It’s easy to be fascinated by estate jewelry, from Elizabeth Taylor’s famed diamond tiara to Princess Salima Aga Khan’s outstanding collection. Movies like the Pink Panther franchise have built storylines around estate jewelry for decades.

However, even the most ardent diamond fan may feel confused and frustrated when it comes to buying estate jewelry. Part of the confusion often stems from a lack of understanding of what estate jewelry is.

Here’s what you need to know before you shop for estate jewelry.

What is Estate Jewelry?

Estate jewelry is any jewelry that was previously owned by someone else. This can include antique jewelry, which was made at least 100 years ago, and vintage jewelry.

Most estate jewelry comes from estate sales, which often take place after someone passes away. However, many estate jewelry pieces come from collections of living people.

What Makes Estate Jewelry Valuable?

Many factors contribute to a piece’s value, from age and condition to material and design. Rarity can also add significantly to a piece’s value. Gold, Platinum, and precious gems typically increase the value of a piece as well.

Famous makers are another factor that can make a piece of estate jewelry more valuable. Look for signed jewelry, which has an engraving of the jewelry house or maker’s name on the underside of a piece or the ring. However, you’ll need to make sure the piece is authentic since there’s plenty of fake jewelry on the market.

Remember that all that glitters isn’t gold! Don’t be put off by tarnished jewelry. Tarnishing can be removed, and you may find you don’t want to remove it anyway since tarnished jewelry is more valuable. It takes many decades to reach that kind of patina.

Is My Estate Jewelry Authentic?

Most buyers don’t have the skill to tell whether a piece of jewelry is authentic or not on their own. If you suspect a piece may be valuable, the only safe and reliable way to know for sure is to bring it to a jewelry appraiser. Fruitcocktail Collectibles have years of experience in jewelry appraisal and are happy to help you find the value of your jewelry.

A professional can use a jeweler’s loupe to find out if a diamond or the signature is real. Other factors, like a stone’s country of origin or clarity grade, can only be verified by special laboratory testing from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

It’s very important to work with someone you trust, whether that’s a private dealer, well-known auction house, or online source with a reputation for integrity.

Is My Estate Jewelry Seller Trustworthy?

You’ll have to do your research. Major jewelry houses like Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Bulgari have well-known reputations, but secondary markets may require a little more digging.

Look for reviews on the internet — they may tip you off if something’s not right. You can also ask for referrals from family and friends.

Is Buying Estate Jewelry Online a Good Idea?

Yes, online jewelry shopping is just as safe as shopping for anything else online. To ensure you know what you’re getting, make sure all the descriptive and gemological details are available. Check for carat weights, manufacturing dates, relevant GIA certificates, and other key information about quality and condition.

Clear photos are also important when you’re purchasing online, since you’re not there to see the jewelry in person.

Am I Getting a Fair Price?

There are many factors that go into a jewelry item’s price. These include material and stone quality, workmanship, design, condition, rarity, and whether the item is fine or costume jewelry.

To ensure you’re getting a fair price, work with someone you trust and make sure all these factors are taken into consideration.

Should I Buy Estate Jewelry as a Gift?

Estate jewelry can be a wonderful gift for someone who appreciates beauty, history, or investment. You don’t have to worry too much about being able to return it, although it’s always a good idea to check the seller’s return policy.

Unlike new jewelry, estate jewelry is worth just as much the day after you buy it as the day before, so many sellers are perfectly happy to take back a piece of jewelry. Over time, estate jewelry may become even more valuable.

Fruitcocktail helps clients from around the Pacific Northwest with estate sales, jewelry consignments, and jewelry appraisals. As an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers with over 20 years of experience, we guarantee we can meet every requirement to help sellers and buyers determine the value of their belongings.

Schedule an Jewelry Appraisals Consultation