Best Practices in Selling Estate Jewelry, Diamonds and Gems

 A definitive guide to doing the job right, without regret, and without making costly mistakes.

For over 40 years of my even longer career in the jewelry industry, I bought and sold estate jewelry, diamonds and gems. There is nothing like daily experience over decades to give someone a unique and wonderful insight into the many pitfalls that exist for the public, who only occasionally find themselves in an unfamiliar role as sellers.  To become an intelligent seller of items the public has little real knowledge of second hand markets.  Individuals have next to no experience in negotiating asking prices, offers and deals.  Do you think it is difficult to buy a car?  Jewelry is far more difficult and blind.  The second hand jewelry and gem sales market is very different than the retail jewelry market or the auto business.  You do not dare enter such markets with no advance knowledge.

There is literally no end to the diverse nature of the jewelry product mix. No one individual buyer is expert in everything.  No one buyer is a true best buyer for everything.  Buying and selling items in the jewelry business requires proper expertise in not only the items on offer, but very good understanding of what buyers preferences are, what they feel they can sell, what they wish to stock for inventory, and what they believe they should invest in.  Of course, one also needs to know what buyers do not want and what turns them off.  It is a psychological game as well as an expert game for all the players.

The consumer who wants to sell has special problems. They are inundated by “buyers” of all types.  Pawn shops, scrap buyers, coin stores, mom and pop jewelers, kiosks in malls, auction galleries of every size and shape, large corporations with slick advertising in fancy urban locations.  You name it, there will be a “buyer” there just waiting to peel off some $100’s or willing to write you a check.  Your problem is that you probably have many unanswered questions that need answers to BEFORE you make any deal.

You need to know the range of second hand value of each and every item. Until you know what the real value is in the market you are now in, selling jewelry and gems, you cannot know what price is a good one to accept.  You cannot tell by the personality of the buyer.  Remember, all con-men have wonderful personalities and their stock in trade is getting you to believe in them.  It is very, very easy to be victimized.

You will be offered “FREE APPRAISALS” by many buyers. You must realize that this free appraisal is most often worth exactly what it cost.  Sorry, but there is little free stuff that is worth anything.  You may find this somewhat harsh and unkind.  My tone is strident because way too many people wishing to sell are badly misled by biased advice.  If “free appraisal” was worded properly, it would be advertised as “FREE OFFER TO PURCHASE”.  That would be way better.  You can always say “NO”.  However, if you have no understanding of the proper value of what you want to sell, you will say “NO “even if you were offered the correct amount.  Why would you do that unless you have not gotten the information you require first?  This is a main and primary point of this essay.

Before you go out to sell, you need expert advisory services to best understand the values in the secondary marketplace. You need to know the facts in advance to make a clear decision.  You can’t rely on “free appraisals” given by those who might not be objective.  There is often a lot of money at stake and everyone knows where there are big bucks, there are often huge pitfalls.

The same advice can be given to the public when they are asked by retailers or others in the jewelry trade to “Consign the items with me for a period of time and when I get them sold I will give you XX% of what I obtain”. This is NOT AN OFFER to buy anything.  This is allowing your precious items to sit somewhere out of your control and at the whim of the seller.  How well do you know the seller?  Will you get back what you left?  Will the items ever sell?  Will the eventual price be a correct one?  Is the person you are consigning to a true expert or just a “buddy”?  Consigning to an auction gallery may be a bit better, but it sure is not inexpensive.  You will get about 2/3 of an auction selling price.  That is not always terrible and may end up being very good, but it may not even be as much as you can get outright from a really expert buyer who wants what you have and is willing to pay on the spot for it.

What can you do? First, obtain a real appraiser’s estimate of value as a second hand item for sale.  Only an experienced appraiser, one with second hand market expertise, can help you with this.  Only a relative handful of otherwise well qualified appraisers in the USA have such estate jewelry valuation experience.  There will be a fee for such services, but the fee will be more than fully covered by selling for correct prices and not impulsively for way too little money.  Some appraisers will recommend buyers for items that fit well with one another.  I often do that, not as a profit center, but to help my clients get the right amount of money without putting them into a worrisome situation.  If I don’t have a good buyer or situation for what you wish to sell, that’s what I tell you.  Not every sale is easy.  Most of the time, sales made easily without market value knowledge, are not for a proper amount of money.  That’s human nature, but we can often defeat our failings with better advice and a bit of education.

Have I gotten your attention? This was not written to scare anyone, but instead to encourage you to investigate the value BEFORE you sell.  Knowing the real range of value will make the sales process easier and safer.

My time can be yours by appointment.    David Atlas    datlas@datlas.com  1-215-385-0258