The word, “estate”, refers to the worldly goods left behind by someone who has died including their jewelry. However, its meaning has been broadened to include any jewelry that has been previously owned.
Like fine art, jewelry tends to gain in value over the years. There is the factor of collectibility for some pieces. There is also the better workmanship in many older pieces of jewelry, plus a sort of warmth imbued to a piece that has been worn and admired by others.
The jewelry that has lasted over the years is usually of high quality and interesting. Lesser pieces are usually melted down as scrap and the gold and stones recycled.
See below for some examples of interesting estate jewelry items.
18k Gold diamond ring from the 1930s.
A 14k gold, carved quartz, turquois and garnet bracelet by Lucien Piccard from the 1950s.
14k gold and enamel cuff links and 18k gold and enamel earrings.
Figural pendant carved from an emerald stone and set in 18k gold with diamonds on a quartzite plaque.
Chances are, you won’t find items like this in your local jewelry store or a piece that’s newly made by modern jewelry manufacturers.
Antique Jewelry Shopping Tips
1) Shop around. Compare prices of comparable quality jewelry to find the best value. The lowest price is not always the best value as diamonds and colored stones vary greatly in quality and price.
2) A flawless and colorless one carat diamond can be as high as $30,000 and a “promotional grade” diamond as low as $500. So be sure you are comparing prices of comparable quality stones. Also be aware of stores that double and even triple the retail value of the jewelry and then offer a “50% Discount” of the inflated price.
3) Have the jeweler give you at least a week to return the jewelry you are buying for a full refund after you have it appraised. Get full details of the materials and stone quality on your receipt, plus the fact that it is returnable for a full refund.
4) Get a jewelry appraisal by an independent GIA Certified appraiser not on the store staff. Find an appraiser that does not buy or sell so that he has no vested interest in providing a bias assessment.
5) Learn about jewelry quality and prices. You can do this by visiting more stores and doing your research online.
6) A great internet resource can be found at Beyond4cs.com which teaches you the stuff to look out for when buying diamond jewelry.
7) An excellent book is: “JEWELRY & GEMS, The Buying Guide” by Matlins and Bonanno, published by Gemstone Press and available at most bookstores.
I hope these tips have helped you gain an insight into the world of antique jewelry. Good luck!