They call it a gold rush, the euphoric feeling you get when you've turned unwanted jewelry into cash and all the buying possibilities it brings.
Several women felt it last week at a gold-selling party at a cosmetic medicine center in Feather Sound.
Kim Vance, a Tampa lawyer, brought a bunch of gold trinkets that had been sitting untouched in her jewelry box for years. She left $900 richer.
"I figured it would be a couple hundred bucks,'' she said with a cheer. "Now I can get Botox before the holidays.''
As people look for ways to make extra money in this poor economy, many are turning to gold buyers who come to homes and businesses and pay on the spot for earrings, bracelets and other jewelry buried deep in dressers.
Jackie Simpson and her husband, Dave, started organizing gold parties several months ago when gold prices soared, reaching nearly $1,000 an ounce. Like other gold buyers, she wanted to create a relaxing environment for selling gold, especially for women.
"I've been in the position where you go to pawn shop or jewelry store and you're standing in line with your little pile of scrap and you feel like, 'Just give me whatever. I want to get out of here,' '' she said.
Going to a party is a lot more dignified — and fun, she said. At the recent party at Skinspirations, customers sipped wine and ate hors d'oeuvres while Simpson and her husband checked for karat stamps and weighed items on a small scale. In the next room, Dr. Cynthia Elliott and her staff injected customers with Botox, gave makeup demonstrations and talked up chemical peels.
Renee Sharpless, a recent bride from Largo, took the $160 she got from an old ring and bought makeup. The center stone had fallen out and it didn't make sense to replace it. "Besides, an old boyfriend gave it to me so it's not sentimental to me,'' she said.
Simpson cautions against selling things people might regret. You might never wear Aunt Gertie's wedding ring, but do you want to pass it on to your daughter? If the answer is yes, even maybe, Simpson says keep it.
Simpson takes the gold to a refiner, which melts it and resells it for future use. The payout is based on the market price, which typically rises and falls with oil prices.
Customers get paid according to the weight and karat, from 10k to 24k. While the price per gram fluctuates daily, Simpson says she can pay more than most jewelers or pawn shops because she doesn't have all the overhead.
As a general rule, a small, cupped handful of 14k pieces translates to about $150.
Party hosts get 10 percent of the party's total payout. Simpson also will meet with people by appointment.
While selling gold to buy Botox might sound unusual, it's not. Most gold sellers have a specific idea for spending the money, whether it be a new outfit or an item they've been eying at the mall. One woman at the Skinspirations party planned to buy a ticket for a cruise.
Others use the money for more practical things, like paying down credit cards or buying holiday gifts.
"They are always happy to get the money,'' Simpson said. "And this time of year they are really happy.''