continue to wear those massive stones against everyone’s advice.

One day, less than 2 weeks after this request to have each diamond removed and replaced with cubic zirconia, the massive diamond pieces Louise was wearing disappeared.  Not only did these pieces disappear, but a video camera, some CDs and a crock put vanished as well from Louise’s home.  This was a clear indication to the family that the caregiver, sitter, or someone else who had very close contact with her, had made off with the goods.  The beneficiaries were beside themselves.

Why didn’t anyone prevent this from happening?

Why didn’t anyone listen to their request?

With all the questions and accusations that flew, the damage was done.  The diamonds were gone, never to be found again, probably sold at a pawn shop for a few thousand dollars and currently sitting in someone’s safe as their own retirement investment.

It is simply up to us, the chosen decision-makers,

to make the correct decisions to care for and

protect our loved ones (and their assets)

who cannot make decisions for themselves.

This story clearly demonstrates that we must exercise extreme caution with valuables.  Remember to have them evaluated by a professional, have those values documented, and keep them in a safe place until they are either distributed to family or sold.  The faces of exploitation are often familiar faces and not necessarily a stranger.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

Caveat Venditor

“Let the Seller Beware” When It Comes to Selling Gold

Pick an industry – any industry – and there will be good and bad people in it.  The estate industry is no different.  You find dedicated souls who are simply outstanding and go the distance to help their clients, and then you have those who are in it for a quick buck and could care less.  You must heed my advice:


Sadly, people do get ripped off every day, and more people get taken advantage of when selling gold jewelry than the sale of anything else.


Most people take their jewelry to jewelers, thinking this is the logical place to sell it.  While that’s not a bad choice, there are other options.  You owe it to yourself and the estate to shop around.  Some go to coin shops, antique stores, or private collectors.  Try locating places closest to the refinery; you are likely to make more money.

Here are some tips to help you get your fair share:

  1. Have sterling and gold identified as genuine.  Do not sell it at this time; just get help in identifying it.  Do not sell it in a rush, unless you have to.
  2. Find a local place that is close to a refinery, get a quote, then take it to jewelers.  Do research online to see if you can find a local resource.  Most jewelers sell to refiners, so you may want to go straight to the source.  Have your facts together first.  It is worth taking jewelry to multiple places to get the most $$ you can.
  3. Pay attention to daily spot price of gold and silver,  Prices fluctuate throughout the day every day.  This site will give you a per ounce price.  You need to understand that the per ounce they are referring to is pure bullion, pure gold, pure silver, NOT 14K, 10K, etc.  These are not pure, so the spot price will not apply to a handful of 14K jewelry.
  4. The troy ounce is used in the weighing and pricing of precious metals: gold, platinum, and silver.  The troy ounce is different from an ounce you would weigh on your kitchen scale.  If you get into weighing metals, you will need a jewelers scale that includes troy ounces or “ozt.”  You can buy an inexpensive jeweler’s scale online.
  5. Let’s say that gold is $1,300 per ounce.  You will not get $1,300 per ounce for your 10K or 14K because it is not pure gold.
  6. Divide today’s gold price from in dollars per ounce by 31.1 to get today’s gold price per gram.  There are 31.1 grams in an ounce of gold or silver.  If today’s price was $1,300 per ounce, then: 1300 divided by 31.1 = $41.80/gram.  Then, multiply by the fineness of the gold:
  • 10K = .4167
  • 14K = .5833
  • 18K = .7500
  • 22K = .9167
  • 24K = 100% gold

So if you have 10K and the price of gold is $1,300 per ounce or $41.80 per gram, then the price of your jewelry is $41.80 x .4167 = $17.41/gram.  If you have 10 grams of 10K at $17.41/gram, your scrap gold is worth $174.10.

Remember, this is for illustrative purposes.  The gold still has to be tested/assayed to determine the true percentage of gold.


  • Keep gold coins separated, because they have numismatic value, as well as metal value.
  • You can purchase your own gold testing kit, but it will be tested again when you go to sell it.
  • Weigh your items by grouping together (10K, 14K, etc.).  Use a loupe to look inside the piece to find a mark.  Not all pieces are marked; this is why they should be tested.
  • loupeperson1
  • Scrap gold dealers in store fronts (“We Buy Gold”) will likely buy from you at 30-60% LESS than the gold’s worth.  A jeweler will usually pay more than this.
  • Be aware that often gemstones set in jewelry are not included in the offer.  Those seem to just go along with the gold, which doesn’t seem fair to me.  IF it is a large stone, you may want to have it removed from the setting BEFORE you scrap the gold.  Please have the stone identified!
  • Private collectors may offer a very fair price, if you can find them.  Know the worth before you sell.
  • Gold refiners pay 90% and sometimes more, but they may have a minimum weight requirement.
  • Old dental gold is usually between 8K and 18K; it must be tested as well.

If you dislike math, this helpful website for gold scrap weight conversion and melt value calculator will do the figuring for you:

For a list of reputable dealers in the U.S., see US Mint page on recommended coin and gold buyers:

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at



It’s Better to Be Safe Than Sorry

You know you are in trouble when an expert shakes his head and says, “With the way the economy is going ….”  I share this because I sat with an expert just yesterday and he offered me sound advice which I want to share with you.

He’s not just a highly successful jeweler.  He’s been in the business 60+ years and knows a great deal about his industry.  I also knew immediately upon meeting him that this older gentleman had extensive knowledge about the market, where it’s headed, and what we can expect in the future.  Many clients ask me on a daily basis what my thoughts are on the market, so today I offer a little on precious metals and gems.

My mom had given me some scrap gold to sell and I have several items I no longer wanted, but some of the pieces are very nice.  So I went to him for a little advice: Should I sell now, or hold onto it for “a while?”

His eyes and demeanor were like that of a wise old sage, and he said the following:

1.  Don’t sell these items now if you don’t need the money.  One day, these items will probably be worth more than cash.  With the way the economy is going ….

2.  In his opinion, gold may very well hit $5000 per ounce in our lifetime, but not in the immediate future.

3.  If the US dollar lost its power, you would still have items to barter with.  At least you would have it, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Now, I know this isn’t rocket science and we’ve heard this before.  But the warmth and wisdom in which he delivered this information forced me to take heed and really listen.  So for now, those items are tucked back in the safe where they belong, taunting me with the question, “Will I ever need to pull it out in the future, if things got really bad?”  Well, at least it’s there if I need it.

© 2011, The Estate Lady