Buying jewelry at an estate sale can be a tricky proposition if you don’t arm yourself with some education in advance. It’s easy to get all dizzy by the glittery bauble in front of you, but in order to know what you are looking at and its value you need to inform yourself prior to plunking down some serious coin on a jewelry purchase at a tag sale. There are great deals to be had if you know what you are doing.
Get ready to find the answers to a few questions before you make your purchase:
- What is the condition? Are there scratches, damaged prongs, broken clasps or missing parts? Check that the finish isn’t worn or that there have been repairs that have been done. Soldering Observe the quality of the craftsmanship
- Is it authentic? Figuring out if a piece of jewelry is a fake is certainly critical before you go plunking your hard earned cash on the sparkly trinket. Ask to see if the sellers have a purchase receipt, appraisal or certificate of authenticity that can give you an inkling to it’s history. If no documentation is available, you are buying at your own risk based on your existing knowledge. Grab your smartphone and try to research the
- Does it have any identifying marks on it? If there is a maker’s mark on the piece in your hand, you are in luck! Grab your iPhone and do some immediate investigating on sites such as Antique Jewelry University, which can help you identify what those marks are and help you in determining value
- What is its age? Unless you have a proof of purchase, age can be a tough one to determine since there are sellers who unknowingly do ungodly things like polish a piece of jewelry to make it look shiny for sale. Patina can provide a clue that might help you figure out if a piece is the real deal. Also, beware that items can be artificially oxidized with some pretty simple chemicals that are readily available to look older than they are. Look for signs of normal wear that a piece of jewelry might naturally have, such as where a wrist watch might have contact against a hard surface, etc.
- Does it have any stones? Diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other such stones embedded in a piece of estate jewelry only add to the difficulty in determining its value and authenticity. Here again, ask for any documentation or appraisal that may exist. Grab your loupe and investigate color, clarity and cut for other signs of value. There are gemology classes online and in many local cities that offer crash courses in the basics of identifying key characteristics in stones. Definitely look for stones that are bright and vibrant, but be careful that they aren’t simply glass fakes.
- Know your metals. Knowing whether something is gold versus gold-filled is critical when it comes to determining the value of jewelry. Is it really silver or just plated? Understanding what something is made of is important in determining value.
If you are serious about hunting for estate jewelry, its worth investing in a loupe (a jeweler’s magnification tool), and learn how to use it properly so that you can explore the piece in an enlarged state to see things like flaws or hallmarks. Your local jeweler or watchmaker is usually more than happy to give you a quick lesson on how to use a loupe or you can check here for instructions.
Of course, not every piece of jewelry at an estate sale is going to be a Tiffany ring or a Cartier watch. Lots of folks seek out inexpensive vintage or retro pieces that can only be priced at a few dollars. If you like it, by all means buy it!