Estate Jewelry


Usually refers to pre-owned jewelry and not necessarily antique and period pieces. Since they are not new, it should alert you to the fact that they may not be in good condition. Inspect them with a keen eye, under magnification if available, to detect any damage or peculiarities. Just because they are used, it shouldn’t preclude the vendor from giving some sort of guarantee, particularly with timepieces. Ask the seller if you should be aware of anything, particularly with the security of the stones that are set in the piece, or does it require any special handling or cleaning technique. Sometimes the piece may be sold “as is,” due to its condition. It would be wise to question why this is the case.

Because they are used, the items would generally be less costly than their new counterparts. A rule of thumb would be at least 20% less, depending upon condition and rarity. However, it could be that they are antiques and consequently worth more than a similar new piece of jewelry. Provenance plays a major role in added value should the item be of historical importance, i.e., a brooch worn by Martha Washington and shows it being worn in a portrait of her.

As would be the case with buying new jewelry, be sure the merchant is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Check with the Better Business Bureau or Consumer Protection Agency in your area to see if they have a track record of complaints. American Gem Society Jewelers would be an excellent choice. They are an elite group of gemologically trained professional jewelers who subscribe to a strict code of ethics and standards. They are located in cities throughout the United States and Canada.

Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness.

He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser, from the American Gem Society, is the author of three appraisal books, and has appeared on “Prime Time Live” several times.

Mr. Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.

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