"But, [they] don’t know where to start,” said Douglass, who holds a
Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America.
“To start, if you see beaded, string necklaces, keep them tangled, throw
them in a box. But, if you see a broach, you’ll want to do your
Additionally, Douglass recommended examining the following aspects:
- Quality of make/workmanship – “Look at the finish, not only the
frontside but the backside too,” Douglass stressed. If you flip it over
and see a lot of ornate detail, you may have a piece of fine jewelry.”
- Stone settings – If it just looks like a piece of flat metal that’s
been bent over, then most likely it’s costume jewelry. If you see the
stones glued in, that’s a big clue that, again, it’s costume jewelry.
- Metal/materials used – Pay attention to if it’s made out of gold, platinum, metal or something else.
- Condition of metal – The condition of a piece is important for value.
- Maker’s name – Don’t overlook this key detail that can significantly affect value.
Before diving into jewelry identification, Douglass advised Auctioneers to equip themselves with the essential tools.
“If you don’t get anything else, get yourself a loupe,” she said. This
magnifying glass is made for examining jewelry. Other tools she
recommends include a diamond tester, watch knife, diamond gauge and gold
The following categories also serve as essential information for jewelry identification.
Jewelry 101: Cataloging
- Douglass offered several cataloging tips:
- Use “accent diamond” or “melee” vs “diamond chip”
- Use the word “approximate” when using calculated weights
- Gold should be expressed in penny weight
- Silver should be expressed in ounces
- Platinum should be expressed in grams or penny weight
- Use the information on reputable certificates
- Get accurate descriptions of stones – it is impossible to sight ID all gemstones
Jewelry 101: Time Periods
With the time period of an item playing into identification, Douglass offered this guide:
- Georgian, 1698-1837
- Victorian, 1837-1901
- Early Victorian, 1837-1860
- Mid Victorian, 1860-1885
- Late Victorian, 1885-1901
- Arts & Crafts, 1890
- Art Nouveau, 1895-1915
- Edwardian, 1901-1914
- Art deco, 1920-1930
- Retro, 1940-1950
- Modern, 1950-1960
Jewelry 101: Diamonds
If a diamond is over four carats or is smaller yet high-quality,
Douglass recommended ordering a diamond grading report from GIA
(Gemology Institute of America) so you know exactly what you have. The
report differs from an appraisal in that it won’t determine value.
Rather, it’s an evaluation of the physical attributes of the stone
itself. You can expect the report to focus on “the four C’s” of
diamonds: cut, clarity, color, carat.
Jewelry 101: Gemstones
“Don’t assume the identify of a gemstone,” Douglass cautions. To assist
in finding the identify, she offers the following rules of thumb:
- Green stones – could be an emerald, tourmaline, demantoid garnet, green zircon, green spinel, or glass
- Blue stones – could be spinel, zircon, glass, blue sapphire, diamond, topaz, or aquamarine
- Remember: carat refers to weight, not size.
Jewelry 101: Cleaning
When considering whether to clean the jewelry, Douglass says to ask the following three questions:
1. Do you know what it is? Higher end jewelry should be cleaned.
2. What is its condition? Be careful cleaning delicate jewelry.
3. Is it worth your time to clean? Weigh value against cleaning time and cost.
Jewelry 101: Advertising
Once you’ve determined what you have and the value, effective promotion of your items is key.
“A pet peeve of mine is when the ad says the auction has jewelry – and
that’s it. It’s like saying, ‘I have china, glass and furniture,
period,’” Douglass said. “You really need to give more information. Use
details and photos.”
Ensure your items look their best with quality photography. While there
are many variables involved in the result, Douglass says it’s important
not to overlook one key aspect – the background of your item. Go light
with the background, she says. For instance, she uses a tan background.
“If the background is dark, it tends to give too much of a shine or reflection,” she said.
This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2016 NAA
International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips
regarding this topic? NAA members can access the full audio of this
presentation and many others in the NAA Knowledge Center