Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bargain Jewelry that's a Real Bargain

My brain hurts! I have spent the last 4 hours trying to find examples for this article on comparing jewelry prices. There is so much on the internet and it is hard to know what to choose. The goal of this article is to explain to you why buying jewelry from a chain jewelry store is a bad investment and how you can save money by buying used, or better use the money to buy a piece of vintage jewelry. The average retail chain jewelry store buys machine made wholesale jewelry from another country usually in Asia. I looked on http://www.jewellerynetasia.comsale and found a list of 2,360 finished jewelry suppliers. The stores buy the jewelry, the large stores have their "designer" jewelry lines made by over seas usually in the same factories. The jewelry is bought wholesale and then marked up 500% or more. Example; a ring bought for $25.00 each will be sold retail for $150.00-$200.00. Some stores like Ross Simmons inflate the price and then mark it down. Here are some examples that I found today.
The first trip I made was to the Kay Jeweler’s website. They call themselves “America’s Favorite Jewelry Store”. While there I found a lovely Lover’s Embrace heart shaped necklace with diamonds for $199. Kay's site doesn't let you use their pictures. Here is the description "DIAMOND NECKLACE 1/5 CT TW ROUND-CUT STERLING SILVER" Stock number 172186607. I'll save you the trouble it looks exactly like the picture on the left. The exact item with original Kay box sold for $50.00 on EBAY, a savings of $149.00 or 75% off.
EBAY $100.00
An isolated incident? NO. On the contrary I found so many currently sold jewelry items on EBAY for a fraction of their price I had a hard time choosing. See the fing on the right? Kay's description ""DIAMOND HEART RING 1/10 CT TW ROUND-CUT 10K WHITE GOLD" $237.30 Ticket $339.00"

You think it's such a deal. A hundred dollars off. Until you look on EBAY and find that someone bought the same ring with the box included for $100.00. This is the same item. No one will ever know that you bought it used at a almost 75% off the original price or over 50% off the sale price.
Ross Simon 25% off sale Sale $395.00

EBAY $89.00 

I am not picking on Kay Jewelers. I looked at Ross Simons as well. Here I found on the far left Pave Diamond Accent Starfish Pendant Necklace in 14kt White Gold. 18" . See description $395.00. On EBAY I found a similar necklace but in yellow gold also. The EBAY necklace comes with the original Ross Simons box and claims to be brand new. I know they aren't the same but I found Ross Simons so much harder to find. The sell so many different kinds of jewelry and sell retail for a much shorter time. 

The main point is that if you want to buy yourself a piece of "fashion" jewelry for the best price. Never buy it from a retail store. You can buy the same jewelry used and at times even with the original box. Or if you are done wasting your money on fads like Cape Cod bracelets and Pandora beads, and Alex and Ani, and want jewelry that won't go out of style that you can wear forever. What I am asking you to do is to think about the jewelry you buy. Have you ever considered buying vintage or antique jewelry?

Vintage jewelry is t least 25 years old and antique jewelry is 75 years old or more. Antique jewelry is usually handmade with care, the artists used high quality materials and constructed the pieces to last. I know, you have watched Antique's Roadshow and know that antique jewelry can cost a huge amount of money. Or you have looked in those fancy antique store jewelry cases and been too intimidated to even ask to see a piece close up. Well my friends here is a huge secret. So come close and make sure no one else is watching.
Art Deco Diamond Pearl $91.00
15K Victorian Enamel Amethyst $75.00
You can buy gorgeous affordable antique jewelry on EBAY! This jewelry is usually bought from the owner or from an Estate sale and then sold to you for fantastic prices. This antique jewelry would cost you 5 to 7 times more if you bought it in a fancy antique store. I gave myself a $100.00 limit and went on EBAY to see what I could find. Look at these deals! These are "sold for" prices.

Pretty cool stuff. Their are jewelry bargain.   But you will never find them in a retail store.

14K seed pearl pin pendant

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gold Seller Beware

Happy Monday. This morning the price of gold opened at $1,580.04 a Troy ounce!

