With the holidays over, many people are cash-strapped, and selling your unwanted gold, silver, or estate jewelry can be a great way to make some extra money—fast. But depending on why you’re selling, it can also be an emotional process. Here are five expert tips on how to get top dollar for your estate jewelry.
1. Know how much your jewelry is worth. You don’t have to know the exact value of the jewelry you are selling, but it’s a good idea to know what your pieces are generally worth. First, look at your jewelry, and ask yourself honestly if other people would be interested in buying and wearing them.
Remember, just because a piece has value to you personally does not mean others will want them. Be honest before putting effort into selling them. Obviously, the better condition they are in, the more likely they will sell. If a valuable piece looks too worn, consider selling it for the gems and/or gold and silver it contains.
If you’re selling gold, it’s important to know how gold is valued. The purity of gold jewelry is indicated by its karat stamp. Most gold jewelry, especially antique pieces, are only 14-karat pieces, which means they are only about 58 percent pure and you will only receive about half its current gold value. A 24-karat gold piece is pure gold and will be worth approximately the current price of gold per ounce. If the there is no karat stamp on the gold piece, it is usually because it is not real gold. In some instances, the karat stamp may have worn off. A quick way to test if a gold piece is real is to place it next to a magnet: if it sticks, then it is not real gold.
Just as you want to know how gold is valued, the same goes for precious gemstones. You’ll need official certification to know exactly how much it’s worth. If you don’t have certification, research what type it is and its general popularity and market value.
2. Clean your jewelry before presenting it. Unless otherwise instructed by an antique collector or an appraiser, you should clean the jewelry to make it look as appealing as possible. Be cautious, though. If you don’t know how to clean a piece properly, you could end up damaging it. The safest way to clean most jewelry is to gently scrub it with mild soap and warm water, using a soft toothbrush. Toothpaste can work on hard gemstones but it can scratch gold and softer gemstones. Never use chlorine to clean gold or gemstones. Ammonia is safe to use on hard gemstones but is too abrasive for many gemstones.
3. Get your pieces appraised in person. It’s best to get your jewelry appraised in person by a reputable appraiser at an established jeweler or pawn shop. Shop around and get your jewelry appraised at more than one location. Call ahead and make sure the appraiser is Gemological Institute of America (GIA) educated. The GIA is the industry standard for gem and precious metal appraisals. A GIA-educated appraiser will abide by the strictest industry ethics and methods to ensure that you’re given the fair market price for the piece you’re selling.
4. Understand the sales process. With gold jewelry, for example, an appraiser will quote you a price based on the weight of the gold content—indicated in karats—also taking into account the current market price, and minus a handling fee. Solid gold is 24 karats. Most gold jewelry is less than that because it is mixed with other metals. If it contains precious or semi-precious gems, that should increase the value.
5. Realize the jewelry market changes. The price of most jewelry is often based on its condition, rarity, and thus the demand for it. Gold and silver changes daily based on various factors, including market demand, manufacturing supply, and the financial markets. It’s important to understand that the price you are quoted for a piece applies to the day that the piece is appraised and is based on the market value in the industry at that time.