03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Bye-Bye Baubles

For decades, I declined invitations to parties where the preceding word was something like "lingerie" or "Tupperware", since I knew the fun would cease as soon as the sales pressure began. I am thankful that invitations to "attend & spend" have waned over the years; my social circles seemingly have sufficient supplies of nighties and plastic bowls by now. What they apparently don't have in adequate amounts is money.

A recently received social summons was not to buy superfluous stuff: I was encouraged to "bring my useless or broken gold" to an acquaintance's home, where I could "sell it all and take home cash." This was a new one for me; I've never left a social gathering richer than when I came in. My (non-commercial) get-togethers with friends are generally gabfests which produce nothing more than laughs or empathy.

I declined the invitation, as my lifelong lack of attraction to jewelry would yield no surplus to sell. Besides, my very skeptical personality, honed by decades of practicing law, might make those attendees relegating their bracelets, earrings and rings to refineries uneasy. Curious, I might speculate on whether the transactions might extinguish enchanting engagement stories or heartwarming holiday anecdotes. Would recollections of compliments paid towards sparkling lobes or glittery hands be tarnished by knowing the eventual fate of the melted adornments?

In my present reality, I understand the need for cash to carry on. I might be able to successfully stifle my probing into partygoers' personal reasons for parting with treasures. But I am sure it would be a social catastrophe if I started scrutinizing the situation as a consumer advocate. What host, looking to earn about 10% as a commission from the sale of her guests' baubles, wants me inquiring if the scale on the coffee table is properly calibrated? Who needs a question on whether the gold's worth is being evaluated by pennyweight or gram weight?

The evening's frivolity will definitely be diminished by my wondering if guests have had the karat values of their bangles and charms determined (so they could keep each separated), and their entire stash weighed by a retail jeweler before attending the party. If I went so far as to warn the assembled to insist that their 24 or 18-karat rings not be weighed with lesser golden gee-gaws (lest they get one lump offer calculated on 14 or 10 karats) would I receive the cold shoulder? I might even be booted out the door before I could counsel the company not to drink wine before the bead- buyer begins evaluating their booty!

I know these parties aren't all rip-offs; lots of people sell off only lockets they loathe or bracelets that are broken, and numerous gold buyers have honest or even charitable motives. But in my law practice, I see the dashed dreams and crushed credit of those devastated by the deception of mortgage scammers, and the communities brought to their knees so others might profit. I guess that's why, on a smaller scale, I would make an awful gold party guest. I don't want people desperate for cash tricked into trading their treasures for less than they deserve, giving new meaning to "fool's gold."