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What is this worth?

The question: “What’s it worth” is uttered almost as frequently as “hello” around Crown Jewelry and Time. It’s the pivotal question of the jewelry, coin, watch and collectible industries as a whole, but as simply as it’s spoken, there’s no simple answer. Many factors can go into determining the worth or value of an item. Fundamentally, and by definition: worth is determined by an agreed upon price between a motivated and willing seller and motivated and willing buyer under no conditions of duress. Clearly, this can potentially yield multiple values for the same item depending on the circumstances of the sale.

As an example: consider four similar car dealerships selling the same current-year vehicle at an MSRP price of $25,000. The first dealer will not budge from his listed price to a prospective customer, but, shopping with a second dealer, they’re able to negotiate the dealer’s price down to $23,000 and make a sale to a very happy customer. The first dealer then, later that week, sells their vehicle for full list price ($25,000) to a different customer who was also very happy with their purchase and experience. A third dealer sells an identical current-year vehicle to a wholesaler in a package of 5 vehicles for $18,000 each to liquify funds for incoming purchases and showroom improvements. A fourth dealer takes in 2 older vehicles in trade for an identical current-year vehicle, making the sale. Those 2 trade-ins may eventually be sold for $32,000 combined but will take additional time and investment before net profits are realized.

So, I ask you: “What was that vehicle worth?” $25k, $23k, $18k, or $32k? I want this example to help explain that an item’s worth is determined by a complex equation of many factors that may be in constant flux between different dealers, consumers, market trends, necessity for the item and condition to name a few. Editor’s note: I’m by no way a car salesman so please excuse me if the values above aren’t to scale.

Now, let’s settle back into the context of this article with, say, a diamond ring you’re trying to sell to Crown Jewelry and Time, another dealer or interested party. How do you determine what’s a fair value to sell it for? Well, ultimately, that’ll depend on what price you’re happy to accept and how much you’re interested party is willing to pay. Much of that dollar figure comes from understanding what market category you and your item falls into and, at times, the amount of leg-work you’re prepared to do. I’d now like to highlight a few of the market/price levels one should consider when going about selling an item, from the top down.

Insurance value

The value placed on an item’s Insurance Appraisal is for a specific purpose: covering the item’s owner monetarily in the event of loss, damage or theft. This value should be derived from market research of current like-kind-quality item sales that best reflect the item being described. This is not a current resale value from a consumer’s ownership standpoint BUT based-off an accurate valuation, a starting point can be determined. Insurance values are, typically, an average or very slightly above average dollar amount one can expect to have to pay for a matching item (as close as is plausible) for replacement purposes. Therefore, the value will be closely related to a full-retail setting where a motivated buyer is willing to purchase a new item from a jeweler. The buyer, in this setting, benefits from the jeweler’s expertise, possible warranty options, having a never-worn item and enjoying a personally-tailored experience for a purchase that represents a very important moment in that consumer’s life.

This is not a viable consumer to dealer/end user sale price.

Retail value

The value advertised by a jeweler/retailer on an item for purchase consideration to a consumer. This value can vary dependent upon market trends, jeweler’s cost, etc. This is the value of a new, unworn item that comes with all the bells and whistles described in the Insurance value section above that one receives when buying a new item from an established and reputable source. To commemorate major events in one’s life, most consumers prefer a piece of jewelry that has belonged to none other than themselves. There are exceptions to this statement but the portion of that market is very slim, with many options available to choose from.

This is not a viable consumer to dealer/end user sale price.

Pre-owned Consignment value

Some jewelers and dealers will offer their clients an option to consign an item to them and sell it on their behalf. That is, the consumer/client will deliver their item to the jeweler and receive a detailed receipt stating the item, date it was received, length of time it will remain in the jeweler’s possession, the terms of a possible sale (i.e. percentage paid to each party upon completion of a sale) and payment type upon completion of a sale. This option can potentially yield the consumer/selling party the highest possible payout on their item provided their item is saleable in the current market; that is to say, their item is of a currently in-demand style to the general market. Jewelry styles change more rapidly than ever and your aunt’s right-hand, diamond cluster cocktail ring may not appeal to every passing customer as an option for their soon-to-be engagement ring. These considerations are typically made on a case-by-case basis with a number of factors coming into play including quality of the item, local market demands and overall price.

This is a viable consumer sale option pending certain qualifying factors. At times, this may yield no results and may take a substantial length of time to finalize a sale.

“Fair Market Value” or Party to Party value

There’s another type of appraisal or valuation we perform, for sometimes legal reasons, and that is a Fair Market Valuation. It’s typically used in the instance of settling an estate for liquidation purposes amongst family members or applicable parties. The values, unlike Insurance replacement values, are derived from current sale data of pre-owned pieces including current auction results and general market trends. These FMV’s are an estimate of what a willing and motivated buyer may pay for a pre-owned item from a non-dealer in a non-retail setting and can be a very viable starting point to negotiate with a prospective buyer. The largest boon of an FMV is that all the pertinent details of the subject item are recorded from an industry professional (such as with an insurance appraisal) and the dollar value placed on the item is more practical from a current sale standpoint. FMV’s are recorded and printed on company letterhead and generally include less detail than a full insurance appraisal.

