Selling Personal Jewelry – A Guide

Making the decision to sell personal jewelry can be difficult and is often fraught with emotion. The impetus to sell may come from financial need, a desire to make a clean break with the past, or downsizing your belongings. Regardless of the reason, selling personal jewelry is best done with some planning. A logical and thoughtful plan will ensure you make good decisions, get the most for your pieces, and help prevent emotion from clouding your judgment.  This article discusses basic planning steps and tips for finding a buyer for your fine jewelry.

Planning

First, consider the reason and urgency for selling. If it is for financial reasons, you may be in a hurry. Rushing to sell will almost always reduce how much you receive for your jewelry.  Ask yourself if you are really ready to part with the jewelry and if not, are there any other options. At the very minimum, give it a night and sleep on it before you head out the door. Even if you feel you have no other choice, you can still gain something from a little planning and investigation. If you are not in a hurry, you may have more options.

Regardless of the urgency, you should start by assessing what you have. Is there an appraisal for the piece?  Do you have a receipt from the original purchase, or does the person who bought it know what they paid? Any documentation can provide a starting point. Are there markings on the piece that show the gold purity? Do you know what kind of gemstones are set in the jewelry?

Knowing what you have ensures your buyer doesn’t take advantage of you. Gather documentation and find something you can use to get a closer look at your jewelry. This can be a magnifying glass, a jeweler’s loupe, or even a digital camera on your phone.  It’s also helpful to have a small digital scale that measures in grams, especially if you are planning to sell multiple pieces. Make sure you know the following about each piece of jewelry you want to sell:

  1. The type and purity of metal (gold, platinum; 10K, 14K, etc.)
  2. A list of other markings you see – maker’s marks, initials, symbols or trademarks
  3. The weight of the item – this should be in grams
  4. How many gemstones and of what type or color (Gemstones of the World is a good reference book)
  5. The size of your gemstones in millimeters to determine carat weight

Metal Purity Marks

Maker's mark and Gold purity mark example - vintage

Makers Mark & Gold Purity Mark on a Vintage 18K Gold Brooch by Tiffany & Co. Italy

Unless your jewelry is very old or the marks have worn off (such as on on long-worn wedding ring), if it is made of gold, it should have a purity mark on it. In the US, the mark for gold will be shown in karats, typically 10K, 14K or 18K. If it was made in Europe, you may see a number instead – typically 416, 585 or 750. All of these show the amount of gold in the metal alloy used to make your jewelry.

The more gold it has, the more your jewelry is worth, so a piece with an 18K or 750 mark will net you more money than one with a 10K or 416 mark (see our guide to jewelry marking for a more thorough explanation of gold purity marks).

If you can’t find a mark, you can order a metal testing kit for less than $10 online.

 

Makers Marks

Selling Personal Jewelry - Gold Purity and Makers Mark

Gold Purity and Maker’s Mark on a Modern Citrine and 14K Gold Ring

Some jewelry markings can help identify a designer or company. Pieces made by some of the more well known jewelers such as Tiffany & Company or Cartier, will command a higher price.

Modern jewelry often has clearer markings which are easier to read because they were laser etched. Regardless of the age of the piece, you may need some form of magnification to read it. A 10X jewelers loupe is simple, inexpensive and effective.

If you have a smart phone, try taking a picture of the mark and then enlarging it.  Be sure to take the photo at enough distance that the entire piece is in focus. Pinch and zoom after you’ve taken the picture to see the details.

Make a note of what you find so you can reference it later.

 

Weighing Jewelry

Many gold and jewelry buyers are primarily interested in the precious metal content of your jewelry. Once you know it’s karat content and weight, you can estimate the gold value. With today’s price of gold, a tiny difference of a gram will change the value. The only way to be precise is to use a digital scale designed to measure in fractions of a gram. Any buyer will have one on hand, but knowledge is power and if you measure it first, you know what you’re selling. The best bet is a jewelry scale.  Some kitchen scales will work for larger objects, but most won’t register with enough accuracy for a small piece of gold.

Assuming your jewelry is mostly gold with only a few stones, you can estimate the amount of gold from the weight in grams and the karat purity. The simplest way is to use a scrap gold calculator online that does the math for you. Remember that 9 grams of 14K gold isn’t 9 grams of pure gold. If your jewelry is 14k, that means it’s 58.5% gold. So a 9 gram piece of jewelry stamped 14k contains 5.27 grams of pure gold (9 *.585  = 5.27) .

Gemstones

Identifying gemstones can be tricky. Even for a trained professional, it can be difficult to correctly determine what gemstones are in your jewelry without specific equipment or testing. Your stones can be natural, natural with enhancement/treatment, synthetic, or simulated. As you can imagine, there is a vast difference in value among them.

Natural, brilliantly colored stones or clear diamonds typically have the highest value. Some enhanced or treated stones are still very valuable since treatment is routine and expected. For example, natural blue diamonds are usually pale and murky. The beautiful bright blue diamonds you see in stores have been irradiated to achieve that color.

An appraisal is the best way to confirm the stones in your jewelry. If you don’t have one but believe your jewelry is worth a great deal, consider paying for one. Click here for more about the cost and benefits of appraisal when selling jewelry.

You can  also take your jewelry to a jewelry store. Some are willing to tell you what you have and give you a rough estimate of what they are worth. This varies depending on the store and whether you already have a relationship with them.