I know, now you’re rich! You have tons of gold in your jewelry box; your old herringbone chain, dome ring, Aunt Erma’s heinous brooch, your big hoop earrings, all that old boyfriend jewelry, and all of those now embarrassing charms that we had to have.  

Wait! Listen girl, before you run out to cash in all of your gold at the jewelry store, please read on.

First please understand that, yes, gold is highly priced right now, however the price of $1,580.4 is for one Troy Ounce. Because Gold is an international market they use Troy Ounces.  Troy ounces are abbreviated as t.oz. .  1 regular every day ounce = 0.911458333 troy ounce.

Also that big $ 1,580.04 is for 24K or 100% pure gold. Most of us have 14K 10K gold, and you lucky Lucy’s have 22K or 18K gold too. Here is what your gold, the percentage of gold and the price per t.oz.

22K is 91.7 % gold which is $1321.93 t.oz
18K is 75% gold which is $1081.00 t.oz
14K is 58.3% gold which is $840.00 t.oz
10K is 41.7% gold which is $601.0 t.oz
G.F  E.P. 1/10 10K  RPG isn’t gold remember. ZERO

What does all of this mean? Well if you want to sell your gold to a jewelry store, or gold buying store or service, they are going to sell it to a scrapper who melts the gold and then resells it as raw materials.
You are basically selling your jewelry based only on the cost of the metal.  To do this well you need to know what your gold is worth. Most gold buyers will completely confuse you. I hear horrible stories like when my sister sent away for a gold selling kit from Cash4gold or one of those rip off gold companies. They sent her a pre-addressed envelope and she didn’t have to pay postage. She filled it up with her old gold. Including pieces bought for her by my father over the years before he died. She received a check for $86.00 dollars.

I will never forget. It makes me sick even to this day that she basically had all of that beautiful jewelry stolen by some crook company. My sister has emotional disabilities and she needed money in need of money and saw this as a quick fix. She had no idea how many dwts or t.0z she sent them. So she couldn’t prove that they took advantage of her.

I have even tried to sell gold to jewelry stores just to see what they would offer. They usually offer 50% of what the gold is actually worth and then when I tell them that I am a professional they may  raise their offer 10% or 15%.  They talk so fast and use so many numbers that my brain hurt.

The gold buyers count on the fact that none of us follow gold stocks or have any of these strange measuring systems are. Most of them use Pennyweights.  Pennyweights is abbreviated as 1 dwt .

20 dwt. are in 1 Troy Ounce. Or 1 dwt is .05 troy ounces. I hate math and have come up with quick math tricks.

Lazy math trick- 14k is $840 for 1 t.oz. Step 1) Divide by 50% =$420 Step 2) Remove zero  = $42.00 dwt
Once you know that your gold should cost $42.00 a dwt you’ll be prepared when your local jeweler offers you $18.00 or $20.00 a dwt.

Here are the secrets that your gold buyers 
don’t want you to know.

1.      They never ever want you to know what your gold is actually worth.  

2.      That they are only paying you 50% or less of the actual value.

3.      They have to buy your gold for less because they have to pay for rent, electricity, employees, insurance, advertizing, ect.

4.      That your designer, antique, and studio jewelry is being resold for big money.

5.      Not all, but some gold buyers will fix their scales so your jewelry weighs less.

6.      Not all, but some gold buyers claim that your jewelry is stamped wrong and claim that it’s 10K when it’s 14K or 18K. Or if it’s not stamped they claim it tested at a lower Karat.

7.      That this industry has no regulation and they can basically do whatever they want.
Cartier Necklace auction price $750
Scrap price $102.58

8.      They want to pay you cash without any documentation so that they don’t have to pay taxes or have a record of the transaction.

Jewelry is a pretty but it’s an ugly business. Be careful. Be knowledgeable. Trust your gut.

Jewelry is a crazy business. If you want to sell fine jewelry always find a reputable trustworthy person. Some jewelry stores have wonderful reputations and are honest. They won’t be able to pay you as much as other venues. I had a lot of luck selling on EBAY. Auctions like EBAY or even better live auctions are best because they only take a 10%-25% commission of the final sale price. So they are motivated to make you the most money possible; because their pay is based on your selling price.

