Back in the 1980s, my mother went through an extended Pretty Shiny Things phase. She had a magpie’s eye and a curator’s taste for the bright bauble, and she collected some of the most beautiful things: precious and semi-precious stones of all kinds, set in jewelry or carved or cut or made into a fetish or just raw from the ground. Her collection was extensive and impressive; she could have opened a small museum.
At Christmas, she gifted me one of those baubles, what is called a dinner ring (or a cocktail ring, or just a right-hand ring) that consists of 25 tiny diamonds and rubies set in a kind of a spiraling bun in a 14K white gold setting.
She knew when she gave it to me that I already wear a ring on my right hand and that this is not my preferred jewelry style.
She said she hoped I would be able to convert it into currency at the going rate, and produced a jeweler’s appraisal from the time of sale (30 years ago) that set the ring’s replacement value at a smidge under $2,000.
You will soon see why I don’t feel the least bit nervous about telling the internet that I am keeping such mighty bling in my house.
I took the ring to the widely respected Big Time Jewelry Store in my town, where the certified gemologist (or whatever) told me he would appraise it for a fee of $125. I asked him if he would consider buying it from me at that time. “We don’t sell used jewelry here,” he sniffed. “We might take it off your hands for scrap.” The going rate for gemstone and precious metal “scrap”? About $75. The stones themselves, being so small, are essentially worthless, he said.
Another, um, “jewelry dealer” in town, the kind who has sturdy bars on the windows and doors of his incredibly shabby shop and who wears a large handgun on his belt during business hours, told me that the typical jeweler’s markup on materials is 1000%, and proved it by weighing the ring. It came to about 1/10th of an ounce, and the original appraisal valued the gold alone at about $350 at a time when gold sold for less than $400 an ounce. So the gold was actually worth about $35 then, and about $150 now, which is what the guy offered me because he, too, regarded the gems as entirely worthless. I took my ring back and went on my way, more than a little bit miffed. He suggested that I go see a guy he knows who consigns jewelry. “Tell him I sent you,” he said.
I am not sure if that route is any more attractive than what the Big Time gemologist had suggested, which was to sell it on Craigslist or eBay. “Seriously?” I asked him. “This is how reputable people dispose of quality jewelry now? Really?” All he could say was, “that’s what I’ve heard.”
What I learned from this is that a jeweler’s appraisal is useful solely for insurance purposes, and that the only way I (or anyone else) could hope to convert this ring into significant currency would be to pay to get it appraised, pay to add it to my homeowner’s insurance policy on a rider, and then report it stolen or lost. Which, besides being terribly expensive, would be outright fraud, of course. And that is not my style at all!
So instead, I shall add it to my own collection of Pretty Shiny Things, many of which are also gifts from my mother. Perhaps someday I’ll have the opportunity to get the stones reset into another style of ring that is more to my taste, just as she has done with some heirloom pieces that were given to her. In the meantime, it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, just like the woman who gave it to me.