Selling Your Jewelry: Triumph or Tragedy?
Which is more fun, getting a root canal, paying your taxes, or selling your jewelry? Not much of a choice, but following is some knowledge that can take the frustration out of selling your jewelry. And answer the hard questions like: Will I receive a fair price for my jewelry? Or did I pay too much?
The two critical areas of knowledge to get the best price for your jewelry are the factors that determine the value of estate jewelry and the options to liquidating it. Does this mean you have to become a gemologist just to sell your jewelry? No. But some homework and note taking can mean a much higher price paid for your jewelry. Let’s start with what determines the value of estate jewelry.
Estate is a general term used to describe previously owned. That fact is one of the determining factors. Preowned jewelry by in large is not as valuable as new. Some people will never buy a previous owned engagement set for superstitious reasons. I have had clients who could have saved hundreds of dollars if they would have bought a preowned ring, but refused.
Jewelry is a style driven industry. Some styles are classic and stay around for decades, others last just a few months. Estate jewelry that is out of style can’t command premium price. In fact some styles are so out of favor that the jewelry’s only value is its intrinsic worth. The other extreme is that the jewelry could be antique. Antique jewelry is highly collectible and may require a specialty option to sell. Knowing if your jewelry is just old and out of style or an antique can mean the difference of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Condition is a major determining factor of the price received for your jewelry. Damaged and broken jewelry many times justify the restoration costs but most of the time damaged jewelry is only valued at its intrinsic worth. Jewelry repair in many instances is counter-intuitive. I have seen jewelry that has been mangled in such a way that the cost of restoration is minor and easily justified. On the other hand what appeared to be an insignificant problem rendered the jewelry unrestorable. Jewelry repair is one area you don’t want to be a “do it yourselfer”. Let the professionals do it, or it could end up costing you a ton of money.
Worn out jewelry impacts the value. It is a difficult repair to bring life back into a piece of jewelry. Most worn out jewelry is valued at its intrinsic worth.
Jewelry looks it’s best when cleaned. Properly clean your jewelry before showing it around. If you do not know the 100% correct way to clean your piece of jewelry let a professional jeweler clean it for you. Some jewelry stores may even clean it for free. Warning: the wrong cleaning can damage and even destroy jewelry. If your are unsure of how to clean the jewelry or gem, let the professionals do it.
Here are some cleaning tips. Never clean gold and gems in chlorine. Ammonia based cleaning products are used throughout the jewelry industry, but they can damage some gems. Try and avoid them if you can and know for certain if they well not hurt the gems in your jewelry. Use a mild soap with warm water and a soft toothbrush, then rinse thoroughly for most jewelry. A hard toothbrush and toothpaste or toothpowder will scratch gold and hurt some gems. The best cleaning tip is to know for certain the best cleaners to use on your jewelry and do it carefully.
The jewelry industry has been recycling for millennia. In fact some of the gold in your jewelry could have been in use since the time of Jesus. Damaged beyond repair jewelry is bought at its intrinsic worth. The intrinsic value is the metal (gold, platinum, silver) price plus any gems. The refining process used to recover the metal utilizes strong chemicals and has strict environmental regulations which impact the price given for metal brought to be recycled.
If you would like to know how to calculate the metal price and do the math read on, if not skip to next paragraph. The formula used to calculate the price is the metal price(the daily spot price) multiplied by purity(the true noble metal content) times weight(can be in ounces, pennyweights or grams). The purity is the karat of gold or percentage of noble metal (gold, platinum, silver). 24 karat is pure. 10 karat is 10/24 or.410 gold and the balance of weight is the alloys. 14 karat is 14/24 or.583 gold and 18 karat is 18/24 or.750 gold. Platinum most of the time is 90% pure and 10% alloy. Silver jewelry is usually sterling, which is.925 pure. The three units of weight used with precious metals are troy ounces, pennyweights, and grams. The troy ounce is equal to 20 pennyweights (dwt) or 31.15 grams. So here is an example; say the spot price of gold is $300 and a 14K ring weighing 10 grams would work out like this. $300 (spot price) X.583 (the fineness of gold) equals $174.90 per ounce divided by 31.15 (troy ounce to gram) equals $5.63 per gram times our ring of 10 grams equals $56.30. Just remember to subtract some refining cost and profit for the dealer and you can find out the intrinsic metal value for your jewelry.
