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How to sell estate jewelry (and not feel guilty)

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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.

If you're like Sarah and have estate jewelry you know you won't wear, you can sell it for cash to an online or local buyer.

In this post, I'll help you decide whether you should keep your estate jewelry and where you can sell it:

Should you sell inherited jewelry?

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

Should you sell inherited jewelry?

Sentimental attachment to objects is hard to overcome, especially if you loved or cherished the person who bequeathed you the item. But if you don’t like it (be honest) and you never wear it, it's OK to let it go.

Do you wear the item often?

Sarah felt really guilty for never wearing it — in fact, she kept it in a box in the back of her closet, in part for safekeeping, 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.

How does the item make you feel?

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 at her for selling the family heirloom.

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

Do you need the money?

If you have antique, estate or inherited jewelry you no longer enjoy, and need the money, consider selling it.

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 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, since after the grandmother’s passing, the family had taken the pin to a local jeweler to be appraised for insurance purposes, and were suspicious of the quote.

Keep reading to learn about the best options for getting a fair price on your estate jewelry.

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 1924 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, a 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.

Who buys vintage jewelry near me?

You can sell vintage jewelry to a pawn shop or jewelry store that sells vintage jewelry. You can also sell to a local cash-for-gold store, though they are more likely interested in the scrap metal value of your jewelry and therefore may not offer you the highest price. 

A local consignment shop may also be interested in your jewelry, especially if it’s vintage costume jewelry and not inherently valuable based on its metal content or brand recognition. 

In the end, you may have the most luck selling locally on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist — though you will have to handle the transaction yourself and should take precautions meeting up with any potential buyers. 

What's the best way to sell inherited jewelry?

Finally, we answer the question that brought you here — what is the best place to sell vintage jewelry and unwanted jewelry you inherited?

That largely depends on whether you want to sell in person or online. If you sell in-person to a jewelry store or pawn shop, you can be paid on the spot, though selling online has its advantages — including a more private experience and potentially more reviews to vet.

For fine jewelry, including high-end real gold, diamond and silver, we recommend online buyer CashForGoldUSA. Read our CashForGold review, and follow the links to get a free quote. This is also the best way to sell old jewelry that may be broken or out of style.

We also have reviews on other online jewelry buyers: 

If you want to sell costume jewelry online, we recommend selling via an online consignor like Mercari, Poshmark, or TheRealReal.

How do estate auctions work?

If you have a larger quantity of inherited jewelry or other items, you can also work with a local auction house to do an estate auction.

Cindy Rally from All Estate Sales & Auction Company in Austin Texas, says the process typically works like this:

  1. Once you've found an auction house, you'll need to provide them with a full inventory of the items you're selling. They'll determine an estimated value and suggest a reserve price (the minimum price you're willing to accept).
  2. On auction day, potential buyers will bid on the items, with the highest bidder winning. You'll typically receive payment within a few weeks, minus the auction house's commission fee.

Overall, selling at an estate auction can be a convenient way to make a profit on a lot of unwanted items, but it's important to choose an experienced auction house and properly prepare your items for sale.

Is there a market for vintage jewelry?

Vintage fine jewelry can be sold just as estate or antique jewelry is sold. For costume jewelry, sell your vintage items through a consignment store, ebay or Etsy — especially if it is a noted brand or an in-style design.

How do I know if my vintage jewelry is valuable?

To learn how much money your antique or estate jewelry is worth, you can take it to a local jeweler for a jewelry appraisal, or send it to an online jewelry buyer for an estimate, lab report or quote about how much they are willing to pay for your old jewelry.

How do I know if my brooch is antique or worth money?

Again, a local or online jeweler or professional appraiser will help you understand whether your item is antique or estate fine jewelry, vintage, or costume jewelry.

What are the tax implications on selling inherited jewelry?

When you sell inherited artwork, jewelry, or collectibles you will have to pay a 28% capital gains tax rate, as compared to the 15% to 20% that applies to most assets.

Get a quote for your gold or gemstone jewelry from CashforGoldUSA >>.

Get a quote for your diamond items from Diamonds USA >>


How do I know if my vintage jewelry is valuable?

To learn how much money your antique jewelry is worth, you can take it to a local jeweler for an appraisal, or send it to an online jewelry buyer for an estimate, lab report or quote about how much they are willing to pay for your old jewelry.

How do I know if my brooch is antique or worth money?

A local or or online jeweler or professional appraiser will help you understand whether your item is antique fine jewelry, vintage, or costume jewelry.

11 Comments

I have a strand of MM pearls 24 inch. Last appraised 20 years ago for 18,000.
I would like to sell not sure where to go.
Thank you
Pam

I have an antique silver slave bracelet given to me 65 years ago. I can send a picture if you like. My ancestry is from the middle east, formaly Palestine.
The bracelet has a coin that says in Arabic Constantine 1300’s
I would like to know how valueable it is.
I am 80 years of age now.
Thank you
Julia Jaber

Interesting post a debt of gratitude is in order for composing it I just added your site to my top picks and will be back.

My mom recently passed and she absolutely loved jewelry almost obsessed with it, so needless to say I’ve inherited a lot of jewelry. First off let me tell you about my mom, she was born 1936 and raised in west berlin germany . Her grandfather worked as a plumber and during the war when services were provided they would pay with items that were valuable. Her grandfather was paid for his services with a brooch but that is the only information my mom knew. How would I be able to find out more history on the brooch and wear to sell it?

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.

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.

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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