If you have old jewelry that you don't need anymore, selling it can be a great way to make money. The trouble is that jewelry buyers are often looking for specific things, and it can be challenging for a non-expert to know what's valuable and what's not.
To help out, we've put together some fine jewelry selling tips. We'll talk about popular brands, a few of the more valuable metals, and gemstones, and we'll even review some specifics, like gem cuts.
What is Fine Jewelry?
While many readers might already know, let's first define what makes something "fine jewelry" before diving further into how to sell it.
Fine jewelry's defining trait is that the piece in question is made of precious metal or set with a precious or semi-precious stone. It is also very common for a piece of fine jewelry to have both these traits at once.
It is these valuable elements that separate fine jewelry from a costume or fashion jewelry. Most jewelry is costume jewelry, which tends not to be very valuable.
The real demand is for fine jewelry. On the higher end, these pieces can be worth thousands (or more) dollars. It all depends on the metal, gems, craft, and brand of the piece.
Start with the Metal
The first thing you should try and do when determining the value of your fine jewelry is to try and identify what metals a given piece is composed of, like gold, silver, or platinum. The good news is that if you're uncertain about what you have, any jewelry buyer or jeweler will help you out.
Before doing anything else, check your jewelry for hallmarks. Jewelry made of sterling silver, gold, or platinum contains a stamp indicating the metal used.
Hallmarks and the Danger of Broad Strokes
The advice below can help the average person identify what precious metal a piece might be composed of; however, there are a few caveats.
First, hallmarks can be pretty complex. Many pieces might have a purity rating without making it clear, at a glance, what metal it's referring to that you have.
There often are signs of what metal was used, based on a brand mark or even the shape of a given stamp, but at that point, you may want to confirm with a jeweler that you have what you think you do.
We'll also note that a forger can put whatever stamp they want on a piece of jewelry. Hallmarks are only stamps and can easily be a counterfeit if someone had the will and the knowledge.
If you're ever unsure about what a piece is composed of, take it to a jeweler. They can test the metal and check a piece's legitimacy.
Jewelry made of sterling silver is often stamped with a 925 (or a very similar variant) somewhere inconspicuous. For rings, this will tend to be inside the band.
As for why it is "925," because sterling silver is regulated, so it must be 92.5% silver and then 7.5% another alloy in most areas. Note, however, that this isn't always the case when discussing sterling silver.
Things get a bit more complicated because French sterling silver is 95% silver. This type of metal goes by a few names, including French sterling, French 950 silver, and similar variants.
Sterling silver isn't the most precious metal, but it is still a type of silver. Due to its higher purity, French sterling also is more valuable as a rule.
Fine silver is marked much like sterling silver, although its purity will be higher. Silver that is pure or nearly so will be marked "999," "99.9," or ".999" to indicate that purity.
However, much like pure gold, pure silver is soft. It is relatively rare to see fine silver jewelry, although not unheard of. If you believe you have a piece of fine silver jewelry, the odds are good it's sterling silver, and you're mistaken.
If a piece does use pure silver, it's likely not made from it but instead using it in small quantities with a different metal composing the bulk of the piece.
Gold jewelry is the most famous precious metal, and it is measured in carats (with 1 carat equal to 200 mg). 10k indicates a piece of jewelry is 10 carats, 14k indicates it is 14, and so on.
While gems are also measured in carats, gold tends to be the only precious metal measured in carats (at least in the modern-day). Unless discussing some antique edge cases or a forgery, a "#k" hallmark tends to indicate the piece is gold (at least in part).
The higher the carat rating of gold, the purer it is. 24k indicates pure gold, with lower ratings indicating reduced purity.
While one might assume the "best" carat rating is 24k, it is a more complex question than that. Pure gold is soft and easy to scratch. For this reason, very few pieces are made of pure gold.
14k is a common choice not only for its lower cost but also for its stronger nature. 18k is also used on the high end, but anything above that tends to be rare (and quite fragile). Even 18k jewelry must be taken well care of.
Platinum is where we're forced to discuss that hallmarks can be hard to parse at times. One can't only look at the numbers to always understand what metal a piece is made of.
Many pieces made with platinum will have a hallmark similar to sterling silver. For instance, it may read "950" to indicate that it is made with 95% platinum and 5% alloy.
