How to Approach And Find Good Buys in Estate Jewelry

If you had been around auction rooms or antique stores, you may have come across a term called estate jewelry. To put in layman terms, estate jewelry is pre-owned jewelry. However, most people confuse this term with antique style jewelry.

Strictly speaking, we only use the word antique when we refer to things that are more than a 100 years old. While some estate collections can date back to the distant past, not all estate jewelry might necessarily be that old.

Where Do Estate Jewelry Come From?

In most cases, estate jewelry may originate from an inheritance when someone passes away. It could also be that the owners have decided to sell of their unwanted items. As long as you don’t mind jewelry that had been used by someone else before, looking for estate diamond jewelry may actually be a viable option to consider. Not only would you be able to save some money, you could also find one-of-a-kind designs which hold tremendous sentimental value.

used jewelry

Where to Get Good Pieces of Estate Jewelry

The best place to find them would be at an estate sale or an auction. Please don’t confuse the 2 terms for being the same thing. An estate sale is also commonly known as a tag sale. Basically, items are listed for sale with a price tag and there is often room for some price negotiation.

Herein lays the danger as well as opportunity for you to snatch a great deal. For estate sales, you would expect the better quality stuff to sell out by the time the general public know about the sale. Also, unless you know how to appraise or value jewelry, it might be hard for you to tell the correct price you should be paying for a particular piece.

This is where some prior research online to do price benchmarking will help you make the correct decisions. With the mobile Internet, you can easily check retail diamond prices at websites like or on your iPhone. If you are buying jewelry with diamonds larger than 0.30 carats, make sure that there is an accompanying gemological report from GIA or AGS.

Bidding At Physical Auctions

As mentioned earlier, auctions are another place where you can buy estate diamond jewelry from. The good thing about auctions is that items tend to be vetted by professionals prior to going below the hammer. You can usually get more details and information about a jewelry piece and decide how much you are willing to pay for a particular piece of jewelry.

Listings From Online Sites Like Craigslist or eBay

Both are well known sites with huge traffic volumes and they are often used by sellers to reach a wider audience around the world. When searching for estate jewelry on Craigslist or eBay, the first thing I would do is to check up on the seller and see the types of listings they have.

You could look through the feedback section (e.g. eBay has one) and investigate reviews left by previous buyers to get a better idea on who you are dealing with. Also, telltale signs of authentic estate jewelry listings is that they are one-off items. If you see multiple items of the same design being listed, chances are the listings are fake and the products were probably mass-produced somewhere in China.

Educate Yourself with Diamond Knowledge

You can read up the most important sections on here. Having more knowledge about diamonds will help you be more confident in making a purchase and at the same time, help you avoid pitfalls.

It is also a good idea to find out more about jewelry designers and the hallmarks they use. Hallmarks are essentially “signatures” a jeweler leaves on the jewelry and you can get more information on sites like these. You should be on the lookout for symbols, icons or numbers that are stamped or engraved on the inside surface of the jewelry as they can be a sign of authenticity.

The information from hallmarks can also help you identify the material used and the history of the piece. For example, a 925 marking indicates the material used in the piece is sterling silver. A 18k marking indicates that the material used is 18k gold.

Before Buying, Always Research your Options

pre owned diamond rings

Just like buying a new car or an apartment, you should research and consider your options if you intend to buy from an estate sale. For expensive purchases, I recommend looking around a little first and carry out your research.

It’s true many estate items have tempting prices or articles that might interest you. My advice is that you should never settle on the first item you come across in the first sale you go to. Hold back that temptation to make a hasty purchase and give it some thoughts before committing yourself.

Ask the Right Questions to The Seller

Here are a few questions you might want to ask the seller about what they are selling.

– How did you come across the piece?

What you want to look out for is a viable story on how the jewelry piece ended up in the seller’s possession. Was it part of their family’s heirloom? Did they buy this from another estate sale previously?

– Can you provide me with more information about the piece?

You definitely want to know more about the condition of the piece and not purchase one that is overly worn out or damage. Basically, you are looking for a full disclosure about the age, previous repairs and anything else you can learn about the piece.

Peruse a Professional Appraiser/Gemologist’s Advice

What happens if the jewelry piece doesn’t come with a certificate or grading report? Well, the next best thing to do before making a purchase is to get it appraised by a professional. By engaging a reliable appraiser, his/her advice can help steer you towards the correct direction of buying or passing up the item.

Note: You should use your own 3rd party appraiser who has no vested interest in selling you the item.

Closing Note

Understandably, you might be nervous especially if this is the first time you are buying estate jewelry. The process might be slightly tricky for inexperienced people but that does not mean you should shy away from it.

Unlike brand new jewelry items, estate jewelry offers the wearer a different type of satisfaction and pride of owning it. Like artwork, estate jewelry can be collectible items you can add to your own assortment of jewelry.

Searching for a diamond ring? White Flash and Brian Gavin are vendors that offer ideal cut diamonds and take great pride in the high quality craftsmanship of their settings.

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  1. April Cook-
    July 27, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    I really appreciate your distinction between estate and antique jewelry. I didn’t know there was a difference until I read this article. I love the ideas of getting estate jewelry since you can find unique pieces. I like your tip to ask the seller how they came across the piece to find out more about it. Is it a good idea to get your own appraiser to look at any pieces before you buy them? Thanks for the information!

  2. Paul Gian-
    July 28, 2016 at 12:41 am

    It depends on the piece you are buying and the price point for it (as well as any supporting documentations). Generally, yes. I would recommend an appraiser if its a really pricey piece.

  3. Morgan-
    April 22, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    While the information provided is quite helpful, what is your opinion on pawn shops for the educated buyers?

  4. Paul Gian-
    April 22, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    IF you are an educated buyer, you will probably not buy he huge majority of junk in these places. Good quality stuff rarely passes through the pawn stores.

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