YOU INHERITED SOME JEWELRY … NOW WHAT?
Bags and Bags of Jewelry
She came to me overwhelmed. She had bags and bags of jewelry, some in perfect condition, some not so much, some broken. Her aunt had died, and left her a lot of jewelry. That was years ago. Her mother had died more recently, and left her a lot of jewelry, and a lot of half-finished pieces and components and parts. Her mother had dabbled in jewelry making. And regrettably, three more family members, including a grandmother she was very close to, had recently succumbed to the corona virus. And each had left her more bags of jewelry.
She tried sorting these herself, but frustration got the best of her. She knew there were pieces she would wear herself. Other pieces she wanted to keep for sentimental reasons. Parts of pieces she thought she could do something with, re-purposing them. And lots and lots of fine and costume jewelry she wanted to sell.
She felt she needed some more help in sorting and evaluating what she had. She needed to know, What she should do, How she should do it, and Where she should go to do it.
Our consultation covered these considerations:
2) Organize and Sort
3) Clean, Identify Areas of Wear, Refurbish
4) Establish Value
5) Keep and Wear, or Keep and Store
10) Throw Away
Her name was Danali. She was named after her grandmother and a great aunt. Danali felt very guilty and a few other awkward feelings as she thought about giving away or selling all this jewelry. She repeatedly asked herself, “Should I keep all of it?”
Did she have to keep it all? It was important to have this conversation up front. I told her she did not necessarily have to keep everything. The various people who gave her their jewelry would want her to be happy. She needed to do the things which made her happy, whether this meant keeping things, reworking things or selling things.
Was it her decision what to do with the jewelry, or should she involve other members of her family? Her brother asked her for some of it so that he could give it to his wife and daughter. Her step-father wanted to give several pieces to his second wife. I advised her to consider herself first. Some families have a tradition of passing down jewelry. What was her family’s tradition? Was giving some of it to her brother something she wanted to do? Since she wasn’t related to her step-father’s second wife, I told her that I found his desire to be a little unusual, maybe even creepy. Bottom line: the jewelry was passed down to her to make her happy. That had to be the guiding principle here.
She wanted to remake or sell some of the jewelry. Would she be violating someone’s legacy here? Again, I pointed out that she should do what makes her happy. That’s the legacy. Her deceased relatives wanted her to be happy and get pleasure from the jewelry which they had worn or created. Getting pleasure meant both financially and/or aesthetically. They left their jewelry to her because they trusted the decisions she would make. But that did not mean that every piece had to be preserved exactly or stored in some warehouse or safety deposit box or not be sold or shared with others.
Danali needed to talk about giving herself permission to make those particular choices which would make her happy. She needed to acknowledge to herself what she wanted to wear, what she wanted to repurpose, what she wanted to give away, and what she wanted to sell. This was important.
2) Organize and Sort
The next thing she and I worked on was to organize and sort all the pieces. There were a lot of pieces, and this took many hours spread out over several weeks, typically a 2-hour session at a time.
We went one bag or one box at a time. Within each bag or box, we went piece by piece by piece at a time.
For each piece, we created a simple written record:
a) Description of piece to best of her and my ability
b) What she preferred to do with the piece:
- keep and wear,
- keep and store,
- cannabalize the parts,
- share with someone else,
- throw away
These became the sort categories for her jewelry.
c) What I thought the full retail price would be for the piece, if sold in a store. [More about establishing value later.]
In our descriptions, we examined each closely and paid particular attention to these factors:
1. The condition, both top-side and back-side, and whether both top and bottom sides of the piece were finished and detailed, or just one side
2. The type and quality of materials used, such as differentiating fine from costume jewelry, gemstone from glass from plastic, type of metal and if there was an accompanying stamp (like .925 or 14KT or GF), and the like
3. The craftsmanship, especially for hand-made pieces
4. For pieces with better quality gems, then their cuts, their visual qualities, and whether the gems alone were more useful and valuable than the piece as a whole
5. The quality and condition of the clasp and other connector features
6. Looked for evidence of the designer or brand, such as a signature or stamp
7. If there was any paperwork associated with the piece, from designer sketches to valuations to certificates of authenticity to insurance policies to sales receipts
8. For some pieces, we listed a style or decade or era it might be associated with, and wrote down the evidence we used to draw these conclusions
The GOOGLE LENS app will let you take picture of anything, and then search its image database. This was helpful in locating similar pieces, and seeing how they were described and valued. Sometimes we took a picture of the clasp or a particular cut of the stone to see what similar things and information we could find through Google.
With each piece, I had Danali ask herself these questions:
· Did you like it?
· Like it enough to want to keep it?
· Did she have space for it?
· Were other things very similar and duplicative?
· Would a photo of the item be a sufficient keepsake rather than the item itself?
· Could she create or recreate or repurpose something of pleasure and value from any of the parts?
3) Clean, Identify Areas of Wear, Refurbish
A lot of inherited jewelry needs some cleaning, and perhaps some refurbishing and repair. It is important to consider whether you think any particular piece will benefit from this extra effort. This is true whether you want to keep the piece or sell it.
