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Entries in Jewelry (6)

Monday
May142012

Nation's '1 Percent' Turn to Pawn Shops for Quick Cash

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.) -- A pawn shop next to the likes of Hermes, Tiffany’s and Chanel on Rodeo Drive would have, just a few years ago, been an unheard of sight.

But the classic pawn shop, where you sell or get a loan for your jewelry to pay back later, is making waves in the most unlikely of places -- Beverly Hills.

The recession has proven that even the richest of the rich fall on hard economic times and, now, when they need fast cash, more and more of the nation’s “1 percent” are electing to trade in their jewels.

Yossi Dina is the owner of South Beverly Wilshire Jewelry and Loan, an exclusive pawn shop that caters to the rich.  Clients stream into his Beverly Hills store offering valuable merchandise in exchange for cash, fast.

One such client is Vanessa Kalcheim, a Beverly Hills hairdresser going through a divorce.  She brought in a Harry Winston diamond necklace with a $600,000 retail price tag for Dina to appraise.

“Nobody will give me a loan,” Kalcheim told ABC News.  “The jewelry doesn’t work for a bank so my best option was to go to a pawn shop and try to sell it.”

Kalcheim said she hopes the necklace will bring her quick cash to hold her over until she receives her settlement from her divorce.

“I need to pay for them [her children],” she said.  “The clothes, the food, if I want to go to Disneyland.  Children cost money.”

Dina estimates Kalcheim’s necklace will sell for around $300,000 to $400,000.  He offers to give her $150,000 to $200,00 for a loan on the necklace and then pay her the difference if the necklace sells.  It’s a deal Kalcheim accepts immediately.

“First I am going to look for a new place to live and pay the down payment with this money,” she says.  “And start over.”

The transaction shows that a new breed of pawn shops are no longer seedy places with barred windows.  They’re now hot spots for buying and selling used goods, and even the focus of reality TV show fame.  In short, business at pawn shops is booming because the economy isn’t.

“We are in a bad time and it’s getting worse, but rich people buy,” Dina said.  “People come here at the worst time, and they leave feeling great.”

“The difference between me and the bank is with the bank you have to wait 60 to 90 days,” he said.  “With me, it’s immediate.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan252012

Tiffany & Co. ‘Drops a Hint’ to Men Everywhere

Chris Weeks/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Sometimes even the most romantic of men need a hint when it comes to buying the perfect gift for their lady love.

And sometimes even the most low-maintenance of women are tempted to give the man in their life that little nudge to ensure they don’t suffer the pity of unwrapping a blender, lawn mower or new dish towel on Valentine’s Day.

Now, Tiffany & Co. has made it easier for everyone.

Introducing the “Drop a Hint” button now appearing on the famed jeweler’s website, just in time for Feb. 14.

See a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings you know you’ll look fabulous in?  Spot an emerald-cut diamond ring you know you can’t live without?

Just slide your mouse to the right of the screen, click the “Drop a Hint” button -- conveniently marked by a red heart -- and, voila, the link to your item of desire is marked.

A right click on the heart allows you to either bookmark the link to your screen, and not be angry when your husband or boyfriend snoops on your computer, copy the link so that you can easily, and oh-so-subtly, drop it in an email to your gift giver of choice.

A left click of your mouse simplifies the hint dropping even more.  Up pops a screen that asks you to enter your “True Love’s” name and email, along with your own, so that Tiffany’s can send this personalized postcard:

“Dear _____: As you may know, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, but do not fret. A little bird told us that this will be a smashing success with ____.

Of course, if you have other ideas for Valentine’s Day, this is just a hint.”


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Sep242011

Jewelers Suffer From High Gold Prices

Ablestock.com/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- It may be a Gold Rush on Wall Street, but for jewelers around the country trying to penny-up for the precious metal, it’s anything but.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the jewelry business is suffering after gold hit $1,900 an ounce a few weeks ago, raising prices on wholesale items and forcing retailers to increase prices beyond their typical customer’s budget.

While gold fell under $1,650, during the week's big drop in financial markets, the price is still nearly 16 percent higher year to date.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Gold: Seven Things to Know Before You Sell

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Selling gold never has been easier -- or riskier. With prices of the precious metal hitting records almost daily, and with fear and uncertainty continuing to roil the world's financial markets, gold buyers are eager to pay top dollar for any jewelry, coins or bars you care to part with.

Never have there been so many choices on where and how to sell. In Texas, you can pick up a nice steak for dinner and unload your tiara at the same time: Gold and Silver Buyers, the state's biggest buyer of precious metals, has its stores conveniently located inside or alongside supermarkets.

Since May, eBay has been offering a new feature on its site -- a Bullion Center. Spokesperson Johnna Hoff says it was created "to be a one-stop destination" consolidating trade in all types of bullion -- gold and silver coins and bars, primarily. The terms and conditions that apply to the sale of a gold bar are no more onerous than those that apply to somebody who sells a toaster, a football jersey, or anything else on eBay: Small, casual sellers (non-professionals) pay eBay nine percent of the price for which their bullion sells, when and if it does. There's no charge for listing. Small sellers, says Hoff, accounted for about one-third of bullion sold last week on eBay.

