Jewelry: Not so shiny - MoneySense

Jewelry: Not so shiny

Your old jewelry isn’t worth as much as you think.


During tough times, people have always raided their jewelry box to come up with ready cash. This recession is no different. Spurred on by the high price of gold and non-stop TV ads promising big bucks for old gold, people have been flocking to trade in their bling.

But how much can you really get for your rings and necklaces? Unfortunately, very little. A jeweller or pawnshop will pay only 25% to 50% of what you bought a diamond ring for in a store. And you’ll get 10% or less of the retail price for jewelry that’s going to be melted down for its gold. “Most people assume jewelry is an investment that rises in value. But that’s an urban myth,” says Debra Sawatzky, a gemologist and estate jewelry appraiser in Toronto.

Even if you have a certificate from a professional attesting to the value of your ring or brooch, don’t expect to receive the amount on the certificate. An appraisal merely represents the retail value of your gems for insurance purposes. The price you paid includes the store’s retail markup and the labor that went into crafting the ring. Jewellers and pawnshops deduct those costs when they buy old diamond rings, says Renée Newman, a Los Angeles gemologist and author of the Gemstone Buying Guide.

If you’re still intent on selling your jewelry, follow these tips for the best deal:

Don’t accept the first offer

Diamond rings especially need to be shopped around to more than one store. A former co-worker of mine had a diamond ring appraised at $8,500. He visited several jewellers and found offers all over the map. The lowest was $900. The highest—$2,900.

Avoid the melting pot

Old necklaces, rings and earrings are usually worth more as jewelry than melted down for their gold content. Avoid shops that only offer to pay for the value of the gold. If your jewelry is not that expensive, go to a jeweller or pawn shop that specializes in reselling jewelry rather than one that sends it to a refinery. If your jewels cost you more than four figures or come from high-end jewellers such as Tiffany or Cartier, consider putting them up for auction. There are two main auction houses in Canada: Dupuis Fine Jewellery Auctioneers ( and Waddington’s ( Dupuis’s commission is only 10% to 25% ofthe sale price at auction. The rest of the money goes to you.

Understand the value of your gold

If you do end up selling your gold for scrap, it’s important to know how much gold your jewelry has in it and what it’s worth. It’s an easy calculation. First, go to and find the current price of gold per troy ounce. As I write this, the price is $935 (U.S.). Convert that amount into Canadian currency: $1,030. Then multiply by 0.0311. That’ll give you the price of gold per gram, in this case $33.11. You need to know that number because when a jeweller weighs your jewelry he’ll tell you how many grams of gold it has.

An 18K wedding band might only have five grams of gold, which means the ring has $166 worth of gold. Most jewellers will offer you less than half that amount: $50 to $75 would be typical. But if you know what the gold is worth, you can haggle for more money.