When to sell your antique and estate jewelry & questions to ask

selling estate jewelry
Recently, I was chatting with my good friend Sarah, who mentioned that she'd inherited her beloved grandmother's large antique sapphire-and-diamond brooch.

I was surprised to hear this — after all, I've known Sarah for years, and see her a couple times per month.

I've never seen or heard about this knock-out heirloom bling!

“Oh, it is so fancy, where would I wear it — to the playground?!” she asked. We cracked up.

Even if she did wear it out for a special occasion, Sarah worried she'd lose the pin, or break its delicate gold filigree setting.

We talked about that broach over a few weeks.

Sarah felt really guilt for never wearing it — in fact, she kept it in a box in the back of her closet, in part for safe keeping, but also to keep those bad feelings out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

“My relationship with my grandma has been one of the most important in my life. And that she left me one of her few valuable possessions means so much to me,”

Sarah confessed. She looked as if she were about to cry.

That said, that pin was shrouded with bad feelings: guilt, avoidance, and shame.

She also worried her mom (the grandmother's daughter) would be upset for selling the family heirloom.

None of those feelings had anything to do with Sarah's actual memories of her sweet and smart grandma.

I told Sarah about Worthy.com, the online jewelry marketplace which I've done a lot of business with over the years. You can get a quick online estimate at Worthy for all your antique and estate jewelry and watches, free.

Antique jewelry vs. estate jewelry vs. heirloom jewelry: What’s the difference?

The world of used fine jewelry can be confusing. Here is the breakdown:

For the purposes of this post, all jewelry in reference is fine jewelry: Gold, platinum, real gemstones, including diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, as well as semi-precious stones like pearls, opals, tourmaline, coral, onyx, turquoise, amethyst,  aquamarine, beryl, citrine, garnet and jade.

Antique jewelry is at least 100 years old. So, as of this writing, an antique ring, earrings, or necklace would be made in 1919 or earlier. Antique jewelry can include items from the Georgian Era, Victorian Era, Edwardian Era, or Art Deco Era.

Vintage jewelry is at least 20 years old.

Estate jewelry is simply used jewelry — it could have been previously purchased a few months ago, or be hundreds of years old. However, reputable jeweler would always use the term “antique” when applicable — not “estate.”

Heirloom jewelry items are fine jewelry and watches that are passed on through generations — given from mother or grandmother or aunt, uncle grandfather, or father to a younger generation.

Sell antique jewelry or estate jewelry: Who buys antique jewelry near me?

Traditionally, most people who were interested in selling their antique or estate jewelry went local. Perhaps they had a trusted family jeweler, or a personal referral to someone in your town who has a good reputation for buying and selling used fine jewelry at a fair price.

Starting local is a great way to start your jewelry-selling journey, but it might not be the best move to actually sell to your neighborhood jeweler. Keep in mind that pawn shops may offer quick cash, but pay just 13% of purchase price, on average.

This post will help you make the best decision.

How to appraise antique or estate jewelry

A professional appraiser does an in-depth inspection to determine the value of your rings, brooches or whatever piece(s) you take in. Usually this is done to get the “replacement value,” so you can make sure you bought enough insurance, or to help you with a tax or estate plan. If you’re looking to sell silver, gold or semiprecious gemstones, like a moonstone, tiger eye, lapiz lazuli, or an onyx, a jeweler can give you an idea of their scrap metal value. (So can a pawn shop.)

An appraisal is not the same as a “grading” (sometimes called a “lab report”). Grading takes place in a laboratory, such as the International Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the International Gemological Institute (IGI). There a certified professional with extensive, scientific training in metals and gemstones will produce a lab report that details a gem’s size, clarity, color and cut, along with information about metals, market value, name brand and estimated resale price. Only a certified gemologist can give the correct value of your brooch, ring, necklace or other jewelry.

(Already have a lab report? Get a feel for the current market by visiting Worthy and viewing the list of recent sales.)

Even if you’re not a gemologist or professional jeweler, you can try a little appraising at home. This can give you some idea of what you have before you take your rings or necklace or other baubles to the jeweler’s or send them to an online gold or jewelry buyer.

It can also be fun – sort of like a science experiment. For example, you can breathe on the stone and then check it quickly; a real diamond will not hold the fog from your breath for more than a couple of seconds. A true diamond will also not break apart in extreme temperatures, or float if you drop it in water.