Some jewelry will benefit from a soap and rinse with warm water and mild dish detergent. Other jewelry might need some polishing up, especially if it is made from sterling silver. Of note, plated materials will not polish up and be a shiny color again. Sterling silver will.
Typically, some stones are missing and need to be replaced. A clasp might be missing or might not work well any more. The stringing material may have deteriorated. Some parts of the piece may have chipped or broken off. It may be missing a part, such as the clutch for an earring post. Old rings may need new shanks. Chains may need to be soldered.
Costume jewelry will be particularly difficult to restore. The parts are usually made of materials that cannot be re-soldered. The materials used — beads, stones, findings — may no longer be available, or available in the particular colors available when the jewelry was first made. If the piece was plated, this plating has probably worn away. Re-plating may be difficult or too expensive, given the material value of the piece.
4) Establish Value
It is important to establish value for each piece. It is equally important to use a measure of value that can be standardized for all pieces, and that is understandable.
The value of any one piece of jewelry is not one particular number. It depends on the context. The value could be the price someone would pay for it in a store. It might be the price someone who sells jewelry is willing to pay for it, so that a profit could be made. It might be the value of the materials themselves, irrespective of the design. It might be the value people are willing to pay for pieces made by a particular designer. It might be a value at auction. It might have value only for the person who owns it.
There are several standards for establishing value. Four prominent ones include the following:
1) REPLACEMENT PRICE
2) ESTATE VALUE AT RETAIL
3) ESTATE VALUE AT WHOLESALE
4) INTRINSIC VALUE
Replacement Value. If you bought the same piece new today, what would its price be? This gives you the highest valuation. It is not the value of the piece itself. This value is the least accurate standard. However, it is a number that people can easily relate to. I like to start with the replacement value, because it is so meaningful to the client. And I give the client what are called multipliers — that is, a number to multiply the replacement value by in order to estimate what value they might really be able to get for their pieces, given where they are trying to sell them.
Estate Retail Value. This is the price a piece of jewelry would be sold at to an individual who is looking to purchase the used jewelry for themselves. This value links directly to the jewelry item. These individuals expect to save money compared with buying a similar item new.
There are many sources of estate jewelry. These include people who sell used, older or vintage jewelry through Craigslist, Ebay, various auction houses, garage sales, flea markets, or other online sites. There will be quite a variety here in pricing and pricing strategies. For price comparison purposes, I like to use prices I find on Ebay. I tell my clients to use a multiplier between .40 (representing a 60% reduction in value) and .70 (representing a 30% reduction in value), with .60 or 60% as a reasonable average estimate. So, they would multiply the Replacement Value by .40 to get at the Estate Retail Value.
If the Replacement Value was $100.00, then a reasonable estimate of the Estate Retail Value would be $100.00 times .60, or $60.00. This would be $40.00 less than the Replacement Value. Stated another way: if a similar new piece was selling for $100.00, then someone would expect to pay $60.00 for the used jewelry when purchasing that jewelry for personal use.
Estate Wholesale Value. This is the price a business which sells used jewelry is willing to pay. Businesses have to take into account many more costs — overhead, rent, maintenance, staffing — than individuals buying used jewelry. So these businesses will only be willing to purchase used jewelry at a considerably lower price than the Estate Retail Value. The jewelry these businesses need to purchase have to be resalable at a cost customers are willing to spend, and which also covers their operational costs plus a profit.
Businesses like antique stores, estate jewelers, pawn shops, even some boutiques, may purchase inherited jewelry for resale. You can anticipate that they will want to at least double, and probably triple, their cost to set their own price for their customers.
The Estate Wholesale Value is probably the best value for resalable jewelry which has been inherited. This assumes that most of the inherited jewelry will be sold to a business where that business intends to resell it.
The multipliers I suggest here are between .30 (70% reduction) and .50 (50% reduction), with .35 (65% reduction) as a reasonable estimate.
If the Replacement Value was $100.00, then a reasonable estimate of the Estate Wholesale Value would be $100.00 times .35, or $35.00. This would be $65.00 less than the Replacement Value.
Intrinsic Value. The value here is set by the value of the raw materials, usually less a small processing fee. This value yields the lowest price. This price may be lower than the actual price you might be able to sell your item, so think carefully. Typically the Intrinsic Value is the value of the raw metals and the gems. Style, condition, brand, market demand, among other factors, are not taken into account.
Refineries, Cash-for-Gold businesses, some fine jewelry stores will pay intrinsic value for inherited pieces. Be certain up front, with pieces made up of both precious metals and stones, whether the purchasing business will pay for both, or just one or the other. You may have to remove any stones before taking your pieces into these businesses.
There will be different payment rates for different metals, all based on weight. An average scrap rate for gold or sterling silver will be around 85% of the current market value less a processing fee, say $50.00. They will take the total weight of the metal, calculate the current value, multiply this by .85, and subtract a processing fee. This becomes the Intrinsic Value.
The intrinsic value for any gemstone is based on the wholesale price of the gem less any cost for re-cutting, re-polishing or otherwise refurbishing the stone.
