In 1988, my then boyfriend gave me a gleaming Cartier Santos Tank watch for my birthday, which thrilled me to no end. Even though I was 31 and had a solid career, this was my first serious watch. Wearing it made me feel glamorous, sophisticated and beautiful. A classic Cartier, it kept on ticking, day in and day out, for all these years. It was so perfect, I never considered replacing it with another, even long after the relationship ended and I married someone else.
Every few years when I would bring it to Cartier for cleaning and battery updates, they would tell me how well the watch had worn the test of time (no pun intended), a credit to my loving care. But a few months ago during a visit to their Fifth Avenue flagship store, the lovely gentleman in the service department joked that maybe it was time for something new. After all . . . 25 years was a pretty long time to be attached to a watch. Wasn't I getting bored?
I am a minimalist to the core, and a retailer's worst nightmare. Shopping is one of my least favorite things to do, and as I've gotten older my goal has been to de-clutter my life . . . not to crowd it with more things I don't need. Why, I thought to myself, would I want a new watch when the one I have is in perfect working condition?
But, for the first time in 25 years I found myself sneaking peeks at watches on display in store windows, while giving serious consideration to the idea of life without my Cartier. For sure, I was attached to the watch itself because I treasure its timeless design and flawless engineering. But, did I have an emotional connection to it? Had I received it from someone whom I had truly loved? Was this something I would cherish as a romantic memento for the rest of my life? Would I consider passing it on to one of my daughters?
It took seconds to come up with the answers: no, no, no, and no.
Clearly, I was ready to let it go . . . and move on. I was starting to agree with the Cartier service guy: being devoted to a watch for 25 years seemed long enough to me.
But what to do with it? Sell it on eBay? Try a consignment shop? Leave it in my top drawer for the next 25 years? Give it to one of my daughters now? I wasn't sure. I asked a friend who seems to know about everything for some advice. She promptly pointed me toward a firm that buys jewelry and only jewelry, no matter what kind of condition it's in.
Natasha Cornstein, an executive at CIRCA, the world's leading buyer of jewelry (including watches), talked me through the process. During our phone chat, Natasha told me that CIRCA estimates that five trillion dollars of unworn jewelry can be found in vaults, jewelry boxes and drawers like mine around the world. That's a lot of bling gathering dust.
She also told me that in the past selling jewelry was often prompted by the "three D's": death, divorce and debt. No more. Today, people bring all kinds of jewelry to CIRCA and other jewelry buyers for lots of other reasons including the most simple one of all: you've had it for a while, you're not wearing it anymore, you want to move on from it, and maybe get something new. Or, many people want to use the money to pay for other things: vacation, clothes, even college tuition.
The problem many people have, Natasha said, is they feel guilty selling something if it's been given as a gift, or especially if it's been handed down to them by a loved one. The people at CIRCA have this to say about that: If you know you'll never wear it . . . sell it. No one benefits if it's languishing in a drawer.
I met with Natasha and Angelina Chen, the New York director of CIRCA, who answered a few of my questions about knowing when -- and how -- to sell your jewelry, watches and other beloved baubles:
- What's your typical jewelry purchase? We buy everything. Just about every piece of jewelry has resale value, whether it's in perfect condition or not (even some costume "in demand global brands" like Chanel or Hermes are bought, but CIRCA typically buys real jewelry.).
- What if I haven't worn it in a year (or ever?) Chances are good you never will again. Sell it.
- How do I know if what's in my jewelry box is worth anything? Get it evaluated by an expert buyer. You never know.
- Should I get the piece fixed or cleaned before bringing it in? Expert buyers evaluate every item regardless of condition, so don't get it refurbished, cleaned or fixed first. Just bring it in, as is.
- Does it have to be appraised first? No insurance appraisal is necessary.
- When do I get paid? Once the seller has accepted an offer, expect to be paid immediately.
Walking out of the office I started a mental list of all the unworn jewelry I'd be pulling out of my drawer when I got home: the gold earring that lost its mate ten years ago; the silver chain that didn't go with anything, ever; the gaudy ring relatives gave me years ago (no names, please); and a few more trinkets I knew I'd never wear.
Here's a video clip of Natasha explaining everything to the morning team on Fox & Friends:
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