If you hold a flame next to your “gold” jewelry and it turns black, it’s probably not really gold. Ditto if your skin turns black (or green) when you wear the jewelry. Gold won’t attract a magnet or float.

Real gold should have a “purity marking,” often a carat number such as 14k or 22k. Or the purity might be shown in terms of parts per thousands, such as 585 (58.5% gold) or 999 (99.9% gold).

How to get antique or estate jewelry appraised? So glad you asked.

How much does an estate jewelry appraisal cost?

An appraisal for insurance purposes costs around $150 for a typical 1-carat diamond wedding ring. Sometimes an appraiser will charge you a percentage based on the value of your item.

If you pay out-of-pocket for certified lab report from the Gemological Institute of America, expect to pay around $200 or more for a diamond ring of 1 carat, including shipping and related fees. Thankfully, there are ways to get this grading report for free.

Where can I get estate jewelry appraised for free?

Sometimes local jewelers will provide an appraisal for free, especially if you are a long-time customer, or you are in the process of trading or selling an item, or the retailer has other reasons to nurture the relationship.

Reputable online diamond and jewelry buyers and marketplaces such as Worthy.com will include a lab grading report from the IGI or GIA for 100% free. Start your process of getting your free lab report at Worthy.

Where can I get an accurate estate jewelry appraisal near me?

Sometimes it makes sense to find a local jeweler to provide an appraisal. Again, this can work for insurance purposes, or if you want an initial quote to consider in your resale journey.

To find a reputable local jeweler for an appraisal of your antique or estate jewelry, a search on Yelp, as well as the Better Business Bureau, is a good idea. Keep in mind that you can always get a second opinion, whether through GIA or on Worthy.com in the event that you chose to sell through that site.

Where can I get a free online estate jewelry appraisal?

Reputable online diamond and jewelry buyers and marketplaces such as Worthy.com will include a lab grading report from the IGI or GIA for 100% free. If at some point in the auction process you decide not to go through with the sale, a copy of that lab report is yours to keep, with no charge at all. It is important to note that IGI and GIA are objective, third-party laboratories, not an in-house technician or jeweler at Worthy, so you can trust there is no ulterior motive to inflate or deflate the price quoted.

Also, because the Worthy auction promotes the fact that it comes with an IGI or GIA certificate, that improves the buyer trust, and increases resale value. This transparency is one of the reasons Worthy has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau — which is useful for both the buyer and the seller (you).

Before you try to sell, get a grading report (not just an appraisal)

Regardless of whether you sell to an old family friend, or one of the trusted, quality online wholesalers or marketplaces for jewelry, it is important to get a certified jewelry grading first. Jewelry is a highly scientific product, and only certified gemologists can give you an accurate report on the dimensions, quality and monetary value of your diamond, diamond ring, jewelry or watch.

These laboratories are recognized around the world for their accurate, unbiased grading, and rely on very advanced technology to assess and price your item.

Often people get the terms “appraisal” and “grading” confused.

An appraisal can be done in less than an hour, and is typically used to determine the “replacement value” in insurance claims, or for tax or estate planning purposes, and is always much higher than the purchase price.

A grading is conducted in a third-party laboratory like GIA or IGI by certified professionals, and will give you a definitive determination of the cut, clarity, quality, origin and exact measurements of your diamond or other jewelry, as well as an estimated resale value.

If you are seeking resale information about your jewelry, you need a grading report. 

How to sell estate jewelry

Worthy's A+ rating with the BBB is based on its history of getting clients — mostly women! — top dollar for their engagement rings, estate and antique jewelry, watches and other jewels.

One of the reasons I'm such a fan of Worthy is that it aligns with my larger life philosophy about living simply and with intention.

As I wrote in this post about selling my own engagement ring, I believe deeply that objects have power, and how we manage objects in our lives affects our ability to live a truly abundant, happy life.

In the case of my own engagement ring, while it did represent a beautiful relationship that ended sadly, selling it for a fair price, and using those funds for something meaningful (a trip to Greece for my kids and their dad, to visit his family there), freed up a negative (and lucrative!) energy that, coincidentally, also sat in the back of my coat closet (dear burglars: my good jewelry is inside a locked 100-lb safe in that closet. TIA).

