Donate or Sell? What to do with Your Unwanted Jewelry

This Charles Loloma Hopi Kachina Sand Cast Tufa Mold Sterling Silver Pendant sold for more than $2,500 on April 10.

We regularly talk to consignors who don’t realize the value of the jewelry they have collected throughout their lives or have inherited from family members.

In fact, earlier this month, we sold a signed Charles Loloma pendant for more than $2,500. Loloma was an influential Native American jeweler from the 1950s to the 1980s. The pendant came from an estate whose consignor had no idea what it was or that it was valuable.

Which brings us to an important point. Before you donate, throw away or sell your jewelry at one of those cash for gold places, check to see if it’s valuable.

Ask yourself these questions to determine if it’s worth having your piece appraised.

  1. Is it precious metal? Jewelry made from gold, silver or platinum is typically worth more than pieces made from alloy metals. One easy way to check is to use a magnet. Gold, silver and platinum are not magnetic. If your piece of jewelry is attracted to the magnet, you know it’s not real gold, silver or platinum. But, even if your piece isn’t made from a precious metal, it could still be valuable. Some antique and vintage costume jewelry sells for hundreds of dollars.
  2. Does it have a hallmark? Fine jewelry, that is less than 100 years old, should have a hallmark stamp showing the type of metal used – this is usually an abbreviation of letters and/or numbers. You can typically find the hallmark on the inside of rings or bracelets, on the clasp of a necklace or on the post of an earring.
  3. Is it signed? Similar to a hallmark, signed jewelry indicates the jewelry house or designer who created the piece. You will find signatures on some pieces from 1860 onward, but the practice became popular in the early 1900s when all the top jewelers began adding their signature. Cartier, Faberge, Harry Winston, JAR, Lalique and Van Cleef pieces tend to earn top dollar at auction. High quality costume jewelry will also have the company name or stamp on the back side of the piece. Be sure to look carefully, as some signatures begin to disappear over time.
  4. Is it vintage costume jewelry? Quality costume jewelry can be quite valuable. Check the piece carefully. If you see green on the piece or if the finish is delaminating or has peeling layers, it’s best to donate. Look at the back of the piece as well. Clean and clear details on the back of the piece, as opposed to a back that is sloppy or where everything runs together, indicate quality. These pieces of costume jewelry are worth getting appraised.


If you’re not sure about the value of your jewelry, take advantage of a free appraisal fair, or consult with a certified appraiser before deciding to donate that necklace or ring.


Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale. Contact him at, or 623-878-2003.


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