Intrinsic metal prices are well publicized online. Intrinsic stone prices are not, and there will be a wide variation on this, so it is wise to shop around.
Other Value Considerations
There are other factors which may come into play:
- Whether the piece is currently in style or not
- Whether something makes it rare or coveted, such as by a particular designer or brand (look for stamped mark or engraved signature), or is an unusual design or uses particular stones
- Metal and gemstone prices fluctuate quite a bit, and you may be hitting the market at a low (or at a high) point
- The condition of the piece
And just because the piece is costume, not fine jewelry, is not a reason for dismissal. Many costume jewelry pieces are coveted and highly valued today.
There are many online services which will value your pieces for you. Their fees and reputations will vary widely. Check their online reviews.
There are several national associations for appraisers. These require their members to adhere to a high standard of conduct. You should make sure your appraiser either is a member, or, if not, you know that person to be highly knowledgeable and reputable. This is because anyone can present themselves as an appraiser. There are no federal and state licensures.
An appraisal will
· Clearly state the value and the type of value
· Describe the item in detail
· List the procedures used to determine the value
· Specify the appraiser’s qualifications
· Have the appraiser’s signature
You will also find scrap metal calculators online which will be useful.
5) Keep and Store, or Keep and Wear?
Keep and store. For some pieces, you may want to keep them, even though you do not plan to wear them. They may have some sentimental value. They may have a personal story to tell. You might see yourself wearing them at some time, just not now, and are not ready to part with them.
I suggest keeping at least one piece from each loved one from whom you inherited the jewelry. Pick a piece they may have worn a lot, or worn on a special occasion, or represented their personal style.
You can also display pieces you love, but are not interested in wearing, say in a shadow box you hang on the wall.
Keep and wear. There are most likely many pieces you can see yourself wearing. It’s great to mix old and new pieces together with any outfit. Everything is a matter of styling and your personal taste.
A brooch becomes a pendant. A pendant becomes an earring. A necklace is remade into two bracelets. A very long necklace or a multiple strand necklace made into two or more necklaces. A shoe-clip becomes a clasp. There are many ways to re-purpose jewelry from one type to another.
You might also repurpose a pin into a curtain pull. Some earring drops into push pins or refrigerator magnets. Use in a mosaic. Embellish a cross stitch canvas. Create a bookmark. Decorate some sandals or sneakers. Use as drawer pulls. Decorate your cell phone. Add some pizazz to a purse or strap.
Lots of ideas. You can also do a search engine search, like on Google or Bing, using the keyword phrase “old jewelry into new” or “grandma’s old jewelry”.
Sell your scrap. There are places, like refineries, cash-for-gold stores, jewelry stores, and the like, which will buy scrap for its intrinsic value. For metal scrap, they will weigh your pieces and you will get paid, depending on the weight, metal value, less a fee. For stones, places will evaluate their wholesale values, less costs for reconditioning or refurbishing, and less a fee.
Cannabalize the parts. You can break up the pieces of jewelry and reuse the components, beads, clasps and other parts in other jewelry making projects. The parts may have more value as parts than as part of the piece as a whole.
There are many places, both where you live, as well as online, where you can sell your pieces.
Locally, you might contact antique stores, boutiques, jewelry stores, salons or pawn shops. Most likely they will take your items on consignment (that is, you will be paid when the pieces sell). You might try a local flea market or marketplace. You might hold a garage sale.
Online, you might check out Ebay, Craigslist, Rubylane, Etsy, The Real Real (focuses on high-end jewelry), Worthy.com (diamond rings), Tophatter and other jewelry-specific auction sites. Take high resolution photos, at least 500 x 500 pixels in size. Provide good and thorough descriptions. You need to establish, through how you present your items, a high level of trust and credibility.
Ebay especially is a useful source for researching the prices your items might sell at. If you have several items which might only sell for a few dollars each, you can group them together into a “lot,” and sell them as a “lot”.
Be sure to list…
· Description, including anything of particular interest, using words your potential customers will connect with
· Condition, any flaws, any functionality issues
· Size and dimensions
· Estimated value and the basis for that valuation
· List price, as well as minimum acceptable price
· Photos, at least 3 (front, back and side), and use a white background
· Shipping requirements, limitations, instructions
These online sites will take a 10–15% of your sales price as a fee. There may be some other small fees involved. You should anticipate these fees, when setting your prices.
Let’s say you have a lot of jewelry you like, but doubt you would ever wear it. You don’t want to deal with selling the pieces. So you might think about donating them.
First, think about any friends or relatives who might appreciate these pieces. You could even hold a party and let people pick out the things they like for themselves.
Second, think about donating pieces to charity or nonprofit thrift shops like Good Will or Salvation Army. Other sites, I Have Wings Breast Cancer Foundation; Dress For Success; Support Our Troops; Suited For Change; New Eyes.
Make sure you get a donation receipt.
10) Throw Away
Of course, your last option is to throw the jewelry away.
You do this only after you have exhausted all other options.
USEFUL AND INFORMATIVE LINKS
Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:
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