Dear Chris - I need to sell my grandmother’s antique ruby and diamond ring. It’s 18k gold with a large ruby and ten small diamonds. It was appraised in 2004 for $25,000. I took it to two different jewelry stores and the best offer I received was less than $5,000, which doesn’t even come close to the appraisal value.
Can you sell it for the $25,000 appraisal price? It’s a really pretty ring!
Unfortunately, we see this scenario quite often. Clients with jewelry often come in hand with an appraisal and expect to receive the full appraisal price or a slightly discounted price, but that's not how appraisals work. A written appraisal is merely a document that lists the retail replacement price of an item for insurance purposes. So if you had an item insured for the full appraisal amount and it were lost or stolen, the insurance company would give you up to the full amount to replace your item with a comparable item.
What most consignors don't realize is that jewelry is marked up a lot by jewelry stores, typically 300%-500% over their wholesale price. I've even seen it as high as 1000%. And this means that when you go to sell your piece and get closer to the wholesale price for it, it tends to be quite a shock!
There is no shortage of estate jewelry out there, with literally tens of thousands of rings, bracelets, earrings, etc. available for purchase online at any given time. What does determine value is the manufacturer, the quality / condition of the piece, and provenance. Designer pieces tend to be worth more because they're well-known and more expensive to begin with. If your piece has exceptionally good quality stones, it's worth more than a comparable piece with average quality stones. If it has damage or needs repairs, it appeals to fewer potential buyers. And finally, if it has interesting provenance (it was owned by someone famous or has historical significance), that may increase the value, too.