The subtle hints of sophistication, polish, and status that jewelry gives a woman, and how much a woman is willing to pay to get that, is the essence of the jewelry business. Jewelry, and the reasons to wear or make it is a vast and fascinating annex of the art world. Nowhere do brand names matter as much as in jewelry. It is a fast and easy way for a woman to express exactly what she thinks of the fashion world and how seriously she thinks it matters in her life. From cheap colorful plastic bangles, to expensive 18K gold filigreed earrings studded with precious gems, there is a jewel for every woman, and a woman for ever jewel.
But none is as fascinating as the world of fine estate jewelry. For here is not only the pinnacle of prices and status, but also of history, sentiment, and intrigue. Both Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dedicated several stories and novels for their sleuths to track down famous diamonds and strings of pearls.
Estate jewelry simply means pre-owned jewelry. It by no means devalues it. There are plenty of – and please excuse the pun – diamonds in the rough to be found amongst estate jewelry. A beautiful pair of diamond and sapphire Buccellati earrings with intense fire, or an elegant geometric H Stern bracelet lightly dusted with small diamonds. Or perhaps for the bolder, a David Webb cocktail ring made of coral, jade, diamond, and gold, or an elegant Tiffany & Co. brooch. The styles and eras and individual designers all bring their own flare to these little wearable pieces of art. Each ring, bracelet, and pendant, is a compilation of hours of labor, sweat, cutting, polishing, casting, sawing, rasping, collecting, and setting. Each little gem, carefully mined, washed, analyzed, cut, analyzed again, sold, and set, and sold again. Each piece of jewelry has a wake of artists, businessmen, high society, appraisers, and history behind it. It is a true form of art that can be worn, touched, and handled.
So where can the average person get a piece of the action? A general place to find goodies like these, would be at an estate sale. This isn’t exactly a yard sale, nor is it a flea market. An estate sale is when someone is trying to sell off their belongings as quickly as possible to get the maximum return profit. They are almost always being conducted by a professional. By the time an average person hears about and gets to one of these sales, most of the good stuff is generally gone. And to the inexperienced eye, figuring out which pieces of jewelry are worth buying and which ones are not, can be very tricky.
For one, coming in armed with knowledge of designers, their hallmarks (the numbers, symbols, and signatures stamped into the inside or underside of jewelry), and a general sense of what is worth how much, when, and why, is a good start. That way you can easily identify what a material is made of, when it was made, and how much it is worth. For instance, 750 usually refers to 18K gold. Sometimes designers will stamp 18K directly into their work, sometimes not. 925 refers to sterling silver. Knowing the general total weight in carats on a piece with diamonds, will also indicate how much the piece is really worth.
To some collectors, half the fun is perusing estate sales, finding pieces, and getting them appraised. For others, they just want to find the jewelry without the hassle and risk of paying too much for a piece better off to be scrapped.
In the latter case, it would just be better to find a professional in the business and purchase your piece of jewelry from them. The person to contact would be an estate jewelry salesman and BUYER. The fact that they buy is key. It means they know how much pieces are worth and can instantly detect quality. Someone who just sells will try to turn a profit on just about anything. But a person who buys, HAS to know their stuff.
A fine example of an organization that buys and sells fine estate jewelry is OakGem. The three graces is another group that deals with second hand jewelry.
Jewelry is a fascinating part of human life and society. It is one of those things we cannot resist. One can wear it and feel a certain level of completion and pride, or one can collect it and treat it as art. Either way, fine estate jewelry is a fascinating world to enter, and when played right, can reap plenty of rewards.