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Gold is the new tupperware of the credit crunch

06 March 2009 / by Rachael Stiles
In the grand houses of California's Orange County – one of the most affluent in the state – a new Californian gold rush is taking place.

Well-to-do women are getting together in The Golden State, not to buy tupperware, but to sell their gold.

Even in 'The OC', where incomes are higher and unemployment rates lower than state averages, the inhabitants are being hit by the troubles in the economy, the BBC has reported, with a 30 per cent fall in house prices and one in ever 250 homes in danger of repossession.

Reporter Rajesh Mirchandani visited the home of Stephanie West, a resident of Orange County, who was hosting a 'gold party', where her friends came along to sell their unwanted gold.

A search of the internet brings up countless websites which offer to put people in touch who want to host or attend a gold party.

In what Mirchandani deemed "tupperware for tough times", women are gathering to cash in on the recent rise in gold prices, as investors turn to gold in search of a haven from the economic storm.

Organiser Erin Stevenson has never known her company to be so busy, averaging about three gold parties a week.

Along with her team of buyers, Ms Stevenson visits people's homes, where a number of friends congregate in a way that is reminiscent of the tupperware parties of the past, to weigh, value and buy their unwanted gold from them.

"Why not?" answered one attendee when asked why she was there. "It's not an embarrassing way to sell, it's a fun way to sell".

Most of the gold consists of presents from ex-husbands or past boyfriends that they no longer wear or want.

And many are selling their unwanted valuables for fun, rather than out of financial necessity. "I have this gold from an ex-boyfriend and I just want to get rid of it, finally, and get something from it" said another guest.

Party-goers receive about 60 per cent of the going rate for their gold trinkets, which still amounts to more than $900 an ounce, and Ms Stenvenson then sells it in bulk to a refinery for about 90 per cent of its market value, which rose above $1,000 an ounce in February.

The women feel like they are getting money for nothing, as they are only clearing out unwanted gifts and unworn items, Mirchandani found, and many say that they will probably spend the money some frivolous treat that they would otherwise have been unable to afford, like a piece of art, rather than using it to meet their mortgage payments or pay the bills.

One guest, Amie Larson, said she was selling gold that was a present from her ex-husband in order to raise funds to pay for her new husband's birthday party.

The women walk away with varying amounts, with the hostess receiving $477, while others were paid around $100 to $200.

"It's $100 more than I came with", one woman said.

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