Park Rapids Jewelry owners retire after 23 years in business
As Duane and Vickie Murray preside over the gradual closing of their Main Avenue jewelry business in Park Rapids, one segment of the market for their merchandise has seen an upturn in a recession - scrap gold sales.
"Oh yes, people are selling more old jewelry," Duane Murray said last week.
He mostly deals in gold because "silver isn't worth very much."
The couple has owned the store for 23 years; it's been in existence 57 years.
When they sell off the inventory and the building, Duane will enjoy his second retirement. He was a carpenter in Elk River before coming to live at his Hubbard County lake cabin in 1972.
"Sure, I have some regrets about having to sell out," he said.
Meanwhile, scrap gold sales have picked up recently, as customers raid old jewelry boxes and depart with collections of accessories they no longer wear, trading them for cash.
"Gold guys" notwithstanding, Murray said jewelry stores have always dealt in scrap gold as a secondary market.
He sells his to a refinery in the Twin Cities area, but said "every major city in the country has a refinery."
And he's careful to point out that he "isn't buying jewelry to resell."
He's reluctant to comment on all the high profile gold buyers that have sprung up in the last few years, but does urge caution in mail transactions. He's thinks it's better to deal with a trusted local jeweler or company because gold is a volatile commodity, with prices fluctuating daily, and sometimes wildly.
Like a good car estimate, Duane urges customers it's prudent to get a second opinion when selling scrap gold, especially if the customer doesn't know the merchant well.
He won't even quote a price because it would be obsolete in a day. He checks gold prices daily, sometimes more than once a day.
When people bring scrap gold in, "we grade it right in front of the customer, weigh it right in front of the customer and calculate the price right here," he said.
Gold is measured in its own arcane weight system, a French unit of measurement called the Troy ounce, named after the medieval Troyes Fair in northeastern France.
He measures scrap gold in pennyweight, 20 to a Troy ounce. A pennyweight is 24 grains.
Generally a pennyweight, depending on whether it's 10 karat, 14 karat or higher, fetches 10 to 13 cents a pennyweight and upward, depending on the day and the karat of the gold.
Upon retiring from the carpentry business, Duane attended several jewelry repair seminars and schools to hone his craft.
He sells more than just diamonds, watches and rings. His is a business of memories.
Recently a customer bought his wife a set of pearl earrings for her 40th birthday. He returned two weeks later to buy his daughter a gold heart necklace for her 15th birthday, which is the same day as her mother's.
Vickie expertly gift wraps the necklace and affixes a silver bow to the charming package.
And long after Duane and Vickie retire for the second time and close their doors, that mother and daughter will have lasting memories of the keepsakes that came from Park Rapids Jewelry, a small mom-and-pop shop on Main Avenue.