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Where to Sell Your Diamond Ring--Time vs. Money (How to Sell Your Jewelry,Part III)

Updated on April 11, 2015

It Hurts

It's more than money.

The value of a diamond ring goes beyond its cash value. Whether it's grandma's old solitaire, the wedding set from your first marriage or the sparkling spoils of a broken engagement, sometimes it's not easy to sell a diamond ring.

A diamond is forever, like the slogan says. Diamonds are very enduring, and most often, despite not being worth as much as you had hoped, they do retain some cash value. When it's time to sell your diamond, it helps to know the best venue.

Potential Buyers for your Ring: Retail Jewelers

As I mentioned in previous posts, a used engagement ring can be a tough sell. Most brides-to-be don't want a "used" ring, especially if it's from a relationship that...uh..."didn't work out."

Some antique or vintage rings are easier to sell, since the joy or misery that they represent tends to be pretty stale...but the halo ring from your broken engagement, or that two-tone job from your wedding in 1997, well...those rings scream, "second-hand."

You might think it's a good idea to take the ring back to where you bought it. You paid $5000 for it in 1997; it was appraised for $11,000 recently. Maybe you can double your money! Not so fast.

Retail jewelry is an expensive business, and the markups are often (not always, but often) justifiable. MOST RETAIL JEWELERS DO NOT BUY BACK DIAMOND RINGS, PERIOD.

The worst retailers are the ones that will tell you that you "ought to get $XXXX" from the ring, but gee whiz, not from them--not from their jewelry store.

Here's a little scenario: A jeweler buys a new ring from a supplier for $2500. She puts a sign on it that says $10,000 and sells it for 'half off' at $5000. She appraises it for $12,000. Everyone's happy.

Two years later, the couple splits up. The bride comes back to sell the ring for its 'appraised value'. She'll probably understand when the jeweler declines to pay more than she charged the client for the ring a few years back.

"How about giving me what I paid for the ring?" Most sellers understand that we're in business to make a profit, but most consumers are shocked to find out that bricks and mortar retail stores can't offer you $4500 on a ring that you bought for $5,000. Remember, the NEW price on the ring, from the manufacturer to the retailer, was $2500. Now, it's 'used'. It may need repairs, and it will almost certainly need some restoration before it's resold. It may be out-of-style, too.

Can the jeweler offer $2500, the manufacturer list price, for this used ring? Probably not. Despite increases in the price of gold, the 'secondary diamond market' (used diamonds) is glutted. And you, the buyer, most often lose all the labor and craftsmanship costs for the ring when it is resold. Your ring is "used" whether it's been worn or not. When you buy a ring, you pay for all the labor that goes into making it. When you sell a ring, unless it's signed Cartier or Tiffany, it's just the diamonds and the precious metal value. Picture, instead of a ring, a pile of gold and a loose shiny rock. That's what most people are selling, whether it's swirly or ornate or made by the nicest goldsmith in town.

When the jeweler offers you $1500 for your $5000 ring, you are going to be upset. Most jewelers avoid unpleasant conversation (and losing a future buyer) by turning sellers away.

Potential Buyers: All in the Family...or at the Workplace

You'll get a better price when you sell to an END CONSUMER, not someone who has to re-sell through a supply chain.

THESE WORKPLACE POSTINGS and FAMILY SALES tend to work best BEFORE a JEWELRY HOLIDAY! (Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, etc.). Mention the upcoming holiday in your bulletin board posting.

Post a photo and accurate description, (see my previous post about how to describe your ring).

You don't even have to put your name on the listing. If you have a big diamond for sale, it could be worth it to buy one of those cheap cell phones, and put rip-off tabs with the phone number at the bottom. "Calling about the diamond ring? Leave your number and I'll contact you."

Potential Buyers for Your Ring: Pawn Shops

Pawn shops not only pawn rings, they also buy outright.

If your diamond is small and imperfect, and no one in your workplace or family wants the ring, this may be your only choice to cash out.

That $5000 may net you less than $500 from a pawn shop, however. Brace yourself. If you have time, do some comparison shopping, too. Find a pawn shop with someone who is more skilled at diamond grading if you can.

There are some pawn shops that specialize in jewelry. Call. Ask. Used to be that pawn shop owners would instruct their clerks to pay "a dollar a point" ($100 for a nice 1 carat), but pawn buyers these days can be very savvy, and a few are surprisingly competitive.

Potential Buyers: Wholesale Jewelers

Legitimate wholesalers buy rings all the time. Wholesalers always insist on proof of ownership, and we'll walk you through the process, including managing expectations.

WHOLESALE JEWELERS WILL NOT OFFER YOU THE HIGHEST PRICE, because we have to sell to jewelry stores at levels below manufacturers. But if you are looking to liquidate, and you don't have the patience to wait for months, and you are concerned about privacy or security, you can walk your diamond ring into a legitimate wholesaler and walk out with a check. Chances are excellent that a wholesaler will give you much more than a pawn shop.