This is a viable consumer sale option but will require additional time and slight monetary investment as well as having to sell the item yourself. Depending on your salesmanship and industry knowledge this can be the best option to maximize your yield on an item for sale.

Dealer purchase and Auction value

If your item is currently in demand, such as a resalable 1.00ct round diamond of good color, clarity and cut, dealers may be more willing to purchase the item at a higher rate if they know they will be able to quickly sell it to another consumer. Large center diamonds, high-end design houses such as Cartier, Tiffany and Van Cleef & Arpels and any uncommon items (modern or vintage) that the dealer may have a general client base for can potentially yield a surprisingly satisfying sale price. As a dealer, there’s nothing worse than shelling-out company funds for unsaleable finished pieces of jewelry etc. that will sit in the showcase for months, hence the arbitrary approach to item evaluation in this market tier. A point to consider as well: if you’re offering a diamond for sale, what would the jeweler’s cost be from a diamond vendor for an identical stone? Yes, the cost would be more, but the terms are typically different in that a diamond from a vendor would likely be held on memo. Much like when a consumer consigns a diamond or piece of jewelry to a jeweler, the jeweler takes possession of the item for a designated period of time and at the time the jeweler is able to sell the item, they then pay the vendor or consignor. This allows the jeweler to retain liquid funds for daily operations, additional purchases and store upgrades. The value of buying an item outright over-the-counter must be proportionate to their vendor memo costs; why would the jeweler buy the item when they could hold and show an identical item for “free” and pay the vendor once it’s been sold?

Consigning your item to a reputable auction house with a strong, consistent clientele for your item’s market is a very viable option as well. Typically, an Insurance Appraisal would be required to best-sell an item of higher value; this acts as a third-party verification of the item’s qualities and basis point of value as well as identifies your item whilst in the possession of the auction house. The same dealer considerations on finished pieces apply here as well: currently in demand large center stones, designers and uncommon/rare items can possibly yield favorable sales results while items falling into a lesser category may actually net you less money when you factor in the auctioneer’s selling fees than had you simply sold them to a dealer. Always remember: this is an auction. It’s very possible to only have 1 bidder in the crowd that wants your item the most and it takes 2 to bid against each other. If you have a particular price in mind for your item, this may not be a good option. The lead time can be 10 – 120 days or more until your item makes it into the current auction catalog. If it doesn’t sell (for your reserve price), you’ll be back to square one again in your sales process. We, as a company, have personally consigned fine, vintage jewelry pieces to auction on a number of occasions that, after fees, actually netted us, as industry professionals, less money than had we simply scrapped the item! It’s difficult to know what the end results will be but for the aforementioned types of items, auctions can be a fun ride.

Both are viable consumer sales options but each have their pitfalls and nuances on a case by case basis.

Melt or Scrap value

To many consumers’ chagrin, the vast majority of jewelry, coins and like items fall into this category. Whether the finished jewelry piece be out of style, worn beyond feasible repair for resale, there are an abundance of like items available or simply being of average quality at it’s original point of sale most pre-owned jewelry simply does not hold a practical resale value. Much of this market mainstay circles back around to the notion that most consumers prefer their commemorative jewelry item to have belonged to none other than themselves; this is a reasonable desire. Every time you look down at your ring do you want to wonder who wore it before you? How did their relationship work out? No. You want to look down and remember everything that piece of jewelry symbolizes for you. Jewelry can be a very personal purchase; it’s more of an experience than a single item purchase. All these factors contribute, and generally lead, to the resounding conclusion that the majority of pre-owned items are, for both time and market allowances, best sold for fair melt values. Reputable stores and dealers are typically more than happy to explain the circumstances around each piece presented for sale and provide a written offer that can be considered for sale at a later date and/or used to “shop around” prices of other dealers.

The main consideration a consumer in this market category should keep in mind is to utilize the dealer’s knowledge to educate themselves and make an informed decision. It’s true that most consumers do not know where or how to start the process of selling family jewelry, coins, diamonds, watches etc. and locating a knowledgeable dealer is a great place to start. Whether you decide to sell on the spot, mull it over or shop around and sell somewhere else, arrive to your initial meeting open-minded and ready to learn. Not only will the dealer know the current market of your items but they’ll likely know past trends and changes that occurred in the market that can further solidify their explanation and pricing structure to you. All this information is for your benefit and should allow you to make the best decision for you, your family and your item(s).

These market tiers are something one comes to understand after years of being immersed in the industry and at substantial personal investment. Some lessons are learned cheaply while most come at a cost. This is something we wanted to share with you, free of charge, solely for your benefit. It is our hope that this article may serve as a starting point in your potential sales process and lets you enter an initial meeting feeling comfortable and more confident. Thanks for reading along and we wish you the best!

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