If you have any question comment or email me at I do have a list of trusted jewelers.
I do love my local jewelers for fixing my broken pieces or for resizing; but never ever for buying retail. 

Please tell me that you or members of your house are buying jewelry retail! NOOOOOOO! STOP! I’ll tell you why and you will never make this mistake it again.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Antique Cookbook Sunday! 

What is better for a Sunday dinner than a boiled dinner? A what? You may ask dismayed and confused. A boiled dinner needed no explanation. We all knew what boiled dinner people were referring to. The boiled dinner that was a staple in my childhood kitchen and in the kitchens of most of the families of Irish heritage in the Boston Area.  Of course I am talking about boiled Corned beef in a pot boiling on the stove with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, and anything else that was on sale that week.

My mom always made her boiled dinner in a huge oval shaped covered pot that looked old, dented, and well used, even when I was a little kid. I always assumed that it was her mom’s or her grandmothers. But by the time I remembered to ask the cancer drugs made her so loopy that she couldn’t remember.

I found this recipe in The New Yankee Cookbook, Ironically dated 1939.
I love this cookbook of old Yankee recipes. Reading it reminds me of my mom and my nana who loved New England and taught me about the generations of scrappy hard working women of my family came before us.   

New England Boiled Dinner

§  4 pounds corned beef
§  15 peppercorns
§  8 whole cloves
§  1 bay leaf
§  8 small beets
§  2 turnips, cut into pieces
§  16 small new potatoes, peeled
§  16 baby carrots
§  8 small white onions
§  1 head cabbage, cut into 8 wedge-shaped pieces

Cover beef with water and simmer 10 minutes, covered, in a large kettle. Skim off and discard the residue that forms on top of water. Add peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer 3 hours or until meat is tender. Put beets in separate pan with a little water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Add turnips, potatoes, carrots, and onions to kettle with meat. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes longer. Add cabbage and cook, covered, 15 minutes more. Remove meat, cut into serving pieces, and place on platter surrounded with well-drained vegetables.

My mom shoved it all in the pot on our old brown gas stove for what seemed like all day and let nature take its course.  Mash it all together and serve with a butter on top. Now that’s New England Boiled Dinner.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Jewelry Trash or Treasure?

My specialty at our auction house is jewelry. Jewelry is my passion and has been since I was a little girl. One of my favorite things to do is sort clients jewelry.  Last year at a client’s house I found assorted 14K gold jewelry mixed in with their mom’s cheap costume jewelry. The jewelry sold for almost a thousand dollars at auction. Treasure from a box that was headed to the Salvation Army.  Another client was shocked when I told her that the cheap silver ring that she bought at a flea market twenty years earlier was actually real platinum, diamonds and rubies. The ring she paid less than $10 dollars for had an insurance replacement  value of  $1,500 to $2,500 dollars. 

Here are some of my secret jewelry detecting tips for you.   

Consider the source. If you have a gold colored charm bracelet that you bought from a department store for under $100.00. Chances are 100% that it’s not going to be real gold. On the other hand if rich Aunt Beatrix presents you with a similar style charm bracelet in a light blue box labeled Tiffany’s than you can bet your life its gold. Unless she’s like my husband’s Granny who used to put gifts in Tiffany boxes just to mess with people. Oh how I miss her.
Which brings us to our second tip.  

Look for Clues. If the piece of jewelry is less than 100 years old it will be marked. If it’s not marked and you think it may be older than 100 years old bring it to a professional.

MARKS Look inside the band, on the back, and on the clasp. The marks are your best clues.  

American Standard Gold marks: 22K 18K 14K 10K

Not Gold Marks:

 18KGE. Electroplated not real gold. If it ends in GE It’s not 18K gold.
14KG.F. If your gold mark ends with G.F. it’s gold filled. Not real gold.
1/20 12K. or 1/10 10K.  If your piece says either of these it has a tiny insignificant layer of gold over the base metal. So sorry a little better, but still not real gold.
14KRPG. Means Rolled Gold Plate. Better but no not real.
14K over sterling. Just means they put an insignificant layer of gold over sterling. Not gold. But real silver.

