Your old jewelry might be worth many thousands of dollars, especially after recent run-ups in the prices of precious metals and gems. Gold, platinum, diamonds of one carat and more, natural pearls, rubies, emeralds and sapphires all have soared to new record values in the past two years.

Example: Gold recently hit $924 per ounce.

For many people, it may be painful to part with jewelry, especially if it has sentimental value. But if you have items that you no longer wear and don’t want to pass down — or if you are strapped for cash — today’s high prices may be tempting.

What you need to know to make the best deal…


Before you try to sell, pay a qualified independent appraiser to tell you what you have and what it is worth. Check with one of these organizations…

American Society of Appraisers. Ask for a Master Gemologist Appraiser (trained to appraise all types of jewelry) in your area. 703-478-2228,

American Gem Society. Ask for a list of independent certified gemologist appraisers in your area. 866-805-6500,

National Association of Jewelry Appraisers. Ask for certified senior members or certified master appraisers. 718-896-1536,

Appraisers usually charge $75 to $150 per hour and can estimate what the appraisal will cost before you agree to have the appraisal done. Appraisals of jewelry with colored gemstones can be the most complex and expensive. Ask your appraiser for your jewelry’s fair market value, which will be approximately half of the current wholesale value (the price a jewelry retailer would pay a distributor). Fair market value is your target for selling your jewelry. This figure will be much lower than its retail replacement value (the amount a jewelry store would charge).

Avoid unaccredited appraisers, jewelry store appraisers and auction house appraisers. Conflicts of interest and/or inadequate training might make their appraisals worthless. (If the only accredited appraiser nearby is affiliated with a store, this is still better than nothing.)


After you get the appraisal, ask the appraiser for his/her opinion about how to sell this jewelry. Among the options…

Major auction houses, such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, are appropriate if your jewelry is distinctive or valuable (worth $10,000 or more).

If you have auction-quality jewelry, consider asking your appraiser to serve as your consultant during the auction process. A consultant can help you obtain favorable terms on the auction house’s fees and establish an appropriate reserve price — the minimum you require to accept a bid. Expect to pay the consultant $75 to $150 per hour plus travel expenses. (If your appraiser does not offer auction-consulting services, ask him to recommend someone.)

eBay, the Internet auction site, could work well if your jewelry is worth less than a few thousand dollars and you are willing to invest a few hours in the sale process. Some potential buyers might not trust you if you don’t have a long positive track record of eBay transactions. Even if you have a good record, presentation of the jewelry is vital on eBay. You won’t get a fair price unless you post photos that are sharp and well-lit. Include shots of the back and sides of the jewelry, as well as the front and top. Also include explicit details from your appraiser’s report in your description.

Caution: Some eBay jewelry bidders are scammers. Do not send your jewelry to the winning bidder until the payment has been completed through PayPal. It is risky to accept a regular check. If a buyer insists on seeing your jewelry in person before paying, ask him to put his payment in escrow, then arrange through your appraiser to have the item sent to an appraiser in the buyer’s area. The escrow company will confirm the seller’s payment and hold the money until the buyer accepts your merchandise. It is safest to use, eBay’s preferred escrow service. If the buyer wants to return the jewelry after he has received it, have your appraiser confirm that the gems haven’t been replaced with cheaper ones or fakes.

Helpful: Set a reserve price so that your jewelry does not sell for less than what you consider acceptable.

An estate dealer who specializes in jewelry is an appropriate buyer for people who prefer to avoid the risks and time commitment of an eBay auction. Ask your appraiser to recommend reputable local estate jewelry dealers. An honest estate dealer might pay about one-half the wholesale price.

A jewelry store is unlikely to pay you an attractive price, but it might take your jewelry on consignment. This is particularly likely if you are a regular customer and the jewelry is both desirable and distinctive enough that it does not directly compete with the store’s other merchandise. Ask about the store’s commission in advance, and get the terms of the consignment agreement in writing. When a consignment item sells, a reputable jewelry store might take a 30% commission.

A private buyer. Experienced appraisers know the tastes of serious jewelry collectors in their areas and sometimes arrange meetings with sellers. Ask your appraiser about potential buyers only after you receive your appraisal. Asking sooner creates a conflict of interest if the appraiser also represents the buyer.