How to Approach And Find Good Buys in Estate Jewelry

used jewelryIf 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.

Where Can You Buy Estate Jewelry?

The most common places 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. I want to emphasize that the most common places to find estate jewelry are usually NOT the best places to buy them.

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 on 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.

art deco reproduction ring
retro era star burst diamond sapphire ring

Interested in unique antique jewelry like these? Visit Brilliant Earth and start browsing today!

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.

Now, the problem with bidding in auctions is that many people tend to significantly overpay for inferior jewelry when a bidding frenzy takes place. From my experience as an auction spectator, the most common mistake made is to join the bidding herd with have no idea what an item is really worth.

Listings From Online Sites Like Craigslist or eBay

Both are popular 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.

Buying Antique Estate Jewelry Pieces From Reliable Vendors

This is my recommended way of purchasing estate jewelry and stunning one-of-a-kind antique pieces. Unlike the other methods where there is little or no recourse when consumers get ripped off, buying from a reliable vendor with good sales policies will protect you.

Brilliant Earth is the best vendor who specializes in this area. They offer a huge collection of vintage and antique rings from previous eras at competitive prices. The key here is, they stand behind their products and if you are not happy after receiving the ring, simply send it back for a refund with 30 days with no questions asked.

Here’s a screenshot of some rings listed on their website. Do note that each of these rings are unique and there’s only one item per listing. Once an item gets sold, it is gone forever.

antique jewelry passed down collection one of a kind

One of the best features I love about Brilliant Earth is that they offer very detailed information in their listings. Not only can you see the smallest details upclose, they also offer an interactive video of the jewelry piece.

antique estate jewelry from old world

High resolution photography enables you to scrutinize details.

edwardian style ring offers a wide collection of antique rings and estate jewelry across different budgets. If you are looking for stunning pieces of jewelry and want to shop with confidence, make sure to visit them!

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 on Buying Estate Jewelry

opal ring with diamond melees

The Uplands Ring from Brilliant Earth

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? Brilliant EarthWhite 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 21, 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 22, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    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 8:26 am

    While the information provided is quite helpful, what is your opinion on pawn shops for the educated buyers? Is estate jewelry cheaper than looking for deals at pawn shops? I am specifically looking for a vintage rose gold ring.

  4. Paul Gian-
    April 23, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    IF you are an educated buyer, you will probably not be looking at the bottom of the barrel to sieve through the huge majority of junk in these places. Quality stuff rarely passes through the pawn stores. It’s the same thing for estate jewelry. In my opinion, there’s a lot of junk there and prices are actually MORE expensive than buying a brand new piece or buying jewelry directly from a specialized retailer.

    In my opinion, the best place to buy estate jewelry or similar aged items would be Brilliant Earth as their pieces are one of a kind and there’s high-res imagery to help you look at details. on top of that, there’s risk-free money back guarantees as well.

    Also, check out this comprehensive read on antique style rose gold ring designs.

  5. Shari Kay-
    October 30, 2018 at 8:51 am

    Thank you Paul for the abundant info on the buying and where to buy estate jewelry. It is all too common people don’t do their homework before buying. I will add this info before buying.

  6. Elina Brooks-
    January 21, 2023 at 5:05 am

    I recently took an interest in investing in jewelry, so I was planning to expand my collection by buying more pieces that can be proven useful later on. I appreciate you telling us to do prior research first on price benchmarking to ensure we’re paying the correct price for a particular piece. I’ll be sure to do as you said once I find out where to buy estate jewelry soon.

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