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BARGAINS / GERI COOK

Hunting for Treasure : Judith Rubinfeld, a secondhand dealer, sells estate jewelry at a downtown showroom.

March 26, 1993|GERI COOK

In a tight economy, more people turn to selling their jewelry, but because people need cash and sell at low prices, it's also a good time to invest in jewels. Whether you are interested in gemstones for investment or for personal pleasure, buying from a certified secondhand dealer is a good bargain route.

Judith Rubinfeld buys and sells estate jewelry. She is a certified diamond grader with the Gemological Institute of America and also is licensed as a secondhand dealer by the Los Angeles Police Department. She selects her inventory from bankruptcy sales of retail jewelers (and in today's economy, there are a number of these), estate liquidations and private parties.

When buying new--or used--gemstones, Rubinfeld reminds us that the consumer should know how to judge quality. One of the most-used rating systems for diamonds is the Gemological Institute's, which rates the color and clarity of the stones. Color is rated alphabetically, starting with D and ending with Z, and anything above J is considered good. Clarity ratings range from "internally flawless" (which is very rare, and of course, very expensive) to "slight imperfection."

An 18-karat gold wedding band with 3 carats of diamond pave (with a G color rating and very slight imperfection) that appraised for between $4,000 and $6,000 was an excellent buy at $1,900. From an estate sale, a bracelet with 17 carats of diamonds was a dazzling $12,000, while the retail price for a similar piece was $55,000.

From a bankruptcy lot, a Tiffany solitaire engagement ring, certified 1.27 carats, color-rated J and with a slight imperfection in clarity, is valued at $6,250. Rubinfeld's price is $3,250.

Some grand antiques can be found when buying from an estate dealer. From the '20s, a filigree bar-style brooch, total weight of about 2.25 carats, is $2,250 instead of the appraised $6,500.

When you are dealing with Rubinfeld or other dealers in estate jewelry, keep in mind that you are dealing with the source, which also contributes to the low prices.

Most work on a tiny profit margin and have low overhead. In Rubinfeld's case, she has a small showroom in the California Jewelry Mart.

Rubinfeld issues written appraisals and will show on location or in the showroom.

Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life.

WHERE TO SHOP

What: Judith Rubinfeld Fine & Estate Jewelry.

Location: California Jewelry Mart, Suite 419, 607 S. Hill St., Los Angeles.

Hours: By appointment.

Cards: Visa and MasterCard.

Call: (213) 627-8118.

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