Selling estate jewellery can be a daunting process, especially if you aren’t sure of the value of what you have. At Antique Jewellery Online we have decades of experience in the identification, valuation and sale of all kinds of estate jewellery, so we’ve put together the helpful guide below to take you through what you can do to get the best possible price for your pieces.
Which Precious Metal - A Short Guide to Hallmarks
One of the most important elements to consider when assessing estate jewellery is what it has been made from. This has a significant impact on the value of your pieces, so it is worth doing all you can to determine the quality of materials used.
All modern jewellery is subject to rules which state that it must be hallmarked to identify which precious metal it has been made from. These marks take the form of numbers which correspond to the metal’s purity, known as the ‘millesimal stamp number’, contained within a border which tells you the type of metal. Octagonal stamps are gold, oval are silver and pentagonal are platinum, so if a piece has an oval stamp with the number 925 within it this means that it has been made with 92.5% purity silver.
Alongside this purity mark there may be a makers mark showing the jeweller responsible for crafting the piece. Such marks are massively varied, with tens of thousands in circulation and many more added each year. The rules that govern how and where these marks are placed varies from country to country and have changed markedly over the years. Whilst it may be possible to identify some of these with some simple research it often requires the knowledge of an experienced jeweller to know for sure.
If you are able to take a clear picture of the mark a member of our expert team may be able to point you in the right direction, but often a thorough assessment will require us to see the piece in person.
When dealing with antique jewellery it is important to note that not all pieces will have standardised hallmarks, or any at all, depending on their age. The hallmarking act of 1973 outlined the standard for hallmarking in the United Kingdom, but items made before this time may have inconsistent or obsolete hallmarks that make identification difficult.
Some pieces may have no hallmarks at all. This may be because they were crafted in a time when this was not required, the marks may have worn away with time, or repairs may have obliterated the original marks. In these cases there are a few other factors you can consider when evaluating what you have.
The desirability of particular gemstones has fluctuated a great deal over the centuries, so it’s important not to simply apply modern values to a piece. For example the deep purple amethyst is in relatively plentiful supply in the modern world, but its rarity in ages past means that it has been included in some remarkable and extremely valuable antique pieces.
Diamonds are largely classified according to the 5 Cs, Clarity, Colour, Carat and Cut but some of the criteria for assessing an antique diamond are not quite so clear. A modern diamond cut in an antiquated fashion is not terribly valuable as new technology has allowed for a higher standard to be set, but an antique diamond cut in a similar fashion represents a piece of history and can sell for a great deal more.
Some gemstones may have fallen out of fashion, or may have been more susceptible to wear and tear over the years, so if you are unsure it is always worth getting in touch with an expert to check that you know exactly what you have.
Age and Provenance
The age of a piece is the most important factor in determining its value. It is a general rule that the older a particular ring or necklace is the more valuable it will be. Pieces from earlier time periods are rarer, as many examples of older pieces will have been lost or destroyed in the intervening years.
Whilst the value of a particular piece will vary tremendously items from the Georgian era (1714 to 1830) for example will often have more value than those from the later Edwardian period (1901-1914).
If the pieces have been with your family for many years it is worth the attempt to find out when they were acquired, and in securing any documents that pertain to the piece. Bills of sale can add precious insight as to when and where a piece was found, and any assessments performed on the piece by gemmological institutions such as Anchorcert should be kept with the piece and shown to any potential purchaser.
It can often be extremely difficult to track down the exact origin of a piece. Most antique jewellery has passed through multiple owners before it reaches you, and with a high number of counterfeits entering the market an elaborate forgery can give the layman the wrong impression about its value.
Some features, such as closed back settings for gemstones, went out of favour in later years and can be an indication of age, but we advise contacting a professional if you are unsure about the style and era of a piece.
The items condition has a pronounced effect on its value. It is reasonable to expect that older pieces will have sustained some manner of wear and tear, but this does not necessarily make them less valuable. For example, emeralds are extremely fragile when compared to other gemstones, and many have inherent flaws or cracks within them due to this fact. However, since synthetic emeralds are completely clear these flaws can be an indication of the genuine nature of the stone.
Metalwork can be repaired by a skilled jeweller, but if this is performed poorly it can have a lasting negative effect on value. We would recommend seeking advice before having a piece restored. Similarly, lost stones can be replaced, but if this is done without a thorough understanding of the original piece the result can be a hybrid of modern and historic styles which devalues the antique components.
When looking to sell estate jewellery the instinct will be to clean the piece thoroughly before presenting it to a potential buyer, however we would advise against this. Any cleaning process carries a risk of damaging the piece, especially where cleaning agents have been used. Even using a little too much force whilst cleaning can loosen the bond between stones and metalwork, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution and leave the jewellery in the state it is.
Getting the Best Price
Selling your estate jewellery most often boils down to whom you can trust to give you a fair deal. The jewellers profession contains many master craftsmen with strong personal ethics, but it also contains a number of less scrupulous individuals who may take advantage of the ill-informed.
High street jewellers which are part of large chains may seem like the safest option, but these shops are often beholden to business people higher up the chain, and may be unwilling or unable to give you a figure based on the item’s true value. Brick and mortar stores have high overhead costs, and must factor this into the amount they offer, which has led many to look to online platforms.
Bidding-based platforms such as Ebay allow many users to make offers in an online auction environment but as with traditional auctions the figure offered will be variable. If a thousand people are bidding against one another to get your item then the value will rise, but if your item engenders less interest you may end up required to sell at a lower value in order to honour the agreement with the buyer.
As a web-only retailer, Antique Jewellery Online has none of the overhead costs of a brick and mortar store. This allows us to be more flexible as we have far fewer outgoings to consider when making an offer to buy. Unlike online buying platforms we specialise exclusively in jewellery, and have amassed a great deal of experience and understanding over a lifetime of working within the jewellers’ trade. This means that we can more accurately assess what you have, and provide advice and guidance that will prevent you from letting a piece go for less than it is worth.
If you are looking to sell your antique estate jewellery we are always happy to take a look at what you have. Please feel free to get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone on England: 0333 700 4500 to set up an in-person meeting with a member of our friendly team.