Selling It on Your Own

How far under retail am I going to get? I’ll bet I paid way too much! Jewelry markups are crazy high!  When it’s time to consider selling jewelry, everyone starts out confused.Selling your jewelry isn’t easy. Unlike stocks and bonds or real estate, there’s no single, organized market that reports what is selling and for how much. Fear and doubt rush in to fill such a vacuum of information. But some truths apply. On this page, I will tell you some of the thought process I give to people who hire me to consult with them.
What do I have? Small item of poor quality? Or large and poor? Small and fine, or large and fine? If you are near the low end of the scale in either quantity or quality, expect very little, sometimes even no, return. Even if you have average jewelry, increase your expectations very slowly. If you cross that midpoint, keep in mind that it takes some special attribute for a piece to do well. Average pieces will not achieve great results. If you don't know what you have, consider the next question.

Do I need an appraisal? I say you don't need a written document. What you need is an intelligent discussion, which I call consultation, to know and understand what you have. First, it's less time consuming and therefore less expensive than a properly done appraisal. Yes, a document may also serve as a marketing tool (usually accompanied by a high retail replacement value for insurance coverage). But until you see your item’s standing in various marketplaces and what it really sells for most of the time, are you sure you need it? What if your jewelry doesn’t usually sell for anywhere near what you expected? Besides appraisal or consultation, there is another way. You can simply try shopping around for actual bids for your jewelry, learning whatever you can about your from buyers along the way.

 Where can I get real offers? Here is a list of potential buyers and/or agents to find them:

  • Scrap gold buyers, found in shopping malls, office buildings, and online
  • Second-hand retail dealers, including pawn and "antique” shops
  • Estate liquidators and independently owned retail jewelry stores (usually on consignment)
  • Auctioneers, either online or bricks-and-mortar (local, regional or international)
  • Private buyers, including friends, relatives, co-workers, and all of their friends

 Is it all just a shell game, played for peanuts? You can sell your jewelry for a fair price, which is defined by its context. Consider that gold and silver have been the most common form of money throughout history and gemstones the most portable store of real wealth, realities long understood by those at both ends of the economic spectrum and everyone in between. It may not be worth what you hoped for, but consider the final value of any other kind of “stuff:” almost all clothing and appliances, most furniture and art, and even, with rare exceptions, tools and vehicles of all kinds. Compared to their original cost, and sometimes literally, they are thrown away. Then consider a gold wedding band. We know the raw material cost one price when it was mined, the finished product had another after it was manufactured, and the ring had a third, highest price to the one who bought it to wear. If you want to sell it now, you can. Depending on its quality, condition and style,  and the time and place you sell it, it will bring more or less. Remember that knowledge is not only power, but also money. If you would sell it, you must know and understand what you have, and be as patient as your situation allows.

A few more thoughts and guidelines:

If you are sure you would never pay to have your item "appraised," you may already know that what you have isn't worth very much. If you have absolutely no idea, first try to solicit an opinion from a jeweler with whom you have done business. Research! Look at completed eBay sales for pieces similar to yours.We live in a world rich in online data, so mine it.

Own beautiful, well-made jewelry signed by a famous maker or retailer, or from a historical period that has a distinctive style. Art Deco rules, but age alone is not enough. In real estate, it's location, location, location. In jewelry it's quality, condition and style.

In most gemstones, transparent or translucent material is usually worth more than opaque (ruby, sapphire or jade, for instance), but.for opal, it may be the opposite. Intensity of color may be worth more than exact preferred hue for a given gemstone species (such as vivid, very slightly bluish green versus moderately strong green for emerald). But color is usually more important than clarity; cut can change the perception of either, or both.

Make three piles: one to scrap for intrinsic value of the materials, one to market intact as estate jewelry, and one you’re not sure of. Try to market the third pile as estate jewelry, or get the help of a professional to help you. Beware that which is too new to be old, yet too old to be new. If something doesn’t sell and you can afford it, take it off the market for a while: absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Time spent often matches the return. For the greatest return, eliminate the middleman and find a private buyer on your own. If you are frowning right now, get professional help. If you're game, remember that you're not a retailer and you can't get the same price that a retailer gets. Nor, as a private seller, can you usually get the wholesale price. In consultation I give the "equivalent of current market wholesale price" as a starting point, adjusting up or down depending on quality, condition and style.

Do you have any thoughts about selling jewelry? My site is in constant revision, so I welcome questions, comments, criticisms, and complaints. Please contact me, and I will publish and comment on them.


  • Many colored stones bought from television shopping networks
  • Fraudulent gemstones bought by U.S. military personnel overseas
  • Bridal jewelry and tennis bracelets in yellow gold
  • Small pearl necklaces (except Mikimoto, sometimes)
  • Diamond ballerina rings from the 1970's and 1980's
  • Diamond "remounts," usually rings
  • Marquise-shaped diamonds

It is often possible to sell most of these things. Usually it is based on intrinsic value for precious metals and very little for small diamonds of low quality, and nothing for medium- to small-sized colored stones of low quality.