No matter how much the Home Shopping Network and retailers try to make these fakes seem like the real thing they’re still fake. It doesn't matter if they claim the item is ”genuine” Electroplate or they claim the  “original” sticker price is $500.00 but, 75% off the markdown price. Ignore them and look at the clues. They can say whatever they want, but legally the jewelry has to be marked and if retail jewelry isn't marked it's always going to be fake. Look at this sterling silver ring with a simulated ruby below advertised as being 80% off. In my opinion even at $69.00 the store is making a 50% profit. The inflated retail price is insane.

Outlet Price : $69.95 
Was: $235.00
Retail: $350.00
Save $280.05 (80%) Off Suggested Retail!
More clues.

Does the piece make sense? Now you are savvy and you know that the metal of your ring is 14KG.F. How can you tell if the clear stones are diamonds? Consider the size. If the diamonds are the size of  grains of sand I would assume that possibly they could be real diamonds. If the stones are the size of peas I would assume their is a  100% chance that the stones are simulated.  

Use Common Sense.  Think like a jeweler. If you have an expensive high quality stone you would set that stone in equally fine quality metal right? If the stones and the metal are high quality you would want them sold in a high end jewelry store for a high price. Therefore the best fine jewelry will be set in higher karats of gold and sell for high prices.  Semiprecious or less quality stones are usually set in 10K gold or gold or gold alternatives and more affordable.

Also If the piece is handmade by a jewelry designer it will be signed and be worth a lot more than a piece massed produced by machine. Please tell me that you all know enough never ever to buy jewelry at a mall or from a chain jewelry store right? Oh there is so much to learn. 

That’s all I have time for today. Before you get started a few quick rules.
All of these rules can be broken. That’s why jewelry is so hard to identify and we professionals rely on chemicals and gem testers that can identify unidentified materials. If you want to be 100% sure if your jewelry is worth big money, always go to a reputable professional. If you live in MA, RI, or parts of NH, and CT, I can help you or recommend someone.
Costume jewelry can be worth just as much as the real stuff.
Antique jewelry is like clothes. It goes in and out of style. Your pieces go up and down in worth every 6 months.

Now sort through that jewelry!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday's Recipe

Every Sunday I am going to post an important recipe or entertaining tip from one of my antique cookbooks. 

I love antique cookbooks! Not only for the recipes which at times seem more like science experiments, but for the advice about entertaining and taking proper care of your family. I read these books like an archaeologist uncovering the lost world of the domestic goddesses.

This week’s selection is from Anyone Can Bake published in 1927 by the Royal Baking Powder Company. 

I have chosen page number 6 and 7.
This is not from book

Titled: SETTING THE TABLE-For Breakfast

1. Cover the table with silence cloth made of felt, heavy flannel, or bound asbestos.*

2. Lay nicely laundered, unstarched damask cloth with center dividing table exactly in half. Cloth should hang at least one foot over edge of table.

3. Place forks at the left, knives at the right with the blades turned in, one inch from edge of table.

4. Place spoons, with bowls turned up, at right, in order of use; that is, the spoon used for first course at outside. Place the napkin folded or not, as desired at the left of the fork.

5. The butter plate is placed at the upper left. The spreader on the plate or in same position just to upper right of butter-plate. The glass at the upper right.

6. Place service plate in center of each cover. If bowl is used it should be placed on service plate.

7. Butter curl is placed on each plate---glasses are three-quarters filled with water and fruit placed on service plate just before breakfast is served.

*Please note that I do not recommend covering your table with poisonous materials.

I don't know about you, but this is how I set my table for Christmas dinner. I don't even think that my son knows how to use a fork. Forget using multiple forks? Cloth napkins? Butter plates? Can you imagine setting a breakfast table like this for your family every morning? My kids are happy with a bowl of cereal at our mail covered kitchen table. Maybe I should freak them out this week with a pretty table set for breakfast? But I will leave off the Asbestos and the butter curl.