Rapaport Magazine
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Are You Stocking Estate Jewelry?

Retailrap

By Phyllis Schiller
The 4Cs are not the only things that make a piece of diamond jewelry a sales winner. In an ongoing series, Rapaport Diamond Report explores the “3Ws” — what’s selling, what’s not and why — by going straight to the people who really know — jewelry retailers. Each month, we ask a sampling of retailers to comment on the important issues that are facing the industry today. Here is what they had to say when asked: Do you buy and sell vintage jewelry and is it an area that is growing in customers?


ROBERT LA PERLA, OWNER
LA PERLA FINE JEWELERS
WEST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT

 “We’ve had a very stable estate case now for the past eight years and it’s been great. We buy from customers — a lot of gold still, a lot of diamond, colored gemstone. Estate adds more now, means more now, than it did before. The price of precious metals and new jewelry has a lot to do with it. People come into the store and they are attracted to different pieces. They do look at period pieces; there is a very keen interest in that.”


ROBERT ARGO, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER (CFO)
ARGO & LEHNE JEWELERS
COLUMBUS, OHIO

“We sell estate jewelry; it’s one of our niches. This year, we’re focusing on vintage bridal. There is a growing interest in it, the idea that you get a deal with a previously owned ring and the fact that it looks different than other people’s and that someone else paid the karma and it’s conflict free, it’s green, it’s free traded. Modern micropavé styles have an antique look to them, so it’s opened the door for vintage bridal. Most of our increase in vintage has been in bridal. We’re supplied by buying gold and platinum and metals that people are dumping, which gives us access to more vintage pieces.”


BRUCE J. ARNOLD, OWNER
ARNOLD’S FINE JEWELRY
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA

“We have had, for nearly 30 years, a consignment department, which allows our clients an avenue of approach to the buying public that is usually more remunerative to them than people who buy off the street. So we have seen an increase in that department over the past 15 to 18 months. Right now, it is stuffed to the gills, to the point that we’ve had to throttle off our acquisitions. It’s been a wonderful way to have four showcases full of very interesting stuff and not a penny invested. And because we’ve been doing it for so long, clients know that we have the pieces and we don’t have to beat the drums about it.

“I think that more people are more willing to consider estate jewelry as an option. Art Deco is always popular, and so is platinum, and bigger diamonds, although we don’t get them in too often, don’t hang around long. Rolex watches disappear. Outside of the major trends, it’s all about what sparks someone’s interest.”


BARBARA HIGHT-RANDALL, CO-OWNER
HIGHT AND RANDALL PERSONAL JEWELER
ROCHESTER, MINNESOTA

“We do, indeed. It’s probably one of our largest suppliers right now. It’s very popular. Under our name it says “buyers and sellers of fine jewelry” and for 15 years, that’s been in our ad. We get a certain amount that, no question about it, is going to the refiner, but there are some unique pieces coming in.

“It is a way for people to find very good value with a wonderful piece, especially engagement ring couples. Some brides will come in wanting a vintage piece because it just appeals to them. Oddly enough, another piece of this is they think that if it’s old, it’s not a conflict diamond for sure.

“There’s a lot of romance to it, you can tell customers a little bit of history. And it makes your showcase very interesting and eclectic. We’re very proud of our designer lines, also, and our bridal. But estate is another dimension. We feature contemporary and vintage right on the home page of our website. And people will call about the estate jewelry and come in to see it; it definitely brings them through our doors.”


ROBERT MOORMAN JR., OWNER

CARROLL’S JEWELRS
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA

“Yes, we do sell estate jewelry. I have two showcases full of estate pieces and people come in and browse them and we sell some. I’ll sell vintage rings for second or third-time marriages.

“I have a big sign over the door that I buy jewelry. Now that people have sold all their gold, they’re actually selling jewelry. I’ve seen more and more jewelry and colored stones. I buy for scrap but I do find pieces to resell. I’ve filled my showcases with pieces I buy from the street.”


STEVE QUICK, OWNER
STEVE QUICK JEWELER
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

“ It’s not a huge percentage of our business but it is a very profitable percentage. It’s impossible to shop any two pieces of estate jewelry and so we can actually make a jewelry markup on it. But the other thing about it is it sets you apart from the mall jeweler or jewelers that don’t do it, who don’t want to learn about it and teach their people about it. So it certainly adds another dimension to the store. And when we sell these pieces, which is fairly often, it’s a high profit. 

“There’s no real downside other than you do have to put an inventory in and it’s almost like carrying another designer. We are seeing a lot more people trying to sell things, for whatever reason, but it’s a double-edged sword. They are expecting the world for it because they know that the metal value is so high. Most of the pieces that we get that we are able to really romance, don’t come off of the street, but from a jewelry show where we know the dealers and that the pieces are authentic and we can verify everything. But if we see a great piece that comes in or even if someone is selling scrap, we’ll definitely buy.

“We do stock many antique engagement rings. When someone comes in looking for an estate-like engagement ring that’s new, often we’ll say, ‘We have the original that it’s based on,’ and they get excited about getting something that’s the real thing rather than something that’s a variation on that.”


JIMMY GREEN, PRESIDENT
J. GREEN JEWELERS
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

“I’ve sold quite a bit, especially at the higher end of estate pieces. I’m both buying and selling. I buy as much as I can buy and of course want to sell as much as I can sell. The values are in the estate pieces: if you buy them right, you can sell them right and everybody wins. Over the 30 years or so I’ve been in business, I’ve built up quite a large number of people who know I deal in estate pieces and I put quite a bit on my website. They’ll call and come in to look at it. My store is mostly fashion forward; most of the major estate jewelry I sell happens because people know I have it, not because it’s in a case in my store.”


*Pictured: Camilla Dietz Bergeron earrings

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - March 2011. To subscribe click here.

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