The good news is that many platinum pieces also will read "PLAT," "PT," or a similar set of letters to indicate the metal. However, sometimes the only indication will be the shape of the mark (called the fineness mark) without any overt sign it's platinum to an untrained eye.
Platinum isn't the most valuable precious metal (rhodium holds that title), but it is the go-to for many of the most expensive pieces.
Next Comes the Stone
The next thing to look at is the stone (or stones) in a piece. It isn't only precious stones that add value; in fact, a large semi-precious can be quite a bit more valuable than a smaller precious one.
Today, the only precious stones are as follows:
However, that information alone won't give you much regarding a gem's worth. You need to pay attention to a gem's color, cut, clarity, and carat.
This is where most non-experts will be out of their depth. You may be able to gauge the rough value of a gem, but you'll want an expert eye to confirm it.
Time and Craftsmanship
Further adding to the value of an item is simply the time and craftsmanship that went into it. This is where much of the value of antique jewelry comes from; it often took hours and hours of meticulous work to create the piece.
Of course, some of the value is about perception. The piece still needs to be well-crafted to be valuable. But, all things being equal, if something took a great deal of time and a rare talent to create, it is worth more.
Brand and Perceived Value
In both art and jewelry, it's important to remember that something is worth what others will pay for it. One of the more confusing parts of fine jewelry value comes into play when discussing brand and general prestige value.
There are a few modern brands people love that has grown in popularity lately, including:
and many more
If you can determine who made a piece you own, you may be able to gauge not only how much it's worth but also how easy it will be to sell. The more popular a brand, the bigger a catch you'll tend to have.
That said, antiques aren't suddenly without value because they're old. Meanwhile, some expert craftsmen produce pieces with a massive prestige value from their name, adding to their cost.
This will often be one of the most research-heavy steps to figuring out how much your jewelry is worth and what it might sell for. However, due diligence can pay big dividends if you have a piece from a hot brand or a valuable antique on your hands.
Finding a Buyer
Even if you can estimate the value of your fine jewelry, you still need to find a pool of jewelry buyers who might be interested in it. This process can be somewhat tricky, at least if you are trying to get a reasonable price.
As a rule, the more expensive a piece, the more time you can afford to devote to finding the ideal buyer. Meanwhile, it's going to be hard to justify putting a great deal of time into selling cheaper pieces.
The mistake many sellers make is thinking time is free. It isn't. Time is a valuable resource and one that can be used to make money doing other things too.
You have a few options when trying to sell fine jewelry:
Local jewelry stores
Online auction sites
In-person auction houses
Fine jewelry buyers like us
Setting up your own online or physical storefront
The viability of these options dramatically depends on the value of your pieces, how many you have, and how fast they need to sell.
Setting up a storefront, even temporarily, is expensive and only worth it for those who want to spend at least a few months selling their jewelry. Online auctions likewise take time, although they are much less expensive.
Selling at an in-person auction house will often only be worth it for more significant pieces. Auction houses are both time-consuming and can be expensive, although it's also worth noting that they sometimes can net the biggest payouts.
The viability of selling to a jewelry store will depend on the piece and the store. Stores can be particular about their buying pieces and may be reluctant to pay for more expensive pieces.
Why Choose Us?
Admittedly, it may seem not very objective to claim fine jewelry buyers like us are the best option available to most sellers. However, our argument isn't without merit.
At American Gold & Diamond Buyers, our buyers are experts in their craft, and we pride ourselves in offering the best price for your fine jewelry upfront.
We can also promise privacy and security. We offer insurance up to $25,000 with tracking by FedEx if you're selling to us by mail.
The offers we give for a piece are just that too: offers. If you don't like the offer you're given, you don't have to commit to it. Get your offer from us and, if you'd like, do your research to see if you think it's fair.
Unlike when searching for buyers yourself, we're easy to please. We buy all fine new and vintage jewelry styles, from rings to pins to collectibles. If our appraisers think it has value, we'll make an offer.
We Love Fine Jewelry, Watches, and More
Selling fine jewelry can be research-intensive. If you'd prefer to skip the hassle, American Gold & Diamond Buyers can save you time, do the hard work for you, and make a fair offer.
We don't only buy jewelry either. We're interested in fine watches, silver tea sets, and almost anything made of precious metals or gems.
Whether you have a general inquiry or otherwise would like to message us, visit our contact page! We also welcome you to explore our blog and learn more about the art of appraising and selling valuables.