How to Sell Jewelry at Sotheby’s

Learn About Selling Jewelry Through an Auction House

Selling Jewelry at Sotheby's At Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers (DEJB), we like to empower our clients with as much knowledge as possible, so that you can make the best selling decision to match your circumstances. During our free consultations, we gladly discuss the options available to you when selling important estate jewelry, precious gemstones, and watches.

While Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers is widely recognized as one of the best places in the country to sell antique and large carat diamond jewelry for cash, there are times when selling estate jewelry through a famous auction like Sotheby’s is an option worth considering.

In this DEJB knowledge article, we therefore will cover the steps that need to be taken, should you decide that selling your fine jewelry via Sotheby’s is the best option for you.

How to Sell Jewelry at Sotheby’s

You’ve finally decided to part with that Tiffany heirloom ring your great-grandmother passed down to your family, or that 1968 Rolex Submariner wristwatch you inherited from your uncle. You know your jewelry is valuable, so you consider contacting Sotheby’s auction house. That’s understandable, considering that Sotheby’s recently exceeded it’s own record in estate jewelry sold at auction, with sales in 2013 totaling nearly 530 million US dollars.

Request an Auction Estimate from Sotheby’s

The first step when selling jewelry at Sotheby’s is to request an auction estimate. Before making contact, you should be aware that Sotheby’s requires a minimum consignment value of $5000 per item for their auction estimate. That is the official minimum. In many cases, Sotheby’s prefers to sell jewelry and watches worth $20,000+, unless your item is historically significant.

If you are confident that your estate jewelry meets this minimum requirement, Sotheby’s has 90 locations in 40 countries, including 13 locations in the United States, where you can arrange for an auction estimate in person. You can also request an auction estimate by filling out an auction estimate form online.

You will be asked to describe your jewelry in detail, and include photographs of both sides, especially highlighting any signatures or hallmarks. The general description should include what exactly your piece is (ring, brooch, etc), the artist or brand, (perhaps Tiffany & Co.), the medium, (gold, platinum, diamond), and the overall condition, (scratches, nicks, etc). You will also be asked to provide information on the provenance of your piece—how, when and where did you acquire the jewelry?

In some cases, additional details may be required, and a Sotheby’s specialist may request an appointment at the office nearest you. If your estate jewelry is not found to be suitable for sale at a Sotheby’s auction, they will recommend an alternative place of sale.

Each jewelry item offered at auction is given a high and low estimate based on careful assessment of all the information, as well as recent auction prices of comparable pieces. These numbers reflect the range in which Sotheby’s experts believe the lot will sell at auction, and are generally used to set a reserve price.

Sell via Sotheby’s Private Sale or Auction?

Sotheby’s also offers private sales for certain valuable jewelry items. The evaluation experts will determine whether private sale or auction is the best way to sell your fine jewelry. Based on their unique market access and insights into the global clientele for estate jewelry, the Sotheby’s experts will develop a personalized sales strategy appropriate to your individual, specific needs. Every effort is made to suit the jewelry to the potential market, including offering your jewelry at auction sites catering to the best market for your items.

The Sotheby’s Contract When Selling Jewelry

Once a Sotheby’s expert determines the most appropriate method of sale for your fine jewelry, a sellers contract will be drawn up. The contract will include an agreed upon reserve price, or the price below which your fine jewelry will not be sold. The reserve price is never formally disclosed, and must be set at or below the low estimate for the piece. Also stipulated in the contract are details about Sotheby’s commissions, or the fees Sotheby’s collects for handling the sale of your fine jewelry.

Shipping Your Jewelry to Sotheby’s

After the contract is agreed upon, your estate jewelry will need to be delivered to Sotheby’s. The Art Transportation department at Sotheby’s can assist you in the details of packaging and shipping your property. As the consignor, you are responsible for packaging, shipping, and insurance charges.

The Sotheby’s Jewelry Catalogue

When your jewelry arrives at Sotheby’s, it will be photographed and catalogued, and a final determination made about the most appropriate venue for sale, either private sale or at auction. The auction catalogue presents a detailed description of your estate jewelry, including all the factual information about the piece offered for sale. The name of the maker, the year of its creation, and the history of ownership are also included in both the print and online editions of the catalogue.

The Sotheby’s Jewelry Auction

You are welcome to attend the auction where your estate jewelry is offered for sale in person, or you can watch it online. After the sale of your jewelry, you will be sent a sale statement detailing the sale results and net returns based on the “hammer price,” (final sale price), less the commission and other agreed upon fees set forth in the contract. You will receive payment within 35 days of the sale, provided Sotheby’s has received the buyer’s payment.

The length of time it takes to sell jewelry at Sotheby’s and the final cash amount received is often not what sellers initially expect. For example, once your jewelry has been accepted by Sotheby’s, it is not uncommon to wait another 6 months for your estate jewelry to be put up for auction. If your jewelry sells to a buyer, you may lose about 40% of the sale price due to commission + other auction house charges.

If your jewelry doesn’t sell, Sotheby’s will send it back to you and charge you for photography and processing fees. So it is possible to wait 8 months and end up actually losing money (if your jewelry doesn’t sell) or receiving 60% of the final Sotheby’s hammer price.

That is why so many jewelry sellers prefer selling their important estate jewelry to Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers. When selling jewelry to DEJB, you get paid immediately in cash, with no wait or hidden fees attached. In fact, we have found that when one of our clients chooses to sell jewelry via Sotheby’s, the final cash amount they receive often is roughly the same as the cash payment we offered to pay on the spot.

If you would like to sell your jewelry for a generous cash amount today, please contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers for a free verbal jewelry appraisal and cash offer.

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