Your Old Jewelry May Be Worth More Than You Think!

Updated on November 11, 2019
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker was the owner of a small jewelry business for several years.

Speaking as a retired licensed precious metals dealer, I can honestly say that most people own older pieces of jewelry they assume are not worth much because they are:

  • broken
  • out of date
  • dirty
  • tarnished from years of wear and misuse
  • associated with bad memories

I have seen people simply shove such items in a drawer or actually toss them out, but doing these things is a mistake. Assuming a piece is worthless due to issues like these could cost you hundreds of dollars, so unless money means nothing to you, you should take the time to find out how much your jewelry is worth!

There are many different levels and types of jewelry, all of which have different values.
There are many different levels and types of jewelry, all of which have different values. | Source

All Jewelry Is Not Valued Equally

If you know anything at all about jewelry, you understand that some pieces, even those that are classed as "costume" jewelry:

  • are more well-constructed than others
  • are antiques
  • are highly collectible
  • have better designs
  • are created with more valuable metals, gemstones and jewels

Thus, they can be quite valuable. For example, there is one pin made by Trifari (a fairly common name in designer costume jewelry) that sold for more than $4,000 a few years ago!

The point is that people don’t often know the value of what they have either because their pieces were purchased so long ago that they can’t remember what they paid, someone gave them jewelry as a present, or they inherited items.

The truth is that it's important to know the worth of what you have so that if you ever want (or need to) gift, sell, or insure your jewelry, you will be able to determine value.

Does Broken Jewelry Have Value?

Whether broken jewelry has value or not depends on who is doing the buying and whether they want to:

  • own and wear it
  • collect it
  • use parts of it to create various types of crafts and/or jewelry pieces
  • earn money from buying and selling it

People who purchase jewelry to wear or collect always expect it to be in pristine condition, but if all they plan to do with it is break it apart to use for creative purposes, condition won’t matter.


However, condition may or may not come into play for dealers, depending on the type of buying and selling they do.

For example:

  • Those dealing in expensive, high-end items always need their items to be in good condition.
  • If someone is only dealing in gold and silver scrap, it does not matter if the items they purchase are in bad shape.

The reason for this is that gold and silver are precious metals that have inherent values, regardless of condition. It won’t be worth as much as the good pieces, but it still can be worth plenty.

When I was dealing in precious metals, I saw this scenario happen time and again: People would insist they had nothing of value, but once I convinced them to let me help them determine value, many were shocked when I offered them hundreds of dollars for items they considered to be junk!

How to Know What Your Jewelry Is Worth

It’s not always easy to find out what your jewelry is worth, but here are a few tips that can help:

  1. Check pieces for flaws such as chipped or missing stones, scratches and broken clasps because problems like these lower values.
  2. Research costume jewelry online or take it to a consignment shop to get some idea of value.
  3. Buy a cheap eyepiece and check your items to see if there is a gold or silver mark on it. For gold, you will normally see 10K, 14K,18K or 22K. ( Don’t get excited if you see 12K because 12K is not gold.) For silver .925 and .999 are standard marks.
  4. Hold a strong magnet against the metal portion of an item. If it does not stick, you may have something made with either gold or silver because those two metals are not magnetic.

(3 and 4 are two simple tests that indicate the possibility that you have something of value, but they are not foolproof because there are many fakes on the market that are stamped with gold marks but are not gold, also heavily plated gold pieces will not hold a magnet.)

To be sure of what you have, your best bet is to take your items to a credible jewelry buyer and let him test and weigh your pieces for you.

Conversely, if you really want to get serious about knowing what your gold and silver items are worth, you can purchase a book and kit that shows you how to do so. I used those items for years in my scrap metal business, and they were very effective.

Where to Find Credible Jewelry Estimators

There are a number of people who are knowledgeable, credible and who can provide realistic estimates and appraisals for you. However, many of them charge a significant amount of money for their services, and often only provide insurance appraisals, which are far different from street value estimates. You can find information about these specially trained people, called Gemologists, in the video below.

  • Jewelers and Pawn Shop workers will give you street estimates, but many of them will also try to purchase your items at prices that are far below their actual value.
  • If you want to get a basic idea about the value of your jewelry, your best bet is to check eBay’s completed listings for items similar to yours to see what people were willing to pay to purchase them.
  • You can also go online to research the hundreds of resources there that can give you a basic idea of values for both costume and precious metals jewelry.
  • You may also want to check out Monex to see the current values for gold and silver. If you do this, bear in mind that those prices are for the highest quality of precious metals and do not reflect what a dealer will pay you for your items because he has to make a profit to stay in business. Furthermore, pricing is based on weight, carat and condition as well as the day's current values.

Doing these things takes a bit of effort, but it could save you hundreds, and possibly thousands, of dollars!

Once you sell unique pieces of jewelry, you may never be able to replace them, so think carefully before you sell.
Once you sell unique pieces of jewelry, you may never be able to replace them, so think carefully before you sell. | Source

Think Twice Before Selling

It is very tempting to want to sell your jewelry if someone offers you cash for it, but make sure you know what you have and what you want to do with it before doing so.

I knew a woman who sold an old, ugly, beat up silver brooch for $5. It turned out to be an item that was created by a well known silversmith from Paul Revere’s time and was valued at more than $600! She was sick when she found out what she had done, but she could have avoided this problem by simply doing some research!

You can eliminate having a problem like this by taking the time to find out how much your jewelry is worth before you take any action.

Some of it may look like junk to you, but that does not mean that it is!

Do you think it's important to know the value of the jewelry you own?

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Questions & Answers

  • I have a nice ruby gemstone set in gold from my grandmother, probably about 80 to 100 years old. How do I know if it is real?

    Take it to a jeweler who is a gemologist and ask him to check it for you. Some jewelers charge for this service, others do not. Since it is set in gold, it's likely the stone is real, but you cannot know for sure unless you have it tested.


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    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      2 years ago from USA

      Many people don't even realize that they have something of value in their jewelry boxes. It's a real shame. Some even throw pieces out because they break or become tarnished.

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      3 years ago from USA

      Jyoti Kothari: That's interesting. Here in the states very few people actually realize that even their gold teeth have value and just throw them away!

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      3 years ago from USA

      Diane Abrahamson: Yes, that happens a lot. You really have to inspect pieces closely and sometimes run tests to find out whether they have any value or not. I thought the video showed some helpful tips, also. Thanks for stopping by.

    • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

      Jyoti Kothari 

      3 years ago from Jaipur

      Ya, it is true for jewelry with precious metals, diamonds, and real gemstones. People in India are well aware of the value of a broken jewelry. However, the scenario may be different in other parts of the globe. This article will help them in getting the right price. I am a jeweler and know this from my own experience.

      Thanks for a good and detailed article.

    • profile image

      Diana Abrahamson 

      3 years ago

      My gran had a lot of interesting pieces of jewellery. Some that looked that they were worth a lot, were actually only costume jewellery and other pieces were found to be of more value than initially thought. Thanks for all your interesting info.


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