Reyne Gauge: Turning Your Neglected Jewelry Into Cash!

02/16/2011 06:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's a new year, and you're looking for ways to pay off your Christmas credit card charges, or to just get rid of old credit cards with the "new" interest rates.

Part time jobs, selling items on Craigslist/eBay, and planning a Spring garage sale are all great ways to generate extra cash to help reduce your debt. Another opportunity is to look in your jewelry box for things you have had for a long time, but perhaps have no sentimental value and/or are no longer in style.

Gold is continuing to rise and that old engagement ring, or gold rope chain can possibly mean cutting your credit card debt in half or wiping one out altogether.

What are some things to consider when selling your jewelry?

Tip #1 - Determine what you have.

Some pieces may be "fine" jewelry (meaning gold or platinum, with fine gemstones or diamonds), and some may be costume. Check for any markings on the clasp, interior or back of a piece of jewelry. These will tell you if it is gold or platinum, and what quality the gold is (9kt, 10kt, 14kt, 18kt, etc.). If you determine that it's gold or platinum, the next step is to visit your local jeweler to determine what the stones are. Keep in mind, though, that not all gold jewelry is marked. If your item isn't marked, yet you feel it is quality, you may want to have your local jeweler test it to determine whether it's gold or just gold plate.

Costume jewelry can sometimes be valuable, too. There are numerous books in the antiques & collectibles sections of your local bookstore or library to help you investigate the value of costume jewelry.

Tip #2 - What's it worth?

Once you know what you have, you have to determine how to price it. In many cases, if you have something where the stones are small, chances are you won't retire by selling it. To collectors, the interest might not be there -- yet the skyrocketing price of gold might even make it worth scrapping, as it would sell for more as scrap than to a jewelry collector. You can check online for the going price of gold on that day, weigh your item and then calculate what it would melt for.

If the stones are of a larger size, it would be best to have a local jeweler look at them to determine if the color and clarity are desirable. If the color is good, you will want to have it graded. The Gemological Institute of America is the most recognized grading company for diamonds. They can determine the true color and clarity, and provide you with a certificate that will help you obtain top dollar for your stone.

If you already have a GIA certificate on your jewelry, or you obtain one from GIA, you can visit the website Blue Nile to get an understanding of what your diamond currently retails for. You can search by cut, clarity and color to find your exact diamond (or one very close), to determine what price you should be asking for your stone.

Tip #3 - Should I sell to a dealer?

If you don't want the hassle of people coming to your home to look at your jewelry, or if you don't feel like you have the knowledge to talk in depth about what you have -- and you're willing to take a little less to sell it immediately, instead of potentially weeks from now -- a dealer might be your best option. If you have never worked with an estate jewelry dealer in the past, visit Google and type in a keyword search for Estate Jewelry Dealer (insert your town here). Spend a day setting appointments to see their buyers, and take your jewelry to a few to see who is willing to offer the best price.

Tip #4 - Can I sell it privately?

You can try your hand at being a dealer by listing your item in the Sunday classifieds, or Make sure, if you list it on Craigslist, to include a good digital photo of the item in your listing. You might also meet interested buyers at a public place, such as a bank, for safety.

Tip #5 - What about online? -- Maybe eBay?

If you want to sell your item on eBay, you need to make sure you list all the important information about the item so that potential buyers know what they are looking at. You'll want to include: Size of item, condition of the item, a brief description of the item, markings -- if any, and what the weight of the item is. Also, it's important to include several digital photos.

Tip #6 - Quality photos.

Quality digital photos need to show potential buyers every aspect of the piece. These include: Full image, backside image, a close-up of the detail, and a close-up of any markings. Make sure to take a photo of the item on a plain background. Do not include cute doilies or flowers to enhance the item -- it detracts from what you want the buyer to focus on.

Tip #7 - Should I contact an auction house?

If you have an array of top-of-the-line pieces (big diamonds, designer pieces, collectible watches), you might consider contacting an auction house. For higher end merchandise, they can cast a bigger net to potential buyers. Make sure to ask questions up front, such as 1) When is your next sale? 2) What commission rate do you charge? 3) Do you charge for photography fees? 4) How much is insurance on my item? 5) Do you charge buy-back premiums? Once they give you an estimate for your item, and you begin to deduct the above listed variables, you can then determine if it's worth consigning your jewelry.

Tip #8 - What do I call my jewelry?

The best way to describe your jewelry would be to use the era (such as Art Deco), the type of item it is (e.g., brooch) and what the medium is (carat gold, and if it has stones); for example: "14kt Art Deco Brooch with Diamonds." This helps potential buyers determine quickly if they are interested and want to know more.

Tip #9 - Do I need an appraiser?

If you have just a few items, you can probably figure out the value of your items by using the suggestions above. If you have a large collection, you might consider hiring a jewelry appraiser. A great online source for locating a nearby appraiser is the International Society of Appraisers.