The following answers are as candid and truthful as possible. They are based
upon thousands of buying experiences and many years as antique and jewelry
want to sell your goods; then you want accurate and timely answers from veteran
dealers who study the market and are considered experts in their fields. There
are many, many honest, ethical and knowledgeable dealers that buy jewelry.
Whether you sell to them or us is not the primary consideration as far as
we're concerned. The most important factor is that you receive fair and
relevant value for your items within a comfortable transaction.
There are several
reasons your jewelry shows no quality mark (14K, 18K, etc.):
It may have worn off
over the years. This is especially true of rings of high karat gold which is
quite a bit softer than the lower karats. Necklaces often have worn clasps which
render the mark unreadable, or which were replaced with unmarked ones.
were often just marked on the pin shank or catch which may have been replaced
due to wear.
item may have been
repaired and the original mark was removed or destroyed. Rings that have been
resized or reshanked often lose their mark or stamp of quality.
It may have been
custom made by a jeweler who didn't have a registered trademark and therefore
couldn't legally add a quality mark.
Some pieces are of
such construction, or so delicate, that there just is no way to stamp them.
Sometimes, a tiny plate with the stamped mark is soldered on.
Maybe it isn't made
of precious metals.
the law doesn't require a mark at all. The legal requirement is that if
manufacturers quality mark items of jewelry, they must also include their
quality mark, or the absence of one, should not be the sole determinant of an
item's metal content. There are chemical and electronic tests that can
determine the karat value to within a few percent. Most dealers have one or
both of these test capabilities on hand. However, nothing beats experience for
that initial inclination and impression.
24K is pure gold.
The number in front of the K is the number of parts of gold out of 24 that are
in the alloy. 14K is 14 parts of gold and 10 parts of another metal; 18K is 18
parts gold and 6 parts another metal. The other metal could be copper,
silver, nickel, etc. The amount and type of metal determines, to a large
extent, the color of the final alloy. Pink gold has much copper, green gold
has silver, white gold has a large amount of nickel.
Whatever the karat, the magic number is 24. See next answer for percentage
These are percentages of gold content. They often are the only marks on items of European
or Asian origin. Sometimes they'll have the karat equivalent stamped alongside:
585 (or 583) is equal to 14K, 750 is 18K, 417 is 10K, 333
is 8K, etc.
are countries that do not use the 24K system. Their numbers have different
values and require a bit more study than the basic information we have
presented here. However, 90 percent of the jewelry you would normally
encounter will be marked with the US type standard.
This is because
jewelry that is imported here will have the 24K system markings.
disappointed when they go to sell their jewelry and , after 3 or 4 dealers have
discussed price with them, feel that they're being cheated. Why?
They have an
outside idea what their jewelry is worth. Often a friend will look at it and
pronounce that "you should get at least $650.00 for this." When people
tell us this we advise them to offer it to their friend for half that amount and
the friend can make a little profit. Guess what? The friend has no money; the
friend was only guessing; the friend doesn't want to buy it and make money off
it. What it really condenses to is that the friend really has no idea at all
what it's worth on the secondary market.
They saw one
just like it at the mall and offer it to the dealer for 10-20% less. Most people
in this business have access to trade shows and publications where they can buy
the same item, new, for 50% or less of the retail price. Why would any dealer
buy a used one for more than a new one?
They have an
appraisal in hand and feel that this is the price they should receive. We then
ask them what we could sell it for if we paid them the appraisal price. Once we
show them that we sell at about half of appraised value, most will enter into a
meaningful discussion. Some get angry at the messenger, vowing to "find
someone who knows what they're doing!" Some return to deal; others don't,
sell at less than we would have paid rather than admit that perhaps we were
Study! Study! Visit your library and search out those books that contain
material commensurate with the level of learning you're comfortable with (I
know, I know, don't end a sentence with a preposition). After you find a few
books that meet your requirements, go to your favorite book store and buy one
or two. We realize that books are expensive, but so is ignorance. Having your
own book makes it quite convenient to study at your leisure, not at the
antique shows. Most larger ones will have several dealers that, if not
specializing in jewelry, will at least have a selection of several dozen
pieces. Ask a few questions; but remember, the dealer isn't your teacher.
He/she is there to sell and buy, not to become your mentor. Most are friendly
and will show you a few pieces as examples; however, please don't take up an
inordinate amount of time. There are, after all, people behind you that
probably want to buy.
jewelry stores will have either an estate jewelry section, or will have a
scheduled estate jewelry sale. The sales are usually conducted by outside
companies that travel from store to store. Their stock is pretty comprehensive
and their knowledge is first rate. Many will even buy your jewelry on the
folks balk at spending $25.00 for a book, or paying $5.00-10.00 for admission
to a show. Well, the heck with you! If you're too cheap to invest a few bucks
and depend only on the good will of some dealer to get your information,
you'll usually get what you pay for. Every dealer has paid his/her dues for
education. Every one, without exception, has many examples of mistakes they've
made while building up their business. They've paid for their education; you
pay for yours.
you do have the good fortune to come across a dealer who is knowledgeable and
doesn't mind answering all your questions, buy something from her every now
have spent many thousands for our gemologist education and many more
thousands to equip our lab. We have met quite a few people who would never
dream of asking a Proctologist for a free exam; yet they don't hesitate to
show that part of their anatomy while insisting upon a free verbal appraisal:
"It'll only take a minute; it doesn't cost you
anything." Aside from their cheapness, what
they don't seem to understand is that any information imparted by any expert
implies a certain level of responsibility for their words. That's why
experts charge for their knowledge; be it in goods or service.
not talking about folks who have a genuine desire to sell their items. This is
always a give and take situation until both of you arrive at a mutually
satisfactory price. That's probably the most exciting part of any dealer's
day: making the deal.
spend a few hours, spend a few bucks. These are the most practical and
accurate methods to
learn about anything.
We'll be adding more Q&A in the future. Meanwhile, if there are any
questions you'd like to see here, let us know. We'll print those that have
sufficient general interest to be of value to most of our
Copyright © 2000 Lee Ryan Antiques & Jewelry. All rights reserved.
Revised: April 25, 2004