Gems are an important part of jewelry. The estate jewelry value could be 99% determined by the gem. On the other hand the gem could add zero to the value. The two critical factors are the gem itself and the condition. Some gems have a higher value then others. A natural ruby is worth many times more then a synthetic ruby. Diamonds are generally more valuable then amethysts. Knowing your gem’s grade and rarity will help with understanding its value. The condition of the gem is critical to the value. Some chips and abrasions can justify the repolishing cost. But in most cases chips and scratches will render the gem unappealing and valueless. Tip: careful handling of jewelry retains a higher value then carelessness.
The overview of the determining factors of estate jewelry is style, condition, and intrinsic worth. Remember you don’t get paid for the jewelry in relation to what you paid but the condition and demand when you sell. Clean jewelry shows the item at its best and helps in evaluating the design and gems.
How to find the best way to get the most return for the jewelry?
Selling estate jewelry is the art of compromise. There is a balance between dollar paid and quickness of payment and ease of transaction. If you want the high price, fast and easy, you are dreaming. The higher the price gained from the sale of estate jewelry, the longer the time and more difficult the transaction..
Finding another consumer to buy your jewelry is the most profitable but the most difficult, time consuming and problematic. Walking into a dealer’s shop is the easiest and fastest way to sell but you are selling at wholesale or less. Finding the balance is a personal judgement call.
Each method of selling estate jewelry has it strengths and liabilities. Besides the price received for the jewelry, the time investment you have to make to sell the jewelry enters the equation. What are your time and energy worth? I have known people who have driven around town for two days just to make $20 more. Don’t over look the ease of transaction. Not all people decide to buy and pay cash on the spot. Some individuals take two or three visits just to make up their mind to buy. There could also be a measure of trust in shipping the jewelry across the country or even a payment plan could be the only way a person could afford your jewelry. The balance of dollar paid versus method of payment can be very tricky.
This list of ways to sell estate jewelry is not exhaustive. Personal creativity can show you the best way to sell your jewelry or one the more traditional methods may work out just fine. Examine your options and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks to find the very best way to sell your estate jewelry.
Auctions are the prestigious way to sell estate jewelry. There is an air of sophistication in liquidating jewelry through a major auction house. The nationally known auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and the like have pricey set up costs and standards. High end jewelry is best suited for these auctions. There are many regional and local auction houses that can sell estate jewelry in the mid range. Auctions can be very risky, because the end price is unknown, but the risk can bring a very positive selling price. The keys to selling your estate jewelry at auctions are finding the right house for your particular jewelry, knowing the best time to sell, and luck.
On-line auctions offer a lot of advantages and some risks. On-line auctions like e-bay are auctions conducted over the internet reaching a world wide audience. The cost of selling an item is modest if the object sells. Sales are not guaranteed. Which on line auction to use is a critical choice. The large auctions have many offerings and sales but it is easy to get lost in all that activity. Selecting the best category is another challenge. If you choose a smaller on line auction company, many potential buyers will not find your offering. The decision is best made with research on how your particular type of jewelry was sold. E-mail and ask other sellers if they got the price they wanted and how the selling experience was for them.
The trickiest part of on-line auctions is the actual transaction. Who will trust whom first. Normally the buyer sends funds, then the seller sends the item. The seller must also give a period of time for the buyer to return the item for a full refund. The transaction can be problematic or smooth. May all your experiences be trouble free, but the transaction problems I have tracked seem to run between 20% and 35% of the attempts have problems.
