It may be tempting to raid the jewelry box for gold to generate a little extra cash, but one expert thinks that's the worst thing to do.
"Gold is the last thing you want to part with," said David Schraeder, spokesman for the World Gold Council in New York City. "It's going to hold its value, its intrinsic worth. And that piece, you may want to hold on to it and pass it on to your daughter or son."
Schraeder said if people do decide to sell their gold, the best thing is to be prepared.
"Never, ever should anybody go in blind to one of these stores and expect the person on the other side of the counter is in it for their best interest," Schraeder said. "Education is the best thing."
First is knowing the karatage of the gold and the percentage of gold per karat. For example, 24-karat gold is 100 percent gold, while 18 karat is 75 percent and 14 karat is 58 percent.
"At least know what you have in your hands when you walk in the door. Check the stamps," Schraeder said.
Also understand you will only be paid for the gold content, he said, and nothing else.
"If you put it on your scale at home, and it reads 4 ounces, and you take it to the store, you may be surprised at the offer because it has large stones or a shiny bauble," Schraeder said.
Comparison shopping after you get an offer, he said, is key.
"Don't go in and sell it for the first price you get," Schraeder said. "We advise you to go to a trusted, family jeweler and place that has been in business a long time rather than a place that popped up in a strip mall with a hand-painted sign. These are the people who took a weekend course and are trying to make a living."
Schraeder said more small stores are opening while the price of gold is starting to pull back. Many of the stores, he said, are telling customers the time is right to sell before the prices start to fall even more.
"The premise is if you don't part with your gold, you can't make any money, but the reality is, if you don't part with your gold, they can't make any money," he said.
There are basically three different types of people selling their gold, he said.
"Most people do it on a bit of a whim," he said. "They sell their gold and when you ask them what they did with the money they say, 'I treated myself to dinner' or 'I purchased some new clothes.' That's really the worst thing you can do because you've converted an asset into a consumable asset. You've turned it into nothing."
The next group, he said, are people who use the money to pay off debt or basic necessities.
"If you need to monetize your gold to pay your bills, by all means, in this economy, you should go ahead and do that," Schraeder said.
The third group, he said, are a bit more sophisticated.
"These are the people who are not selling because they have to or on a whim," Schraeder said. "They take their gold, sell it and use the money for some other investment or asset, like to pay off student loan debt or they put it away for their child to go to college."
"You have two ends of the spectrum," he said. "On the one end, I have money in my pocket that lets me eat it or wear it versus transferring that value into something else of real value."
Schraeder said his organization would prefer to see people buying gold rather than selling it.
"It's a good way to protect your money from inflation and the depreciating dollar," he said. "Think about how you buy your gold so if you decide to sell it, you know what you have. Buy the highest quality gold and try to understand the price."