Tips for Buying or Selling Jewelry at Auction: Going, going, SOLD

Auctions are a good place to find heirloom jewelry

Ah, auctions. The potential of finding that great piece of heirloom jewelry, the excitement of the bidding, and the feeling of beating out the competition for your beautiful new sparkly!

Alternatively, if you have a piece of jewelry (maybe an heirloom that you’ve inherited) that you don’t want—and you’d prefer getting money for it than holding on to an unwanted piece—you might be considering selling it at an auction. You’ll certainly get more than if it were just melted down. And depending on the piece, the auction house you choose, and the market, you might do better than at a consignment shop or pawn shop.

These tips can help you get started with an auction—whether you’re buying or selling.

If you’re buying jewelry at auction

Courtesy of Sothebys

1. Look at the auction catalog. Check it beforehand to preview the piece description and estimated selling price. If there’s a manufacturer listed, check with them directly; if it’s an older piece, do some research online to see what it’s currently selling for.

  1. Don’t be afraid to handle the piece. Examine the stone and the findings. Buy an inexpensive loupe for a closer look at any markings (although this doesn’t make up for having a professional appraisal if you’re considering an expensive piece). One auction house suggests that you consider craftsmanship, design, demand, scarcity, size, color, and condition.
  1. Talk to the auctioneers. See what they have to say about the jewelry. And ask for supporting authenticity papers if it’s an expensive piece.
  1. Know the terms. Is there a refund period so you can get your piece appraised?
  1. Don’t get caught up in bidding excitement. It’s a typical scene on sitcoms, but if you’ve ever been to an auction, you know it happens. Write down your top bid and stick to it!

If you’re interested in selling your jewelry at auction

The most important first step is to know what your gems are worth. GET IT APPRAISED! A number of my clients hire me for just that reason. Part of my service as an appraiser (and any reputable appraiser) is to give you an idea of the potential resale value of your gem/jewelry piece in today’s market.

  1. It’s worth what someone will pay for it. Once you know the retail price, realize that you won’t get that much when you sell it (whether it’s at an auction or to a jeweler). Look for comparable pieces on eBay and other online auctions to see what they sell for.
  1. Make sure you’re going to the right auction house. If an auctioneer doesn’t have a reputation for dealing with expensive jewelry on a regular basis, you’re not going to find an appreciative buyer who’s willing to pay for your gem.
  1. Be ready to pay a commission. The auction house has to pay its expenses and make money. Make sure you know whether it’s a flat fee or a percentage of the sale and factor that into the amount you might get.
  1. Consider an internet auction. You might not want to auction off your most precious possession online, but sites like eBay have become standard. Be careful of fraudulent offers. eBay  has a page of suggestions for selling different types of jewelry. I also have some information on internet valuations.

Good luck, whether you’re buying or selling. And if you want to have your heirloom or your new purchase appraised, let me know.

Brilliantly yours, Aimee



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One Response to Tips for Buying or Selling Jewelry at Auction: Going, going, SOLD

  1. Callum Palmer December 19, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    I like that the article recommends talking to the auctioneers. After all, there are many questions that an auctioneer can answer about the piece before the bidding starts. Talking to them is also a great chance to ask about authenticity and stuff like that.

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