All you need to do is turn on the television, listen to the radio or walk past a jewelry mall to know. "The scrap jewelry market is huge, huge, huge," says Reyne Haines, an appraiser who specializes in 20th century decorative arts. Have an old wedding band or other valuable (though no longer worn) piece cluttering up your jewelry box? We asked Haines for her advice on how to appraise, consign, sell it on your own or mail it in to one of the many gold-buying companies that have sprung up out of the ether in recent months.
What if you don't even know what you've got? How can you tell that your jewelry is real?
If you don't know and you're looking to sell these things yourself, there are gold testers and diamond testers you can buy on the Internet. There are also scales so you can weigh things. Gold is going to be marked. Depending on what karat it is, it should be a certain color and weight.
There's no easy way for me to tell you how to tell a diamond from a fake. A diamond tester is the best place to start. The diamond tester won't tell you the clarity or the color, but it will get you started. The smaller diamonds, the clarity and the color don't matter so much because they're small. It starts to make a difference when you're taking about diamonds that are a carat or more.
Is it a good idea to hire an appraiser?
Let's say you inherited your grandmother's really nice watch loaded with diamonds. If it's what looks like a great piece or is big in size of diamonds, you might want to contact a local appraiser. Don't tell them you want insurance value, because insurance value is inflated. Tell them you want to know the current resale price of your item: What should I expect to get for it if I sell it today? You need to spend whatever the cost is to have it appraised so you're clear on what it is you're selling.
What you want to do if you're selling it on your own is make sure you have all the factual information about that item up front. Find out the color of the stone, the carat weight, what kind of gold it is, what period it was made, and you can try to sell it on your own online at a place like EBay or Craigslist. I would always try that route before I would go to a dealer.
How do you find a good appraiser?
Sometimes appraisers are generalists. If you're looking to have jewelry appraised and you go to somebody that specializes in jewelry, you shouldn't have a problem with it not being appraised correctly.
What about consigning a piece to a dealer?
It would be best to go to the Internet and reach out to people who specialize in estate jewelry to see if they'll take your piece on consignment. If they take your piece, they're going to go after the most money for you because the more they make for you, the more they make themselves. With my shops, I take things valued at $500 and more.
So many companies are popping up to take our unwanted gold jewelry off our hands, how do you know which will give you the best value?
They're businesses, and they have to make a profit, so they're going to pay a wholesale price, not a retail price. My best suggestion is that you go on the Internet and find out what gold is trading for so you know what it's worth.