Buying and Selling at Auction Does Require Some Work
The Antique Jewelry Marketplace
by Edward Lewand
Buying and selling at auction requires an understanding and knowledge of the process, the product you are selling and the effects the process has on people that causes them to bid up items to new highs; and then when the same item is offered several years later it may not even come close to the last prices it had reached prior. Sometimes people (I myself am guilty of this) can get caught up in the auction and bid higher that they want so just a word of advice set your limit in bidding and stick to it.
Buying and selling jewelry at auction requires even more understanding of the process, market and product. Real jewelry unlike many other items has a value for its parts such as platinum, gold, diamonds and other stones. The metals have a price, not what a jeweler would pay you but a refiner would, you would be shocked to learn what the refiners might pay and then judge what the local jeweler pays (see article on gold this publication). Items that are valued based on period, style, provenance and their designer/manufacturer should be appraised and researched. Many auction companies offer these services but I also recommended prior to placing the item you do your own research or hire an independent valuation service to make sure of the market, value and placement.
When you decide to sell your jewelry and place it at auction I have several suggestion you can do yourself; one, you should shop with the local dealer to see what you would be paid in cash this gives you a basis of value. Next learning what the fees are that the auction company would charge is very important. After the fees are paid you don’t want to end up with less than the cash offer. So if you are given an estimate and a reserve from the auction house (a reserve is the lowest price the item can be sold for, this is something you and the auction house will agree on less any fees). So when you are deciding make sure if the item sells for the reserve or the low estimate taking off any fees that you are not getting less than the cash offer.
Many professional valuation services (appraisers) offer services to help people understand auctions and values. They can advise on the right auction house to place the item, depending on the item some auction companies may market certain items better than other companies. The Finer auction companies such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s offer many services that can help you.
Something many people don’t know is most auction companies pay a fee to professional who places an item with them call an “IC” an introductory commission. This fee is normally not taken from the client’s money but make sure you understand this before you have someone place an item from you
Another important problem is finding the right auction house to place your piece. This could be a double edge sword. Could you do better with some items on EBay, could the local auction company bring in the highest and best price, could selling the item outright be better, or should the piece be placed in a higher level auction. Here is a hypothetical problem – you take the piece to a local auction house that has been in the family from a great aunt who was married to a very wealthy man, the piece is a fine Tiffany and Company enameled brooch. The local auction company looks at the piece and they tell you how wonderful it is and that they could get you XYZ they don’t recommend maybe sending it to Christie’s or Sotheby’s or one of the other larger national and international known auction houses that would have a larger more wide spread base client for this type of piece (remember they could also still get the IC if they do). So the item is sold and then three months later a similar or let’s say the same piece comes up for auction at one of the finer large auction houses and goes for four or five times what you got at the local auction, so the question is this is there a liability of the local auction house cause they did not advise you correctly?
The point is very simple do your homework research the markets consult with a professional valuation service. EBay is an amazing research tool and you can also research prior sales on the finer auction houses sites they all have search engines to help you find prior sales, just type in key words such as Tiffany, Brooch, bracelet, Cartier, and the stone type to Diamond, Sapphire etc. Christie’s is now offering online auctions on items in the $2,000.00 to $15,000.00 range please feel free to contact them at 212 636 2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
As always if you have a question please feel free to contact me email@example.com or by phone 516-429-2622.