Jewelry brokers offer a professional service for a fee. Think of a jewelry broker as a hired professional working for you against a very sophisticated market like the jewelry industry. Make sure their allegiance is to you alone. Most jewelry brokers are highly trained in gems and jewelry. Jewelry brokers charge a percentage ranging from 10% to 50% depending on the type of service provided. Brokers can assist with a piece going to a top auction house or find a local dealer willing to pay top dollar fast. Some jewelry brokers also act as a dealer and buy out right for an immediate transaction. Jewelry brokers are usually found in major cities and include a jewelry and diamond finding service.
Pawn shops and secondhand dealers are another type of walk-in and sell option. Most work on a cash evaluation of the jewelry. The cash value on most estate jewelry is a percentage of the intrinsic value. The key to understanding this buying environment is the percentage. Some dealers pay close to 90% of the intrinsic value, while others pay as low as 33%. The only way to find the best price is to physically take the jewelry around to a number of shops. Then sell to the shop that offers the best value.
Consignment offers the incentive of a higher price when sold but the draw back of time. No one knows how long it will take or even if it will sell. The stores that offer consignment range from second hand bargain stores to elite jewelry stores. The type of estate jewelry you have dictates which store will attempt to sell your jewelry. If you have a high end piece in excellent condition the elite location could yield a fine return.
Consignment generally consists of a contract for the amount the jewelry will sell for and the percentage the store will keep. Some contracts have a time limit and who is liable if it is lost or damaged. You must know the details of the contract to understand what will and will not happen. Some stores will pay immediately, others pay after a set time or when you call. Find out what the process is if the store closes or moves. Many people have lost track of their jewelry altogether. Understand what the store’s liabilities are and yours. Also, find out how the store is going to sell your jewelry. If they will advertise it or just let it sit in a showcase. Make frequent contacts to keep your jewelry in the mind of the salespeople.
Newspapers offer individuals the best chance to sell to a retail customer. The classified shopping consumer, in all likelihood, comparison shops more then anyone else. They know the prices of your jewelry new and will pay a discount for a used article of jewelry. Also realize that the prices asked for in the paper are rarely achieved and do not reveal the true market value. Some times the jewelry is sold for very much less then advertised or never sold at all. But with some safeguards and timing the classified ad is generally one of the highest prices realized for average estate jewelry.
The retail customer is the highest price you could receive for your estate jewelry. The newspaper is one of many ways to reach the buying public with your message to sell. Public bulletin boards offer a inexpensive way to reach people. Look in your community or work place for bulletin boards. On line bulletin boards could also work out if you find the right one. Net working with friends and family might give a lead to someone willing to buy. Creativity is a powerful tool in reaching the public. Use your imagination and think who would be willing to buy my particular estate jewelry and reach out to them.
Safeguards are critical when selling jewelry to the public. First NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, and NEVER meet an unknown buyer in your house. Personal safety and protection against robbery should be your first priority. If you don’t have a way to meet the potential buyer at a public place, then do not sell your jewelry to the general public. Meet the buyer in a public place like a restaurant or shopping mall. I suggest the buyer’s bank, because if they wish to buy the jewelry they can go and get the cash now and finish the transaction. In addition the bank should have some security if something goes bad.
Fraud should be next on your mind. Cash is the best transaction, checks of all kinds can be faked. Also be aware of switching of jewelry, con men are on the look out for unsuspecting people.
Some other safeguards are notifying someone of the time and place of your meeting. You can even tell them you will call after the meeting just to check in with someone. It is helpful to have a mobile phone. If you have a pager it is a good idea to give that number in the ad. You get a call back number and they can’t find your home address. It is also a good idea to go with someone else. I have met people with another person standing in the background just watching. Sometimes con men work in teams and someone looking at the whole situation can see that it is a bad situation in time to help you not get taken.
I’d like to make one final point: most of the world is filled with wonderful people and everything should go just fine. Trust your instincts. Keep diligent and alert. Don’t take risks just to make a little more on the sale of your estate jewelry.
Selling your estate jewelry is not an everyday experience. Enjoy the adventure and learn some new skills. One very positive side effect of selling jewelry is you will learn how to evaluate jewelry. You will become a very wise jewelry buyer. Enjoy the journey.
Diamond & Jewelry Broker, Gemologist