BANGOR (AP) – With the price of gold topping $1,000 an ounce for the first time, pawn shops are seeing more people cashing in their gold jewelry and coins.

The price of gold has surged in the past year, surpassing $1,000 an ounce for the first time last week as investors turn to the precious metal as a hedge against inflation.

Some people are cashing in their gold to raise money for everyday expenses, pawn shop operators said.

At Frati’s Pawn Shop in Bangor, Orlando Frati Sr. said customers have been bringing in wedding rings, gold chains and other jewelry. One woman told him she thought it was a good time to clean out her jewelry box with prices so high, while another customer hocked his wedding ring because he needed the money for heating oil.

“A lot of people are living hand to mouth right now,” he said.

It’s not just gold prices that are going up, said Lee Ann Shawley of The Money Shop in Newport. Silver, she said, has risen from about $6 an ounce to more than $20 in the past two years.

“It’s amazing how many people follow these prices,” Shawley said. “I am seeing lots of people who are bringing their jewelry in just because the price is so high, not because they need the cash.”

A Pittsfield woman told the Bangor Daily News that she found enough outdated and broken jewelry in a half-hour search of her jewelry box to net her $717 from a pawn shop.

She planned to return to the pawn shop this week with two gold coins she inherited from her father, and said she would bring along her cousin who is selling her old jewelry.

But some people are disappointed when their gold doesn’t rate a $1,000 payment, said Frati, whose grandfather founded his store in 1903.

“That’s only for 24-karat gold,” Frati said. “We can’t pay that here. We don’t even know what the market will be tomorrow.”

Information from: Bangor Daily News,

AP-ES-03-17-08 1057EDT

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