Tips on Selling Your Unwanted Jewelry


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Imagine that you’ve just inherited a large box of jewelry. You'd like to know if any of it is worth a lot of money and if so, where would be the best place to sell it. With the high prices of gold, platinum and palladium, you should first determine the metal content of the jewelry. 

Test it with a magnet

A strong magnet (e.g., neodymium magnet) can help you eliminate jewelry with non-precious metals. Touch the magnet to the metal portion of the jewelry. If it picks up the jewelry, then the jewelry is not gold, silver, palladium or platinum; it is probably steel or iron. Platinum that is alloyed with cobalt can be attracted to a magnet, but the attraction is comparatively weak and likely not strong enough for the magnet to pick it up. 

Use a magnifier to check the markings

After you have sorted out costume jewelry made with steel or iron, then use a magnifier such as a 10x power loupe to search for markings on the remaining jewelry pieces. Here are some of the most common precious metal markings:

925 – sterling silver. 925% silver

14K, 585, or 583 – gold alloy with at least 58.3% gold

18K or 750 – gold alloy with 75% gold

10K, 416 or 417 – gold alloy with at least 41.6% gold

9K or 375  – gold alloy with at least 37.6% gold sold in British Commonwealth countries

22K, 916 or 917 – gold alloy with at least 91.6% gold

950 – 95% platinum, Some gold jewelry may be stamped 950 but it has a gold color.

Pt or Plat with a numerical number indicating platinum percentage – a platinum alloy

Pd or PD with a numerical number indicating palladium percentage – a palladium alloy.

Palladium used to be a lower cost alternative to gold and platinum, but in March 2020 it reached much higher prices, as high as $2,500/ounce troy, although at the time of this writing it is approximately $1,600 per ounce. In April 2016 it was priced at $566/ounce troy and in January 2005 it was selling for as low as $180/ounce troy.                    

 Sort your jewelry according to its metal content and the types of gems it is set with. That will make it faster and easier for potential buyers and appraisers to suggest a value for the jewelry pieces. Many appraisers offer services to make all the above determinations if you can’t or don’t wish to do it yourself. Expect to pay a fee based on the time it takes to do the job.

How to determine a range of potential selling prices for your jewelry

1. You will need an appraiser or gem consultant who is familiar with the type of jewelry you want to sell. Get his or her opinion of the potential price ranges for each of the pieces. Don’t expect appraisers to do a sight ID of colored gemstones. Most gems require testing for positive identification. In many cases, it’s best to just sell jewelry for its metal value. In other cases, the stone price, designer and/or antique value can be greater than even the metal. It’s best to deal with an antique specialist for antique jewelry.

     Professional appraisers charge by the hour. If they are not going to buy your jewelry, they are not motivated to offer you the lowest possible price for it. They can instead give you a range of fair offering prices that you might expect to get. You can find a list of independent jewelry appraisers with appraisal qualifications at

     Even though formal written appraisals are unnecessary for selling jewelry, identification reports of expensive gems by major labs like the GIA and AGL make them easier to sell. Most important high value gems can’t be sold without current major lab reports. It can also be helpful for the appraisal consultant to write down basic information about each piece that he examines along with an estimated high and low selling price. Before you sell your jewelry, it’s wise to understand its value. A qualified appraiser can help you with this so that you won’t have regrets later on about selling it way below a fair price.


2. Ask a full-service local jewelry store if they are interested in buying or consigning any of your jewelry pieces. If you have an established relationship with them, they will be more inclined to give you free advice about your jewelry. Be careful choosing the store when leaving jewelry for a long-term consignment. In these financially difficult times, a long-term consignment may not be the best solution for everyone.


3. If there are auction houses in your area, have them look at your jewelry to see if they are interested in auctioning it.


4. Ask precious metal sellers such as coin shops, pawn shops and gold buyers how much they will pay you for your jewelry. They don’t normally offer money for colored stones but will pay you for the precious metal content based on the day’s spot prices, the amount of precious metal in the piece and a percentage profit for the buyer.

If you understand how to compute the value of gold in your items, you can ask the potential buyer “What percentage of the Spot price” are you paying me?” Try to get at least 70% or more. Don’t settle for 50% or even 60% and don’t do business with a seller who will not explain their buying price percentage to you in terms that are clear to you


5.Consider selling or consigning your jewelry online with sellers such as eBay, Etsy and ReaReal. This can be an effective way of selling craft and costume jewelry as well as fine jewelry. Be sure to check the reputation and reviews of anyone you intend to consign with BEFORE you do the consignment. Doing such a check after you have made the consignment is too late


6. Get offers from antique and estate sellers for vintage and estate jewelry. They often are more familiar with the antique value of a piece than a general jeweler.


7. If you have Name Brand items, expensive colored diamonds, jade, and unusual colored gems, consult dealers who specialize in those brands and high-end stones. The average appraiser or jeweler may not be trained to value those items. A pearl dealer is sometimes the best source of value information on expensive pearls.


If you don’t like the jewelry you inherited but enjoy wearing jewelry, consider having a custom jeweler or designer use the metal and gemstones from the unwanted jewelry to create pieces more to your liking. It’s a great way to remember and honor your loved ones.

© Copyright 2020 by Renée Newman

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