Potential Buyers: eBay, Craigslist and Online Marketplaces

I used to sell on eBay, but I haven't sold diamond rings in that forum for years. If you are a member of eBay, put in the variables for your diamond ring, go to ADVANCED options, and check out SOLD ITEMS. You can list a one carat diamond for $25,000 if you want; good luck getting buyers at that price! The GREEN prices on the SOLD ITEMS category on eBay will give you a realistic impression of actual sales in that venue. You'll see how low the prices are...and the descriptions? I've had people come into my office with items from high rated eBay sellers that are woefully overgraded. As a seller, be prepared for complaints. If, however, you have something very unique (always a plus on eBay!), you might get lucky.

I'm not qualified to evaluate Craigslist. I tried to sell some diamonds and Yogo Sapphires on Craigslist a couple of years ago, and I got some enthusiastic buyers who wanted me to take credit cards from Florida, and ship the items to Singapore. Yeah, right. If the buyer is LOCAL, they might be serious. ***If you choose to meet a stranger to sell your valuables, please be very careful about security issues.***

Potential Buyers: Consigning with a Jeweler, etc.

I don't consign.

Once, many years ago, I consigned a 3/4 carat diamond from a divorced woman. After a couple of months, when it didn't sell, she came back and insisted, despite a 'plot' on her receipt, that I had switched diamonds on her. When she left in tears, I was a nervous wreck.

When she came back with the police, I was furious. I was able to demonstrate, via an accurate plot, that it was either her diamond, or the "evil twin of her diamond". (This didn't get a laugh).

I used to buy. If you didn't want to sell it to me, you took it with you. (I'm retired now).

The moral of consignment is: GET A PLOT. Check the diamond under the scope. If you have a VVS clarity diamond that's not inscribed, and you don't trust the jeweler, for goodness' sake don't leave the diamond there.

Consignments are likely to yield a better return, but you MUST be patient, and you might wind up pulling the diamond from the jewelry store to sell to a wholesaler (I'd say about 1/3 of my diamond buys came from failed consignments).

Potential Buyers: WARNING! DO NOT TRADE

That ring you have on your finger, whatever it is, I'll find you a jeweler who will give you $10,000 for it. Even if it's a paper cigar band, I promise.

The kicker?

If it is a paper cigar band, I'm going to add the entire $10,000 to the purchase price of the next ring. If it's a 1/2 carat diamond with a cash value of $600, I'll just add $9,400 to the price of the next ring.

THIS IS HOW TRADES WORK in the jewelry biz.

I have had people tell me that a mall jeweler will 'trade up' their old diamond ring, and when I work up what I'd charge for a replacement, it's not unusual that I'd charging LESS and you got to KEEP your old ring, to boot!

If you only remember one thing from this blog, it's this: Don't trade. Get cash offers, and cash prices for a new ring.


If you have a significant diamond or an impressive collection, or even a ring with PROVEN provenance (it belonged to Mae West and you have a photo of her wearing it, and a letter from your great-great uncle saying she traded it to him for a 1939 Packard), then go for it.

Google 'jewelry auctions' and wade through the old catalogs (online, you can look for free) to get an idea if they might be interested. If you think you have something special, call Sotheby's, Christies, or one of the smaller houses.

It takes time to evaluate items for auction and auctions occur several times a year. You need to have an adequate time window to submit an item for a jewelry auction.

Remember the auction house doesn't do this for free. Read their websites, read their contracts. Don't just send them your precious heirloom and expect a fat check.

You Can Sell Diamonds at a Profit

Now that I have your attention, let me explain.

If you buy the right diamond from the right dealer, and economic circumstances favor hard assets, I've seen people make money on diamonds. Not often, but it happens.

It almost NEVER happens when people buy at retail, even when diamonds are "on sale." Smaller diamonds, almost always, are not a good storehouse of value (white diamonds under a carat, especially, are ho-hum or "OMG, it's worth what???).

Natural Fancy Color (certified GIA) Diamonds can be excellent investments. Be ready to lay out a half million dollars or more for this type of loose diamond investment.

Important white diamonds over 5 carats can be excellent storehouses of value, and are often sold at very transparent, low margins. Though I'm retired, I'm happy to work on a tiny commission for a big sale, and it helps to have a 'picky professional' on your side when you are laying out big bucks.

Every few weeks I get a variation on this request : "Next time you get a great deal in an ideal cut G.I.A. certified round diamond, call me!"

News flash: No one likes you well enough to offer you a diamond at a loss...and no dealer is going to buy your diamond at a price that will not allow a fair profit.

When you're trying to sell, please understand the realities of the marketplace, and look around you: larger economic factors play a role, too.

One of the best strategies for selling a diamond is NOT to sell it. If you need the money, that's one thing, but if you're bored with it, remember, it doesn't take up much space, and, with the exception of 2008-2012, bigger diamonds had been clicking up at 2 to 5% per year. Better a cash asset in the kitty than a loss on the books.

If you still want to sell, consider the equation: time vs. money. If you want money now, a wholesale jeweler is your best bet. If you have time, try to find an 'end buyer'. If you have something really special, consider an auction.

Good luck selling your diamond!

Catch up!

If you haven't read my first two posts on this subject, you might want to catch up.

Diamond rings have (at least) three values. Read about ACV, market value and insurance replacement value here:

If you want to write an ad for a Craigslist, eBay or Pennysaver listing, read this post:


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