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How to Sell Your Jewelry, Part 1: The Three Values

Updated on August 4, 2015
A ring with a certified center diamond that appraised at nearly $100,000. I sold it for under $45K.
A ring with a certified center diamond that appraised at nearly $100,000. I sold it for under $45K.

Please note that Big Sky Gold closed its doors in December 2014.

We are no longer in business. All our inventory is SOLD. Thanks.

Hold Your Diamond Closer to the Phone

"I have a one carat diamond ring. How much is it worth?"

"Hold it closer to the phone."

You'd never call a car dealer and say, "I have a 3500 lb. car, how much is it worth?"

I get calls almost every day from people wanting me to tell them "how much their jewelry is worth". Most often these potential sellers have little idea about what they own, and even less about what experts call the "secondary jewelry market."

I've been doing this for a couple of decades. I have three diplomas from the Gemological Institute of America and, whether you sell your bauble to a jeweler, a neighbor, on Craigslist or eBay, I'm about to make you a smart seller.

The Three Values: ACV, Retail, Insurance

How much is it worth?

$300, $2000, $2500?

Take your pick. Really. The same ring. Want a value? Pick one.

A savvy seller knows: any piece of fine jewelry has at least three values; collectible or antique jewelry can have even more. If you add in other 'niche' appraisal values--estate, divorce, regional, etc., the same piece of jewelry can have as many values as cats have lives!

What do you mean? I paid $2,000 for that diamond ring. It's only worth $300? Yep, sometimes that's the cash value. Sometimes it's more, sometimes less. (ALL FIGURES IN THIS ARTICLE ARE PICKED OUT OF THIN AIR--PLEASE DO NOT USE THEM AS A GUIDE, RATIO, ETC.)

The lowest value of a piece of fine jewelry is the ACV, or ACTUAL CASH VALUE.

The ACV for fine, unsigned jewelry--please,not the signed Harry Winston--is the LIQUIDATION VALUE OF THE COMPONENT PARTS, When you buy new jewelry at retail, you pay for all the labor and transportation and promotion and storage--and everyone's profit along the supply chain. It took a lot of time, money and effort to move the raw components from gem and metals mines to the retailer and ultimately to your jewelry box.

It's worth $2000? Now we're talking.

The mid-range value is the RETAIL PRICE of a comparable item, on sale at a jewelry store today. Look at jewelry stores, flyers, online ads. See something "substantially similar"? If the components are close to being the same as your ring (gem size, alloy, weight, and quality) you probably have a good idea of the current RETAIL VALUE of the ring you wish to sell.

You cannot expect to sell your used jewelry at retail. If you sell it to an individual or you advertise it on Craigslist or in the classified ads, it helps to have a website or printout, "Sold at Joe's Jewelers for $2000." Right now I have a Tacori ring that I bought on the secondary market: I found the same ring on an authorized retailer's website for over $7500. The very same ring, lightly used, sells from Big Sky Gold at only $2100.

The INSURANCE REPLACEMENT VALUE is often the highest of the three values. It's usually (but not always) smart to insure your ring. If you lose it, the insurance company has to find something "of like kind and quality" to replace your lost item. That search takes time and money--even more time and more money if the jewelry you lost is antique or custom crafted. Adequate insurance often means listing an appraised value that is higher your purchase price: these documents are meant to last for about five years, and appraisers need to 'book in' increases in costs, as well as the rarity of an item.

The insurance value has nothing to do with the cash value of your ring.

Read and repeat the above paragraph.

Insurance appraisals are often inflated. That's great for the jeweler (makes her look good) and great for the insurer (you pay an inflated premium) but not so good for your wallet. High appraisal prices makes people like me, who buy fine jewelry from individuals, look really bad.

I hate it when I have to tell someone the ring they have appraised for $2500 is worth $250 in cash, and I'm sorry to say...it happens.

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