Tupperware for the new millennium

Gold parties are recession chic


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Should I, or should I not, get rid of my high school boyfriend’s gold initial ring? What about my own initial ring, which I received for my 13th birthday? These are the pressing issues I mull over, before heading to my first gold party.

THANKS TO A recession and a more monetarily aware citizenry, gold parties have become all the rage. Louise and Sue Alexander, founders of Gold Party Princess, along with six employees are hosting three different gold parties in the city. No, not this month, or even this week — tonight!

What is a gold party?

It is like a Tupperware or Avon party your mom used to go to, but instead of leaving with a sandwich container, or a new anti-wrinkle cream, you bring your unwanted gold jewellery and leave with money.

Tonight, I’m heading to a home in Forest Hill.

The gold parties are well organized. Guests arrive, and take a number, like at a bakery, while Louise and a colleague set up on a long dining room table. When your number is called, you lay all your unwanted jewellery on a velvet tray. Louise, an expert in jewellery, will first figure out if your gold is real.

“There have been a couple times when someone brings in their wedding band,” she says. “And I hate to see their faces when I tell them it’s only worth $40.” After Louise knows the items are real, she separates them into different piles by karat.

My party draws an older crowd, mainly middle-aged women and seniors. The reasons they have for parting with their gold are basic: broken chains, missing pieces.

As classical music plays over the stereo and women gather to chat, snack on munchies and sip wine, provided by the host, I watch as a woman’s face (she had dumped what looked like a pile of knotted necklaces and old bangles on the tray) lights up as Louise tells her she’ll get $1,175.

On average, Louise and Sue will leave a gold party event shelling out $10,000 to guests. The lowest they’ve paid out was $17 for a single gold hoop earring. The highest was $3,000 for a bracelet.

“We’ve yet to find something too fabulous to melt.”

The Alexanders have a refinery where they melt the gold into bars. The bars are then recycled back into the market.

Louise is very pretty, funny and outgoing, which makes for a lively party atmosphere. She has stories that will keep you howling. Let’s just say, when women get together to sell their gold, the stories they tell are priceless.

At a previous party, after the Alexanders had separated a guest’s gold into 10 kt., 14 kt. and 18 kt. piles, the woman looked at the different piles and said, “That’s my first husband, second husband and third husband’s gifts,’” explains Sue. “Obviously she had progressed.”

Another time, Sue found a ring that was gold-plated. “Good thing I didn’t marry him,” the guest told her, finding out for the first time it wasn’t real.

Some really get into it, making the gatherings as fun as possible with themes (including a divorce party). At one party, everyone was wearing tiaras, and the host, an actress, hired a private chef to cook for everyone.

“Most people are doing it because it’s fun and trendy and a girls’ night out,” says Sue. “So far, nobody has come saying, ‘I’m selling this because I really need the money.’”

The host also gets 10 per cent of the sales, as an added incentive to hold a party. The craziest item someone brought in was gold dentures. “We didn’t melt that. We’re keeping it,” says Louise. “It’s too unusual to melt.”

Guests have different reactions when they’re told how much money they’ll get for items.

I watched a woman being handed a cheque for almost $2,000. I wanted to give her a high-five, but she was nonchalant.

“Some women don’t want everyone to know, so I just show them on my calculator. Some are funny about it,” says Louise. And sometimes, a gold party can turn emotional. One woman in her 80s came to a gold party and brought a small ring.

“I looked at it and asked her if she new it was engraved with initials. I told her what they were and she burst out crying,” says Louise. “She had no idea that it was engraved. Her father had engraved it for her mother on their wedding day. She was so thankful,” says Sue.

To host your own gold party, you need a minimum of six guests — family, friends, neighbours or coworkers — who bring unwanted gold items.

Along with all karats of gold, they also buy yellow, white, pink and green platinum.

“That’s the thing with gold. If you lose an earring, you don’t throw the other one out. It’s not like a sock. It has value,” says Louise.

“And if it’s just sitting there, accumulating dust, why not make some money?”

As Louise and Sue are sent home with leftover food and guests have left with cheques in hand totally almost $10,000, I’m left thinking of hosting my own gold party.

For sentimental reasons, I have always held onto gold gifts and trinkets from my ex-boyfriends. Of course, a loud ca-ching might just change my mind.

As Louise says, “We’ve yet to find something too fabulous to melt.”

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