Selling unused jewelry is an act of honoring that diamond ring's origins: a beautiful relationship that produced two gorgeous kids.

Related: You may want to know what to do with what you inherit from your parents — and how to understand how much their antique furniture worth, or what your grandparents' antique china is worth. These info can help:

Sell your wedding dress? Here's how

How to declutter every room in your house — and make money at the same time

Honor your loved one by selling estate jewelry

Sarah surprised me, as when we met for a ramen lunch a few weeks later, she told me that she had sold that sapphire brooch on Worthy.com and received more than $3,000 for it!

She told me:

“I talked to my mom about it, and I told her that having that heirloom meant a lot to me, but it ultimately was a negative in my life, and that didn't honor Grandma.”

Sarah told her mom about honoring her grandma by selling the pin and using the proceeds to contribute to Sarah's twin sons' 529 college fund.

“My mom really loved that idea, since family and children were so important to Grandma, selling the brooch and using the money for the kids really touched her. She actually teared up a little.”

Sarah's mom was worried about getting the true value for the brooch, as after the grandmother's passing, the family had taken the pin to a local jeweler to be appraised for insurance purposes, and been suspicious of the quote.

After spending time on Worthy's site, they both agreed that it was a no-risk venture, since ultimately, Sarah set the minimum price she was willing to sell the brooch for and could turn down any offer.

She also liked that Worthy.com connected her with a friendly representative, Mary, who answered all her questions and didn't pressure her.

Related post: How to sell your bracelet online for the highest price

Did you inherit estate jewelry? Should you sell it?

Some things to consider when deciding whether to sell or keep heirloom jewelry.

Do you wear the item regularly? Does it give you joy and energy when you look at it or think about it? Yes and yes? Then keep it and keep on loving it!

Have you worn the item more than once in the past year? No? Not your style? Men's gold chain bracelet, say? That is an asset that is actually losing value by sitting in your jewelry box, closet or safe. Sell.

When you think of or look at the ring, earrings, watch, necklace or cufflinks, how do you feel? Perhaps your relationship with the person who willed it to you was complicated or fraught, and the memories attached are less-than-great.

Maybe it is an engagement ring from a marriage that ended in divorce, or was abusive.

Maybe you adored the person, but the fact that you don't use the jewelry makes you feel bad. In either of these cases, this jewelry is a negative force in your life — one that could become a positive one should you sell, and use the money in a meaningful way, which would honor the deceased.

how to sell estate jewelryDoes the jewelry come from someone living? Could they use the money more than you need the jewels?

Perhaps your mom or dad gave you their beloved watch or brooch, and but now struggle with medical or financial challenges that could be relieved by selling the jewelry for the highest possible price.

Money from those items could dramatically increase their quality of life while they are alive.

Not sure what you should use the money for? This is a very personal decision, and whatever you decide is an excellent move (assuming it is not to fuel an addiction, support a militia group, or engage in illegal gambling or other untoward behavior).

Here are a few ideas:

  • College or retirement investments
  • Downpayment on a new home
  • Pay off debt or otherwise pave the way for a strong financial future
  • Family vacation
  • Solo vacation
  • Girls vacation
  • Towards a beautiful piece of jewelry you will enjoy in the memory of your loved one
  • Give to a charity your loved one appreciated
  • In a meaningful hobby you enjoyed with the former jewelry owner
  • Redecorate or home remodel

Are you ready to sell, but overwhelmed by the process, or suspicious of jewelers, or online sites?

The reason I really love Worthy.com is that that it is a true, global marketplace.

That means that unlike a local jeweler, where you get just one person ‘bidding' on your diamond earrings, ring or pendant, you are much more likely to get a better price, because on Worthy, thousands of customers around the world are bidding on it, virtually. They also rank high for selling diamonds of all kinds, including loose diamonds.

Even if your local jeweler is the most honest person in the world, they are out to get the best price, just like anyone would.

The more people bidding, the better the price. Old-school capitalism working for you!

