Ways To Decide Whether To Keep or Sell Inherited Jewelry

Heirlooms handed down from one generation to the next can provide comforting memories. But sometimes, knowing what to do with things that came to you through a bequest is hard. Consider some ways to decide whether to keep or sell inherited jewelry.

Assess Sentimental Value

Inherited jewelry often carries significant memories. You may recall your grandmother, aunt, or mother wearing a particular piece on holidays or your grandfather checking his antique pocket watch. You’d see other pieces like engagement and wedding rings worn all the time. Sometimes, you inherit a piece you’ve never seen before.

Keep meaningful pieces at least until the memories attached cease to be painful reminders of grief and become happy memories of love. Then you can revisit whether you want to sell the items.

Consider Practicalities

If you decide to keep the jewelry, will you wear it? Where will you put it when you’re not wearing it? It’s not unusual for recipients of heirloom jewelry to lock it away in a safe or safe deposit box, where it will stay until passed on to the next generation. But renting a safe deposit box carries a fee, and securing valuable jewelry in a safe in your home brings its own concerns. Where do you put the safe so burglars can’t find it? Do you cut out a hole in your wall or drill into the floor? Is the safe you choose fireproof and water resistant? And what about insurance?


Regardless of whether you decide to keep or sell inherited jewelry, you should get each piece appraised. You’ll need a professional appraiser for insurance purposes and to understand the resale and “inherent” value (the value of the metal and gems in the piece).

Choose an appraiser certified by the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers, the International Society of Appraisers, or a similar professional organization. Also, get an assessment from an expert with a diploma from the Gemological Institute of America.

Your jewelry’s appraised value shouldn’t affect the appraisal fee. You should receive a detailed report on each piece that identifies the type of metal, gems, weight, grade, type of manufacture, and estimated age of the piece.

If You Decide To Sell

When you’ve considered whether to keep or sell inherited jewelry, and you choose to sell, you can contact a jeweler, jewelry dealer, or a reputable auction house that frequently handles antique, vintage, or estate jewelry.

You can also sell jewelry on consignment. Read every word of an auction or consignment contract to understand the percentage of the sale the auction or consignment house will keep and what happens if the piece doesn’t sell within a specified time.

If you choose to sell, make sure you accurately describe your jewelry, including correctly using the terms antique, vintage, or estate. Antique means 100 or more years old; vintage means 50 to 99 years old; and estate means pre-owned and less than 50 years old. Using the correct terms can prevent disputes about the value and avoid disappointed buyers who want their money back.

Inherited jewelry can bring you happy memories, painful grief, or extra cash. You don’t have to decide what to do with it right away, and time will make the decision easier.

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