Estate Jewelry: Trash or Cash

Estate JewelryWe have all watched the show, Antiques Roadshow, and thought about all the old things hanging around our house and garage, wondering if we could hit the mother lode on any one piece. The same goes for estate jewelry. Whether it’s in pouches and protected or in knots and jumbled in a drawer, you could have a pile of cash or trash

According to Wikipedia, estate jewelry is:

… previously owned jewelry, usually acquired from estates of deceased or living, and private entities. Generally referring to jewelry that is of vintage and/or antique nature. The word “estate” in “estate jewelry” does not refer to jewelry coming from the estate of the deceased. Estate simply means previously owned.

How do you know if what you have is worth any money in the bank or if it is just a pretty bauble to wear and enjoy or give to your daughter or granddaughter to play dress up with?  And, why would you want to know if what you own is worth any money?

The Value of Your Assets

The reason for knowing the value of your estate jewelry is two-fold. The first reason is for insurance purposes. If you have a piece of jewelry that has been sitting at the bottom of your jewelry box that is worth thousands of dollars it is worth getting it insured for the replacement value, especially since it is irreplaceable.  Knowing what you have in assets for insurance purposes is always wise.

The second reason is for resale purposes. If you ever want to sell your estate piece, whether you want or need the cash, or have just decided that it is time to move on from that lovely piece in your life so you can buy something else, you need to know the value before taking it to a estate jewelry buyer.  If you don’t have a clue, then you don’t know if what they are offering you is a good deal or a bad deal, and that makes you a poor consumer.

How to Value Your Assets

There are several tricks to figuring out if your estate jewelry holds any cash value before taking it for an appraisal, which will save both you and the appraiser time and effort.  First, clean your jewelry. I realize this sounds simple, but most people are under the false impression that because it is estate, or old, it needs to look tarnished. Not so, my friends. It is easier to see if the stones and the metal are real and how it is made if it is clean and pretty.

After your jewelry is clean, look for Hallmarks, or any markings on the jewelry that would indicate karat weight, type of metal used or if it is a designer piece. Most markings will be somewhere on the piece and you might need a magnifying glass to get a good look.  If you don’t recognize what you are seeing, do some research on the Internet and search for the Hallmark. There are plenty of sites that just have Hallmarks and stamps and who the designers are. If your piece is a precious metal and is a designer piece it is more valuable.

If you can’t find a marking for what type of metal it might be, use the magnet test. Run a magnet along the jewelry. If the magnet sticks to the jewelry, the metal isn’t gold or precious and your questions are answered right there.

And, finally, the last way to decide the value is how attractive the piece is or how fashionable it is. Just like fashion, jewelry is also cyclical and has fads. If you have an antique brooch, but pins aren’t the “in” thing right now, it might be best to hang on to it for a while until they are!

Cash or Trash

Once you know if your estate jewelry is cash or trash, then you can decide if you want to sell it or keep it. Sometimes you can get more for your piece, sometimes you can get less, it depends on all those factors above, but the real value is in how you feel about what you have.

If you love your jewelry and wear it, keep it and enjoy it and pass it along for others to enjoy it, and just know the value of what you have around your neck or on your wrist every time you put it on.

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