In 1986, my then-boyfriend surprised me with an exquisite Cartier Santos Tank watch for my 30th birthday — my first serious ‘adult’ watch. I wore it every day, long after the relationship ended and I married another man.
Thanks to the TLC I gave this classic watch, it keeps on ticking . . . but not on my wrist. It's been buried in a drawer for a very long time, replaced by a series of Apple watches (hey, I'm a runner and need to check my pace!).
The watch is in excellent company, however: there's also a Tiffany Jean Schlumberger diamond pave’ ring from my short-lived first marriage; gold bracelets I never liked and never wear; fussy jewelry that no longer works for me; and rings and things my mother gave me that reflect her taste, not mine (but thank you, mom!). Sound familiar? Every once in a while, I rummage through the drawer, opening up the little bags and boxes, trying things on, wondering if I will ever wear them again, knowing I won't. Then I close the drawer.
I'm not alone. Ben De Kalo, CEO and founder of Worthy — which connects people with wholesale jewelry dealers across the globe — said in a recent article: “There is approximately $1 trillion worth of diamonds sitting in drawers across the country. Our households are, by far, the largest diamond mine in the world.” When you throw in all the other kinds of jewelry and watches we're holding on to, it amounts to a heck of a lot of bling gathering dust.
The challenge for most of us is that we sometimes just can't bring ourselves to let go of the past. Worthy conducted a survey that showed that 6 out of 10 women hold on to their engagement rings long after post-divorce dating begins, and 45% say their ring is an emotional attachment to the memories — good or bad — of their ex.
Whether the jewelry you no longer wear came to you through a romantic partnership, from a dear friend or family member, or by buying it yourself, it's time to think about your jewelry for what it is — an under-used asset that could potentially bankroll a much-needed vacation, help with your retirement fund, remodel your bathroom, or even contribute to your kids’ college tuition. Maybe you could even buy jewelry you really like!
Once you come to this empowering conclusion — and you've gotten over the guilt — your next step is to figure out how to sell the jewelry you are prepared to let go (it doesn't have to be all or nothing; sell one or two pieces to test the waters). Here are my recommendations.
Educate yourself. Get your jewelry evaluated. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is the go-to lab to evaluate diamonds and issue grading reports that identify the characteristics of the diamond such as cut, carat, weight, clarity and color. This is an essential step to get the price you want.
Talk to local jewelers. Once you know the characteristics of your jewelry, you will be better equipped to visit local jewelers to gauge interest in having them purchase what is yours. A word of caution: they will try to lowball the price, which is why having a grading report is essential. Always check with the Better Business Bureau before proceeding with any dealer.
Sell directly to the consumer online. Consider online possibilities such as TheRealReal, which is basically an online consignment shop. You set up an account and sell your jewelry direct to the consumer. You set a fair price in conjunction with their gemologists and then ship the item to the facility. They receive a commission after the item is sold.
Sell directly to wholesale jewelers via online auction. The option I found to be the most user-friendly is Worthy, which puts your jewelry up for auction to wholesale jewelers around the world. Worthy is directly aligned to get you the best offer to meet your reserve price. When you accept the highest offer, they make a commission (levels are detailed on their website). They handle every aspect of the process from securing a GIA grading report, taking professional photos, creating descriptions — and the sale. An auction allows for competitive bidding and helps get you a higher return.
It's never easy to let go of objects that have sentimental value or that brought you joy at some point in your life. But remember this: one of the best ways to move forward is to leave some of the past behind.