Whether you sell your gold online, at a local jeweler or through a pawn shop, it's possible, if you're not careful, to wind up with less than its full value. To avoid getting taken, keep these seven points in mind:

Shop Around. No matter how or where you ultimately chose to sell, start locally. Take your gold to a reputable local jeweler or pawn shop and ask them to estimate its value. That way, you'll at least have a base price in hand before you solicit online bids or other offers. You don't need to worry that you're abusing the good nature of your local businesses, says Dave Crume, past president of the National Pawnbrokers Association and vice president of Wichita, Kansas, pawnbroker A-OK Enterprises. They're in business to give estimates, and they'll give them for free. "Go to three or four stores," he advises, "and compare." To locate your nearest pawnbroker, try the National Pawnbrokers Association website.

Beware 'Rogue' Buyers. Crume cautions sellers about doing business with transient gold dealers whom he calls "rogue" buyers (also known as "hotel" or "pop-up" buyers). They blow into town, run ads promising high prices, and set up shop, say, in a hotel ballroom. After vacuuming up a city's worth of jewelry and coins, they disappear, sometimes leaving their victims un- or underpaid.

Don't Mix Karats. Among the new places to sell your gold are Tupperware-like "gold parties" like those organized by Premier Gold Parties, where a group of friends or neighbors meet to socialize and sell their gold in a home setting. "While gold parties may be a convenient way to make some cash," warns Tucson's Better Business Bureau, "they may not provide you the best deal." Why not? Too many hands in the pot: the company that organized the party gets its cut, and so does the host. At some parties, all jewelry is weighed together, regardless of its karat value, and sellers are paid according to the lowest karat value. Don't accept those terms. Separate your jewelry in advance, by karat, and make sure you are paid more for higher-karat items.

Keep an Eye on the Scale. While the accuracy of scales used by jewelers and pawnshops is verified periodically by the department of weights and measures, the same may not be true for scales used by hotel or house party buyers. The Better Business Bureau advises sellers to pay close attention to how their gold is being weighed: Jewelers value gold not by the ordinary ounce (28 grams) but by the Troy (31.1 grams). While some buyers pay according to the gram, others use a system called pennyweight: A pennyweight is equivalent to 1.555 grams. A seller needs to make sure he's not being weighed by pennyweight and paid by the gram, since that would allow the buyer to get more gold for less money.

Read the Fine Print.
Sell Gold HQ, a website that reviews and compares online gold buyers, advises sellers to compare terms and conditions carefully. "Even when consumers use a legitimate site that buys gold online," says the company in a statement, "it is easy to make a costly mistake by not reading the fine print. For example, some websites offer free shipping to send in gold, but very high shipping rates if the consumer declines the offer and asks for he gold to be returned." Check the buyer's policy, too, on reimbursement if they lose your gold. Many offer only limited liability.

Check Credentials. Ask a potential buyer to show you his credentials: If he's legitimate, he'll be licensed by the state to buy gold. He will also be required by law to ask you, the seller, to produce a driver's license, passport or some other form of government-issued identification. That requirement exists to frustrate money laundering and the sale of stolen property. If your buyer does not ask to see your ID, take your business elsewhere.

Is It Scrap--or History? Before you sell a gold item to be melted down for scrap, make sure it's not worth more in its present form. Brian Witherell, operations manager of Sacramento, Calif., antiques dealer Witherell's, gives this example: A seller brought him an antique item -- a small gold watch fob made in the shape of a railroad spike. "It was a little thing," Witherell recalls, and would not have brought much as scrap. Upon inspection, the fob turned out to have been fashioned out of gold left over from making the famous full-sized golden spike used in 1869 to commemorate completion of the transcontinental railroad. At auction, it sold for $20,000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec112010

Hammer Time For Mail-Order Gold Dealers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As the price of gold has continued to rise, local and federal officials have been pushing forward with efforts to protect consumers from what they are calling predatory practices by some precious metals dealers.

The House of Representatives Wednesday passed legislation aimed at preventing companies that pay cash for gold jewelry from ripping off customers. At the same time, the Santa Monica, California City Attorney announced a court had placed Superior Gold in receivership after the city sued the company, which sells gold coins and bullion, largely through advertising on conservative talk radio and TV programs.

The so-called GOLD Act is an attempt to tackle what Rep. Anthony Weiner called "deceptive marketing, misleading return policies and low-ball payments."

The New York Democrat has specifically focused attention on the company Cash4Gold, which became well known after airing a commercial starring pitchmen Ed McMahon and MC Hammer during the 2009 Super Bowl. The company's ads promised consumers they could make a quick buck by selling their unwanted jewelry. "Cash4Gold has used these bad economic times as a golden opportunity to fleece hard-working people in need of an extra dollar," Weiner said. "The passage of this bill is an important step towards giving consumers who want to sell their gold the protections they need."

The legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 324-81 but has not yet been taken up by the Senate, would impose fines on companies that melt down a consumer's gold before an offer is accepted and would mandate that companies make certain returned jewelry is insured with the mail delivery company at the same monetary value as the consumer originally insured it.

Chuck Bell, programs director of Consumers Union, credited the legislation for presenting "much fairer rules of the road for online cash-for-metals transactions."

Cash4Gold spokesman Evan Nierman said that consumer purchases of jewelry and precious metals are normally regulated by the individual states, and the proposed law would mark a break with precedent. "This new national bill appears to override the authority of the states, create additional federal regulation of the private sector and serve as the first federal law to explicitly regulate consumer return policies which also are typically handled at the state and local level," said Nierman.

Nierman said Cash4Gold had "worked side-by-side" with law enforcement and regulators in many states. He said Cash4Gold had also worked closely with Florida officials to craft legislation regulating gold-buying by mail, and that the Florida bill should be a model for a national bill.

"Nearly one million customers," said Nierman, "have found Cash4Gold to be a great option for anyone seeking a fast, secure, simple, convenient and discreet transaction."

In California, the announcement that Superior Gold was coming under a court-ordered receivership came several months after Santa Monica officials first disclosed an investigation into that company, as well as Goldline, another popular precious metals dealer.

In its lawsuit against Superior, Santa Monica officials have alleged the company took payments from customers but failed to provide the coins they had promised. The complaint also alleged that Superior induced customers, through false and misleading statements, to buy more expensive collectable or foreign coins instead of the basic gold bullion that customers typically want, and charged prices purported to be far higher than fair market value for the coins while concealing markups through false and deceptive pricing practices.

California Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg signed a temporary restraining order this week prohibiting the company and its president, Bruce Sands, from "taking customer payments, advertising, or conducting any other business under a name other than Superior Gold Group." And it freezes assets the court says belong to the company and to Sands, including a Malibu home and a 2003 Lamborghini coupe.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov222010

Jeweler To The Stars Arrested in Alleged $217 Million Fraud

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Jeweler Ralph Esmerian sold luxurious baubles to the stars, but Monday his dark gray pinstriped suit was offset by a simple pair of Peerless stainless steel bracelets, slapped onto his wrists by a federal Postal Inspector who arrested Esmerian for an alleged $217 million bankruptcy fraud.

Esmerian, a fourth-generation jeweler and the owner of the posh Fred Leighton jewelry business, allegedly borrowed $177 million from Merrill Lynch and $40 million from Acorn Capital Group, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court Monday, and then "almost immediately" sold the jewelry he'd used as collateral for the loans, shipping the millions in proceeds to an offshore bank.

Esmerian, 70, used the loans to purchase Fred Leighton, a high-end line long associated with celebrities, in 2005, gilding his own family's established wholesale jewelry business. In just the past year stars sighted wearing Fred Leighton creations have included Sarah Jessica Parker, seen in Leighton jewelry at the 2010 Oscar ceremonies, as well as Jennifer Aniston, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Tina Fey.

Though Esmerian had a reported $192 million in inventory, he soon failed to meet the obligations on the loans he'd used to purchase Leighton. By 2008, creditor Merrill Lynch had declared him in default and arranged a jewelry auction in an effort to recoup its money.

In 2008, on the eve of the scheduled Christie's auction of the collateralized jewelry, Esmerian filed an eleventh hour bankruptcy. Immediately afterwards, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint by Postal Inspector Eleanor Berry, he "repeatedly and systematically embezzled property belonging to Fred Leighton and other debtor entities."

According to the complaint, after getting the loans Esmerian began to sell off the jewelry he'd used for collateral and wired the money to Switzerland. The complaint, which also charged Esmerian with wire fraud and concealing assets, said he used the same jewelry to obtain more than one loan. Esmerian allegedly stole or double pledged at least $40 million in assets used to collateralize loans.

One piece of swag used to secure a loan, the Boucheron "Endymion Butterfly Brooch," was sold in secret for $2.45 million, federal authorities allege, with Esmerian pocketing the proceeds. When Merrill Lynch discovered what he'd done, authorities claim, Esmerian sold another set of jewels valued at $10 million for a fraction of their value in order to repurchase the brooch.

The exquisite items Esmerian allegedly embezzled from the Fred Leighton business itself and its lenders and creditors included a Lalique Art Nouveau brooch worth $1 million, the Boucheron diamond and ruby butterfly brooch, and assorted diamond, emerald, opal encrusted pendants, necklaces, rings, and earrings.

"Ralph Esmerian allegedly lied and looted to maintain his personal and financial status," said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, "by tricking his lenders, stealing from investors, and deceiving the bankruptcy court."

Postal Inspector Tom Boyle, contacted by ABC News regarding the arrest and complaint, referred all queries to the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.

Esmerian's attorney, Patricia Pileggi, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio