If you have old jewelry and are anxious to find out how much it's worth, take some time to examine the pieces yourself and locate information on its history and design. That way, you won't be at the mercy of an appraiser or pawnbroker. You'll be better equipped to negotiate and get the best price for your family heirloom or other piece of old jewelry.
The physical appearance and condition of old jewelry is a big factor in its resale value. Unless you have a rare or one-of-a-kind piece, any scratches, discoloration, loose plating or missing parts will detract from its collectible price. Beware of jewelry that looks new--it might be a vintage reproduction and not the real thing. However, if the ring, brooch or other item looks old but still retains its original color and artistry, it could command a good price.
Identify the jewelry style. Find a good price guide with color photographs at your local library or through booksellers such as Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. Check auction sites, including Bidz.com and JewelryRoom, for similar items. Compare the piece to jewelry with various styles. The arts and crafts design was popular from 1900 to 1920 and consisted of clear cut stones and simple, handcrafted presentation. Art Deco styles, made with Venetian beads, enamel or Bakelite, featured Cubist or travel art. Victorian, Georgian and Edwardian jewelry fixated on different types of stones, with the later Edwardian jewelry using rubies and other bright gemstones. Victorian styles employed light sapphires and similar stones.
Look at the stones in the necklace, ring, choker or other piece. Feel the weight and check the color against other jewelry of the same type. If it's a similar consistency, you probably have the real deal. Consult price guides and local jewelers to ensure that you have genuine sapphire, diamond, ruby or other stones.
Examine the jewelry to determine if it contains real gold. The higher the karat number, the finer and more valuable the gold. A 24K gold ring or setting will get a higher price than a 10K piece. Depending on the overall worth of your jewelry as an antique, you may wish to sell it in its original form, or take it to a gold dealer to get money just for the gold.
Once you've pinpointed the style, era and gemstones, look for information about companies or craftsmen who produced jewelry during that time. You may have an item that was produced in great quantity, or a rare piece on which production was halted after a few weeks, potentially making it far more valuable.
Check with an expert to determine the fair market price of the jewelry. Look for a member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers to be sure you're getting legitimate advice. Before selling your old jewelry, it's best to check with a few experts, potential buyers, or collectors. Compare each estimate to arrive at the best price for your jewelry. The first appraisal you receive may not be the most accurate one.