How to buy and sell jewellery at an online auction, by Samuel Hill, founder and specialist of Elmwood’s, a new generation of auctioneers
Lead image: Antique diamond and garnet mourning locket snake necklace in yellow gold (auction estimate: £2k–£3k)
First things first, when buying – always do your research. What is most important before you buy fine or vintage jewellery at auction is to be confident of its authenticity, originality, provenance, and condition.
Therefore, getting certifications and condition reports on a piece’s gemstones is essential. The two main organisations for these are the Swiss Gemmological Institute (SEEF) and The Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Reputable auction houses should always be able to supply these.
The knowledge and track record of the auction house is clearly also paramount; so again, it is worth the time to just check out their expertise, reputation, and recent relevant sale successes.
At this point, do also check out the commission rates for buying and selling at auction. Most auction houses charge a buyer’s premium of around 25% and on average a 15% commission fee for each item sold. Elmwood’s is an exception to this rule – we charge no fees for selling with us.
While the best online jewellery auction houses have invested in excellent photography (not just in styling but in clarity and accuracy of colour reproduction), some specialists, like Elmwood’s, offer personal on-site viewings by appointment, where you can go to their office, see the lots, examine it, hold it, and discuss its qualities and provenance with the experts. As a seller, you many understandably want to take in your jewellery to discuss estimates and selling options.
‘Ultimately, buying and selling at a jewellery at auction is exciting, and you can get some great bargains and achieve some great returns’
For first time buyers or sellers, do be aware that, when the hammer goes down, you’re entering into a contract with terms and conditions, so do check the payment terms and how the auction house processes post sale/purchase invoicing, payment and shipping. If you are a seller, make sure you agree a reserve price after you’ve agreed the estimate (i.e. the lowest price at which you wish to sell).
Finally, remember that there are different ways to buy jewellery at an online auctioneer according to your preference. You can bid live online, register an absentee bid in which one of the experts will bid on your behalf up to highest price you want to pay, or via the phone with an expert taking your bids live.
Ultimately, buying and selling at a jewellery at auction is exciting, and you can get some great bargains and achieve some great returns. Above all, with the right auction house, you’ll know that what you are selling will achieve the best possible price, or what you’re buying will genuinely be unique.
Elmwood’s Fine Jewellery Summer Sales take place on Wednesday 5 August at 2pm and Wednesday 19 August at 2pm. View the event calendar and catalogues at elmwoods.co.uk