Carat Weight

Determining stone size is most important when selling diamonds, versus other stones. You can get a rough estimate by using a measuring tape with millimeters and an online gemstone weight calculator. A reputable jeweler estimates value based on weight and quality. Other places that buy gold, such as pawn shops and gold buying stores, typically give a rough overall estimate based on carat weight only. This means they aren’t going to offer a premium for an VVS1, E color diamond over an S1, G color diamond. If you have a truly spectacular gemstone in your piece, avoid these dealers.

Selling Personal Jewelry – Options

You have a few options when trying to sell your jewelry. Below is a brief overview of each, with pros and cons. Remember that your hurry to sell determines which method you chose, and therefore, how much money you will get for your pieces.  When selling to individual, you will typically get a little more money since there is no middle man to take a share of the profit but this will take you longer. When selling to a store of any kind, remember that they are covering their overhead costs so they need to offer you much less than they expect to sell the jewelry for.

Craigslist

Craiglist Photo

Craigslist is free and fairly simple to use

Selling on Craigslist is a quick and easy option for individuals looking to sell one or two pieces. You can post pictures, describe your item in detail, and reach a geographic audience near you. It’s free, simple to use, and allows you to communicate with potential buyers through email forwarding, which prevents someone from tracking you down individually or having your personal phone number. People expect to pay around 20-30% of retail value when using Craigslist for a quality item. This means if your ring was originally  $1000 at the store (not on sale), you can probably get around $200- $300 from a buyer. Be sure you write a
good description, giving as much detail as possible. If you have an appraisal, put up a picture of that too. Use good lighting for photos and remember to give specifics on the amount of gold, weight and number of stones, and an original purchase price information if you  have it.

Once you find a buyer, only meet at a safe place to exchange money. A police station, bank, or other visible public  place with cameras is best. Cash is best since you’ll likely never track down a bad check. You could have a buyer in days, or it could take a month or more depending on your asking price and the uniqueness of your item.

Ebay

Ebay is a great option because it opens up your potential buyers list to a global market, assuming you are willing to ship internationally. You’ll have to create an account and follow their guidelines in order to sell. Buyers can use an online form of payment, such as PayPal, which expands payment options for them. You will also need to set up a PayPal account to receive the

Ebay is an easy way to sell estate jewelry

Ebay is a relatively easy way to sell estate jewelry

money. Selling options include set-price listings and auction-style listings. Spend some time on the Ebay website to learn more about the different options.

Pricing on Ebay is also dependant on demand. Search for previously sold listings to see what similar jewelry pieces have sold for in the past. Check current listings to see what your competition is. Remember that online sales depend on good detail so remember those good photos and specifics in your description. Ebay charges a small amount for your listing, and takes a percentage of the sale when the jewelry sells, typically around 10%.

Jewelry Stores

Some jewelry stores will buy estate jewelry (anything that is pre-owned counts as an estate piece) from individuals. Call around to find out who buys in your area. They will typically give you 10% of the appraised price, so having an appraisal before you go can help. If you are working with a reputable jeweler, expect to get a fair estimate of value.  The other advantage of going to a jewelry store is that they can identify your gemstones and quickly estimate size and quality. Be sure to ask friends and colleagues for their recommendations, or check sites like Yelp and Google to see which jewelers others recommend.

Pawn Shops & Gold Buyers

As mentioned earlier, pawn shops and gold buyers are primarily interested in the amount of precious metal in your jewelry. They are the quickest option for selling but they also give you the least amount of money. They will want to test the metal, often with a Gemstone Ringsscratch test, so expect them to rub a small amount of gold on a stone to test. The scratch can be rubbed out later if you choose not to sell. Expect to receive a little less than melt value for gold jewelry and $3-4 per point on diamonds. This means that if you have a .5 carat diamond set in a 14k  gold ring that weighs 6 grams, they are going to offer you between $200 and $300.
For gemstone rings, the buyer will likely weigh the ring and offer you just under melt value for the entire piece. Gold weighs a lot more than your gemstones so the amount of stone weight is negligible. These buyers are not concerned with value associated with the age, uniqueness, or workmanship of the piece

 Consignment Shops

Selling via consignment is a great option if you don’t want the hassle of selling yourself, and if you have the time to wait for a sale. A consignment shop gets a portion of the sale of your items, usually from 20-40%. Because they take a percentage, their goal is to sell the item for the most money possible. As a formal business, they drawn from a larger client base, including those who are skeptical of buying from an individual. Some consignors sell online and in stores, which means the potential buyer pool spans the globe.

Consignment is a great option for a selling personal jewelry, especially a special piece of jewelry, such as an antique ring, or something of exceptional quality. The cost of advertising, showing and storing the jewelry is borne by the consignment shop and comes out of their share of the sale.  Do a little homework before you choose a store. Be sure to look for a one with a verifiable business license, online reviews and/or a good Better Business Bureau rating. Ask friends and colleagues for a referral. Be sure to read the consignment agreement thoroughly before signing and ask what provisions are in place in the event of a theft or damage to your pieces.

Things Grandma Kept buys jewelry from individuals, but unlike most stores, we consider the overall value of the piece when making an offer. Because we don’t have a retail store, our  overhead is lower, often allowing us to pay more than others.  We also offer consignment sales, both in our online store and through estate auctions. For more information, contact us online or call 509-434-6054.

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