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Businesswoman finds gold the recession-proof metal

Debra Qualm

Debra Qualm

There’s something of a gold rush going on now, with the precious metal maintaining its value despite the recession.

Debra Qualm opened a business called Treasure Valley Gold & Silver at 519 E. Fairview Ave., Ste. 300, in Meridian last June and a branch in Nampa at 2813 Garrity Blvd. this February. She previously worked for a mortgage company that closed when the housing industry went sour.

Her husband, Quinten, who works with her at Treasure Valley Gold and Silver, was laid off from his job. So, like others confronted with the realities of job displacement, and wanting to stay closer to home and family, Qualm took her savings (she had wisely built up an account, she said) and launched a company.

She learned the gold-and-silver business while working for a similar enterprise in the area prior to venturing out on her own.

While the price of silver fluctuates, gold’s worth remains steady.

“The price of gold is huge,” she said. “Gold will always be worth something. They make electronics and all kinds of stuff out of it.”

Of course, one of the biggest uses for gold is jewelry, and Qualm has seen lots of it cross her countertop lately. Sometimes, she said, the jewelry is brought in by people needing cash to make ends meet; but often, it’s just about fashion.

“White gold is in style now, so women are bringing in their yellow gold jewelry,” Qualm said.

But she’s also seen a number of solid gold, 10-carat (10k) pins that had been given to former Micron workers after they’d reached their five- or 10-year employment marks, but were later laid off. The ex-employees now need money more than memorabilia.

So, how much is gold worth right now? Qualm explained gold is measured in troy ounces (ozt) and pennyweights (dwt). There are 20 dwts per 1 ozt.

Qualm refers to the Web site www.kitco.com when determining the price of gold at any given time, she said.

Recently, for example, she displayed a small gold bracelet measuring roughly 4.7 dwts. If the price of gold that day were $22 per dwt, that would have put the value of the bracelet at $103.40.

The bracelet’s owner would receive 70 percent of the value of the piece; Qualm would keep 30 percent. She said people shop around and find her fees are very reasonable.

The Meridian Treasure Valley Gold & Silver site gets anywhere from 13 to 20 customers per day, with weekend traffic the heaviest.

ome of the most expensive pieces of gold Qualm and her husband have seen in their Meridian shop include a 24k gold key from Korea and a piece of gold worth $12,000. Qualm said with any purchase of gold valued at more than $10,000, she must fill out a form for the customer’s tax records.

One of the oddest pieces the couple has seen was a brass doorknob brought in by a woman wanting to know how much she could get for her “gold.”

The couple politely told her that brass and gold … not quite the same thing.

Qualm takes the gold she accumulates and sells it to an Idaho refinery, which in turn sells it to the U.S. Mint.

While Qualm is just getting up to speed at the Nampa store, she employs seven contract workers in Meridian. One employee is a brother, another a close friend.

“When you work with gold, it’s hard to find people you can trust,” she said. Employees undergo a background check and training that includes how to tell real precious medals from fake ones.

Security is essential and, according to Qualm, “it isn’t cheap.” She has 24-hour surveillance, as well as alarms.

Qualm said, to the best of her knowledge, hers is the only gold-and-silver shop in the valley owned by a woman. “We’re not a pawnshop – not that there’s anything wrong with pawnshops,” she said. “We cater to housewives with broken jewelry. I try to make it homey.”

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