They say diamonds are forever. But that doesn't mean you have to own them forever.
Selling one's jewelry used to be considered almost a desperate measure, done only when the owner needed fast money. But those days are disappearing. "There's not the same stigma attached," says Andrew Fabrikant of Andrew & Peter Fabrikant Fine Diamonds (fabon5th.com) in Manhattan. "We've seen a much larger influx of the wealthy and even the uber-wealthy selling jewelry that they don't wear anymore."
Fabrikant says people often sell jewelry because of a life change. It could be a divorce or the death of a spouse. Some retirees sell their jewelry because they no longer need to go to formal business events.
If you sell your jewelry, make sure you're dealing with a reputable jeweler. You can get information from the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) on whether the jeweler is BBB accredited and if there are any open complaints against the company. Also, gather all the information you have about the items. "The [original] boxes and paperwork can be very valuable," Fabrikant says. "It helps the people in my world pay more because we can establish without any problem that it's authentic."
Fabrikant says sapphires, emeralds, rubies and larger diamonds are among the hottest items now. Signed pieces — jewelry that has markings from top designers such as Tiffany, Cartier and Van Cleef — are commanding top prices. "Anybody can make a diamond ring," Fabrikant says. "To me, it's the designs."
Fabrikant notes that many boomers are selling jewelry that belonged to their late parents. But if you inherited family heirlooms from your folks, there may not be any paperwork detailing the stones' origins. Your mother may have told you that the blue sapphire she treasured came from Kashmir, but Fabrikant says before the 1980s, precious gems usually would not come with certificates of authenticity. A gemological laboratory can ascertain if, for example, a sapphire indeed came from Kashmir, making it extremely valuable.
As for why boomers are selling their parents' jewelry, Fabrikant says one reason is to avert family arguments that ensue when heirs haggle about the value of the pieces. "It's impossible to share in the value of a diamond by sharing the diamond," he says. "You can't cut it in half." Fabrikant says that arguments rarely center on pieces with sentimental value. "It's always what they think is the most valuable piece," he says. "It's never because 'I loved Mom wearing it.' "