Why you should (probably) sell your antique and estate jewelry & questions to ask before you sell

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. This post will help you make the best decision.

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, 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 much does a jewelry appraisal cost?

An appraisal for insurance purposes costs around $150 for a typical 1-carat diamond ring.

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 a 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 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 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 jewelry appraisal?

Reputable online diamond and jewelry buyers and marketplaces such as Worthy 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).

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.

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 broach 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 broach, 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 broach for and could turn down any offer.

She also liked that Worthy 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 broach, 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, 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 awesome Worthy 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

Related posts:

Best places to sell your jewelry online

Online diamond buyers


Some of the links in this and other posts generate a commission. I never recommend products that I don’t truly believe in. Seriously – I get asked to write about stuff all the time and turn down hard cash if I’m not feeling it.


About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. 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.

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