You always want to look your best, but you don’t have endless money. There are plenty of really good sources for jewelry, even the most special jewelry that will save you a bundle. Then you can spend the money you save on other things like a great ceremony or a special vacation.

Here are a few tips to get started as a jewelry-buying, money-saving genius:

  • Retail has its place but the markup on jewelry is notoriously high brand new. Look around on classifieds sites like for people selling off their old items. You can frequently set up alerts to send yourself emails or texts when items you are looking for are posted.
  • Jewelry often acquires character as it ages. Ask about the story and the origins of the piece you’re looking at. It could have come from the other side of the world or been the centerpiece in a great love affair!
  • Important Terms:
    • Secondhand: had a previous owner
    • Estate: has been previously owned and worn regularly
    • Vintage: older than 20 years
    • Antique: older than 80-100 years
  • Older diamonds were cut by hand so there is a unique quality to items that weren’t laser cut and manufactured. The design may be completely custom and original. Look for and celebrate cutting imperfections that make a new-to-you piece extra special. There is no other like it in the world.
    • But you want to ask for a diamond certification.
    • This will be important for understanding the provenance of your piece, and important for insuring it later.
  • Always ask for papers. They might not be available, and that might be OK for your pursposes. But if it is available, that makes it easier to insure, and to sell again later if you want to.
  • Jewelry isn’t like cars: there is probably nothing wrong with the items being sold. People have really personal reasons for selling items and their change of heart is your gain. It isn’t necessarily better coming from a store. In fact, buying existing jewelry is more environmentally conscious
  • Estate sales can be a treasure trove for jewelry hunters. When people pass on, their families or probate managers will organize a sale and run ads about the event. Not everyone wants their mother’s or grandmother’s items, but to you, it could be just what you’re looking for. Keep your eye out for legal announcements on the radio, online or even driving around town for “Estate Sale.”
  • Take your own loupe when you go for a test drive. Loupes can vary widely in resolution and magnification and if you’re used to what you see through yours, you’re more likely to identify issues or have the confidence you’re buying what you wanted.


  • It might not be appropriate to give secondhand jewelry as a gift. If it is very clean and you have the original box, you can make it work. Or if you know your giftee very well and know that they would not be offended by its origins, then, by all means, give it as a gift. Some of the people we love most will appreciate that you went to extra trouble to find them something really special and unique, and cherish the story that item comes with.
  • You might not get the pretty blue box when buying secondhand. But you don’t wear the box to the cocktail party! Focus on what people really see and you’ll save yourself big money.
  • Secondhand jewelry might need a really good cleaning. You might have to put a little extra work into getting it clean enough to evaluate properly, and then plan to give it a proper ultrasonic cleaning when you get home.

If there is a certain gemstone you are into, spend some time online looking up common frauds around each gem. For example, rubies come in “heated” and “unheated” versions. Oiled or manufactured emeralds aren’t as valuable as natural emeralds. Cultured pearls look pretty good and can be 10x less than natural pearls. You can see the differences with a trained eye, a loupe, and knowledge about what to look for.

Ask questions from every seller. You’ll find out lots of information about the specific piece you’re looking at and general information that will help you in the future, too.

Armed with all of that information, you might also decide that you’re not buying crown jewels for the Queen, and those imperfections will save you a ton of cash and go a long way to making you look like a million bucks!

Good luck shopping. Thanks for using

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