Get a fair shake when selling jew­elry

Ap­praisals range from $150 to $350 per hour, but it might be worth the cost and ef­fort

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - ELIS­A­BETH LEAMY

If your jew­elry box is a tan­gle of bling you no longer wear, you may be able to turn those baubles into a car pay­ment, a va­ca­tion, a bath­room re­model — what­ever you value.

To get the most out of your un­wanted jew­elry, you need to know what the jew­elry is worth and where you should sell it. You also need to know your­self.

“How much ef­fort do you want to put into selling your jew­elry?” asked Martin Fuller of Martin Fuller Ap­praisals in McLean, Virginia, who is a master gemol­o­gist and se­nior ac­cred­ited ap­praiser. “It’s a bal­ance of what your time is worth and what you might re­coup selling your jew­elry.”

To truly know the value of what you are selling, you should get an ap­praisal by a mem­ber of a ma­jor in­dus­try group such as the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Ap­prais­ers (or its part­ner, the Ap­praisal In­sti­tute of Canada), the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Ap­prais­ers or the Cana­dian Jewellers As­so­ci­a­tion. Mem­bers of such groups have to ad­here to stan­dards and ethics.

Ap­praisals range from $150 to $350 per hour. To give you an idea, a sim­ple di­a­mond ring might take about an hour to ap­praise, whereas one with mul­ti­ple di­a­monds and an elab­o­rate set­ting might take more than three hours. Some ap­prais­ers charge by the item, but un­der no cir­cum­stances should an ap­praiser charge you a per­cent­age of the item’s value.

Some peo­ple rea­son that they can skip the ap­praisal if they be­lieve their jew­elry isn’t worth much. If you are ab­so­lutely cer­tain what you have is not valu­able, you can go ahead and seek of­fers for it, but be­ware.

“I have many times taken very ex­pen­sive jew­elry out of a client’s ‘cos­tume’ pile and moved it into their fine jew­elry pile,” Fuller said.

One time a client brought Fuller a sap­phire with an old ap­praisal at­tached that claimed it was worth $18,000. Fuller no­ticed some un­usual char­ac­ter­is­tics un­der his mi­cro­scope and rec­om­mended ad­vanced test­ing. Turns out it was a rare, un­treated Kash­mir sap­phire worth nearly half a mil­lion dollars!

An ap­praiser can also tell you whether your jew­elry is best sold as-is or for scrap. Some jew­elry by well-known de­sign­ers is more valu­able in­tact.

Once you have your ap­praisal in hand, keep in mind that you are un­likely to get that price. Ap­praisals, of­ten con­ducted for in­sur­ance pur­poses, de­ter­mine the re­tail re­place­ment cost of your jew­elry, not the re­sale price. So ask your ap­praiser whether he or she can give you an es­ti­mate of re­sale price as well.

With gold jew­elry, an ap­praiser may tell you the “melt” price of your piece, which is the value of the pre­cious metal con­tained in it. Again, you are un­likely to get this price, be­cause the buyer must fac­tor in his own profit mar­gin and the cost of ex­tract­ing the gold. Ex­perts say that if you can get 70 to 80 per cent of the melt value for your gold, that is a fair price.

Use cau­tion if you want to sell your jew­elry on­line. The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau re­ceives a lot of com­plaints about on­line buy­ers who of­fer low­ball prices, fail to re­turn jew­elry if you re­ject their of­fer, or don’t send pay­ment for your items.

I once col­lab­o­rated with a master gemol­o­gist ap­praiser and sent ex­actly $350 worth of gold to three dif­fer­ent on­line gold buy­ers. One of­fered us $206, an­other $90 and a third $66. When we re­jected th­ese of­fers, some of the com­pa­nies then made us bet­ter ones. This ex­per­i­ment shows the value of shop­ping around for the best of­fer and de­clin­ing the ini­tial of­fer. A website called Where2Sel­lGold.com has done sim­i­lar ex­per­i­ments, with sim­i­lar re­sults.

If you choose to try an on­line jew­elry or gold buyer, check its rep­u­ta­tion with the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau. Also read the fine print of its website so you un­der­stand what you’re get­ting into. Look for things like how much time you have to re­spond to an of­fer be­fore the buyer con­sid­ers it a done deal and how long it will take for the buyer to pay you. Take pho­tos of your jew­elry be­fore ship­ping it. And send it in­sured with a de­liv­ery method that proves the com­pany re­ceived it.

An­other op­tion is to sell via an on­line con­sign­ment shop. This can work well be­cause in­di­vid­u­als typ­i­cally pay more for jew­elry than pro­fes­sion­als do. Just make sure any added profit is not eaten up by the com­mis­sion you must pay. One site that stands out is IDoNowIDon’t, so named be­cause it spe­cial­izes in di­a­mond rings from bro­ken en­gage­ments. What’s nice about this site is that both the money and the jew­elry are sent to the com­pany for safe­keep­ing. The jew­elry is ap­praised, the money held in es­crow. Once IDoNowIDon’t has ver­i­fied that all is well, the deal goes through. The site charges a 15 per cent com­mis­sion. Other on­line con­sign­ment sites in­clude TheRealReal and SnobSwap, both of which say au­then­tic­ity is guar­an­teed.

Selling your jew­elry in per­son to a lo­cal shop may still be the best way to get the most money out of it. Here, too, you have lots of op­tions, in­clud­ing coin shops, pawn­shops, con­sign­ment shops and jewellers.

No mat­ter which type of store you choose, you should get at least three es­ti­mates — and more for high-value items.

“Get of­fers in writ­ing,” Fuller said. “Then you will get a sense of what the mar­ket is willing to pay. Tell them you are required to get at least three of­fers for the fam­ily, so they will know they must put their best of­fer on pa­per.”

There’s one fi­nal op­tion: your ap­praiser may be willing to act as a bro­ker and help you sell your jew­elry. Or he or she may be able to re­fer you to a bro­ker.

Look for some­one with years of ex­pe­ri­ence and deep con­nec­tions that will bring you buy­ers. Some bro­kers charge a flat fee. Others charge 10 to 60 per cent of the sales price, de­pend­ing on how much work is in­volved.

POPLASEN, GETTY IMAGES/IS­TOCK­PHOTO

To truly know the value of what you are selling, you should get an ap­praisal by a mem­ber of a ma­jor in­dus­try group.

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