Other Worthy.com features:

  • 100% secure shipping. You don't have to worry about your watch, necklace or diamond getting lost, since it is insured up to $1 million and totally secure. These companies depend on online reviews and certifications, so they actually have more to lose than you do by screwing up :) Plus, they pay for all shipping.
  • GIA grading. GIA is the worldwide recognized certification for grading and valuing precious jewelry. In addition, Worthy's chief gemologist is this really nice guy (I've hung out with him), Roy Albers, who used to be Vice President at Tiffany, where he oversaw all acquisitions of gemstones. Dude knows his stuff.
  • You set the minimum. Before the auction starts, you determine the minimum you are willing to accept.
  • Real-time auction. You can watch the sale as it's happening. Fun, sometimes stressful, but honest.
  • Get paid ASAP. Worthy will Paypal your money

Ready to get your heirloom jewelry or watch appraised?

Start selling now with Worthy.com:

sell estate antique watch

 

How to sell inherited gold wedding ring or other jewelry?

If your jewelry is modest, and you expect less than $1,200, there are other quality places to sell your items and get them appraised fairly—both near you, and online.In my jewelry box were a couple of modest gold and diamond rings that a relative had given me when I married. Bye!

I did some research and decided to try to sell the rings at CashforGoldUSA and CashforDiamondsUSA (they have the same parent company, C.J. Environmental, which has been in business for more than 20 years, and was found by a Fox News investigation to pay three-times its competitors for mail-in gold sales)

Whether you are selling a wedding ring, necklace or bracelet, the process is simple. I sold a 12-carat gold ring with small diamonds to CashforGoldUSA.com a few years ago. The process was easy.

  1. Go to CashforGoldUSA.com and request a free mailer or FedEx label, which arrive in a few days.
  2. Receive by email or phone (your choice) an appraisal for your jewelry or gold. A tracking number and insurance keeps your item secure.
  3. Accept or reject the quote. If you reject the appraisal price, your item will be returned to you, free.
  4. If you accept the quote (as I did) you receive a Paypal payment within 24 hours. Bank deposits and paper checks also available.

Try CashforGoldUSA now >>

In short … 

If you have a valuable gold, gemstone, or diamond necklace, best place to sell is via online auction at Worthy, which has an A+ BBB rating, gives you a free GIA or IGI certification, excellent customer support and puts the sale process in your hands, all from the comfort of your home. 

If you have a smaller piece of jewelry valued at $1,500 or less, CashforGoldUSA is a good choice.

Start the process of letting go of old things >>


What to do with inherited gold bullion and coins

Often, an inherited jewelry box, safe, or safety deposit box also contains other treasures — including gold coins, bullion (bars and coins in 24K pure form), and scraps. These are valuable, and can be sold easily for market value.

How much is gold bullion worth?

Gold bullion — whether in bars or gold bullion coins — is the price of 24K gold.

Recent gold prices, as of Dec. 1, 2019: Price per 1 ounce of gold:

As of this writing, the price of 1-ounce 24k gold bullion was worth $1,458.69. A 1-ounce gold bar is about the size of military dog tag, and 24mm (0.95 inches) x 42mm (1.65 inches 2mm (0.08 inches). Check the latest price of gold with CashforGoldUSA's gold calculator.

10K Troy ounce of gold is worth $608.88
14K Troy ounce of gold is worth $854.19
18K Troy ounce of gold is worth $1,095.11
24k Troy ounce of gold is worth $1,458.69

A bar of gold bullion can be sold locally to a mint or local buyer. Where to sell gold bullion?

If you have gold coin bullion, lower-end gold jewelry or dental scrap check out CashforGoldUSA.com. What you need to know about CashforGoldUSA:

  • 35-year-old company that buys gold, diamonds and silver
  • A- Better Business Bureau rating
  • Fox Business investigative report found CashforGoldUSA pays 3X its competitors (!)

Check out CashforGoldUSA's online gold calculator on their homepage accurately helps you estimate how much you will get for your coin, and easy steps for sending in your item, securely, for quick payment of cash.

How to sell gold coins

Gold prices have stayed at record highs in recent years, so your gold collectible coin or gold bullion coin likely means you have a valuable possession. But the range of price for coins is huge. For example, a gold dollar coin may be worth as little as a few hundred dollars, or as much as tens of thousands of dollars — based on weight, rarity, quality and other factors.

A good place to start your coin sales process is by contacting a gold coin dealer near you, to get a quick quote. Yelp reviews can be useful.

You can also browse eBay to see if you can find a comparable coin, to better understand the price you can expect.

