The State of Estate
There are several ways to make the most of period jewelry sales
The Gemological Institute of America held its annual GemFest Basel at
the Basel Fair in April, introducing the topic of estate and period jewelry.
The session began with jewelry historian Elise Misiorowski's presentation
titled "An Historical Overview: Recognizing the Impact and Value of
Estate and Period Jewelry." Misiorowski's presentation tracked jewelry
history from the Edwardian period to the 1950s. She noted trends that are
repeating, including interest in white metal and white gems such as diamonds
and pearls; changeable jewelry, popular during the Great Depression and
World War II; woven, fabric-like gold; and big looks in citrine and amethyst.
A panel then discussed "Selling History: the Business of Estate
and Period Jewelry." Five estate and period jewelry experts shared
their views on the following key issues.
Creating Jewelry Collectors
Panelist Joseph Samuel Jr., president of J.&S.S. DeYoung Inc., Boston
and New York City, suggested jewelers create collectors to increase their
period jewelry businesses. "Encourage people to develop a theme, such
as how flowers have been treated throughout different periods in jewelry
history," Samuel suggested. Other ideas included giving a vitrine to
collectors to encourage display of their treasures and a desire for more.
Panelists and audience members discussed the need for more retail-oriented
education in estate jewelry. Such training should include sales associates
in addition to owners and managers. Audience members voiced the need for
brief, simple information on jewelry history instead of the longer, dense
books now on the market. Several suggested GIA develop estate jewelry training
What's in a Name?
Panelists agreed the term "second-hand jewelry," while ethically
safest, is not as image-oriented as "estate" or "period"
jewelry. There also were complaints about auction houses selling used and
new jewelry and a concern that many consumers may not realize the differences.
Signed vs. Unsigned
All panelists stressed that jewelers should look out for finds in unsigned
jewelry. The market for signed pieces is so tight and so auction-oriented,
unsigned pieces may be jewelers' only hope of success in estate and period
jewelry sales, they said. The lust for signed pieces and the desire to buy
them at auction has much to do with a loss of contact between consumers
and jewelers. A signed piece auctioned by big trusted "brands"
such as Christie's or Sotheby's makes today's estate buyer feel more comfortable.
Increased education and brand building by local jewelers could reverse this
Panelists suggested jewelers obtain old auction catalogs, research provenance
of old pieces and attend as many auctions as they can to learn about appropriate
pricing of estate jewelry.
Panel members, in addition to Joseph Samuel, included David Bennett,
deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe and chairman of Sotheby's Switzerland;
Andrew Cohen, owner of Andrew Cohen Inc., New York City; Thomas Färber,
an estate and gemstone dealer from Geneva, Switzerland; and David Firestone,
president of Firestone and Parson Inc., Boston, MA. GIA President William
E. Boyajian, moderated the panel.
by Peggy Jo Donahue
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.