But CashforGoldUSA.com stands out as a leader in buying gold dollar coins, and collectible coins, including

  • Gold American Buffalo Coins
  • Gold American Double Eagles Coins
  • Gold American Eagles Coins
  • Gold Accent Rare Coins
  • Gold American Quarter Eagles For Sale
  • Gold Canadian $100 Commemoratives Coins
  • Gold Canadian Maple Leaf Coins
  • Gold South African Krugerrands Coins
  • Gold Vienna Philharmonics Coins
  • Gold China Pandas Coins
  • Gold Krugerrand Gold Coins
  • Gold Maple Leafs Coins
  • Gold Mexican Coins
  • Gold Austrian Philharmonic Coins
  • Gold Austrian 1 Ducat Coins
  • Gold Austrian 4 Ducats Coins
  • Gold Australian Nuggets Coins
  • Gold Australian Kangaroos Coins

How to sell diamonds online?

Perhaps you inherited a loose diamond or other gemstone, or have an estate piece of jewelry featuring a diamond.

How to tell if a diamond is real

A lab report like those provided for free from Worthy are the only definitive way to know exactly the quality and value of your stone, there are a few ways you can check whether a diamond is fake at home:

  • Drop it in a glass of water. If it floats, it is fake. A diamond sinks.
  • Blow a warm breath on the stone. If it fogs for a few seconds, it is a fake. A real diamond will disperse the fog quickly.
  • Heat the stone with a lighter, then drop into a glass of cold water. A fake diamond will shatter. A real diamond resists extreme temperatures.

How to know how much is a diamond worth?

You can get a free, immediate online estimate at Worthy for your jewelry and diamonds. A local jeweler near you can offer an appraisal, which is useful for insurance replacement purposes, but not so much for a cash sale. Your local Yelp listings, or referrals from a trusted friend are a good way to find a reputable jeweler.

Jewelry retailers like Kay Jewelers, Jareds and Zales offer upgrade services, in which they will quote you a value for your jewelry, which you can then apply to a new purchase in their store. But if you are looking for cash income from selling your diamond, gold or other jewelry, Worthy is a better option.

Related posts:

Best places to sell your jewelry online

Online diamond buyers

Estate, will and guardianship planning for single moms


About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.

4 Comments

  1. Nancy Wyatt on October 21, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I have numerous uncut gemstones (emeralds, garnets, rubies, sapphires, citrine, aquamarine, tourmalines, amethyst, rose quartz, etc.) Many of these stones are large and I had a few cut and faceted that turned out to be over 1 Ct emeralds and rubies. I had a garnet cut and faceted and made into a birthstone ring for my Mother that a jeweler recently couldn’t measure with her instruments, but it was 12×17 which she said is definitely over a 5Ct stone. I have had these stones for over 20 years and need to sell them. I mined these stones myself out of North Carolina, USA, in 1998. Do you have any suggestions as to the best way to sell these. Where I live there isn’t a certified gemologist to give me a value on the stones.

    Also do you know where one might take or find out the resale value of signed and unsigned excellent made costume jewelry and vintage items? I have some pieces I have bought from estate sales, garage sales, consignment stores, and even Goodwill and have found out later some are Dior, Givenchy Paris. Others are glass beads, quality broaches, and beautiful pearl earrings and necklaces that are at least vintage. Some seem to date back to the 40’s perhaps, but definitely the 50’s and 60’s. I plan to take them to an antique shop nearby to see if the owner can give me any insight into some of the older pieces, but I thought you may know of a way I could look up the value online for vintage items since I have vintage purses, shoes, hats, etc.

    I’m disabled now and need to completely downsize and sell most everything I have since I am on Social Security Disability Income, and receive no assistance for my medications or the numerous expensive tests and surgeries I have to have. Any assistance/advice you could offer me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

    • Emma Johnson on October 25, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      I’d use the link in the story and contact Worthy about the gemstones. They work with GIA to appraise them, and will help you sell them on their auction site. The costume jewelry can be sold via Thredup.

  2. PATTI THOMPSON on August 6, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    I have 2 of my Dad’s Masonic rings, one with diamond, the other has a red stone with the Masonic symbol in the middle. No one is a Mason, so nobody can wear them. I was thinking of having myself a ring made using the diamonds in the one ring.

    It just sits in my jewelry box

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