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Inherited jewelry –  What to do with it

Here’s a question I hear over and over from women:
What should I do with the box of costume jewelry inherited from my mom ?
I have a lot of jewelry my aunt left me and I just have no idea what to do with what I inherited from her.
My mom gave me/left me her jewelry and it is just not my taste and I want help on what I should do with all this inherited stuff.

This predicament of having or storing a box of inherited jewelry from a loved one that has passed is a very common inquiry for me.
Part of you wants to just get rid of it, and the sentimental side of you likens that action as dropping Grandma or your Aunt off at the Goodwill. It doesn’t need to be like that.

I. Review the box of inherited jewelry. Set a timeline to to review the jewelry and decide what you want to do with it. Set yourself up with a cup of tea or glass of wine, and sit at a table or desk with room to make several piles of jewelry. It is ideal to be in a room with a mirror handy so you can try on any pieces you might consider keeping or wearing. Go through it piece by piece and decide if you like any of the pieces to keep either for sentimental value or maybe to wear. If there is any fine jewelry in the lot, separate those pieces out and have them appraised. This How To is really focused on COSTUME jewelry. Divide the jewelry into 3 piles:

  1. Keep and store
  2. Keep and repurpose
  3. Keep and wear
  4. Get ride of


II. Here’s how to decide which pieces will go in which pile
1. Keep and store:
if you are extremely sentimental and passionate there are probably 1 to 3 pieces that you might want to keep. Select those pieces that your loved one wore all the time, that may have been her signature piece. Or perhaps there was a fabulous brooch or suite that she only wore on special occasions. Or maybe there’s a pair of earrings that she never wore much, but you always admired. I tell clients to keep at least 1 piece from said box. You can store these pieces in the back of a jewelry box, your safety deposit box or another place that you might store keepsake items.

2. Keep and repurpose:                                                                                                                                                       If you’re game to do something a little more creative with the jewelry here are just a few ideas:

a. Make a shadow box to feature the best jewelry along with a few other family mementos.

b. Embellish a bulletin board with brooches by using the pin back or sword to stick it onto the board.

c. Remove the clip finding on earrings and convert to magnets by gluing the magnet to the back.

d. Use the jewelry to make a vintage jewelry bridal bouquet. You can find crafters who specialize in this on Etsy.

Wow, I may have to do a separate blog post on all these repurposing ideas!

3. Keep and wear inherited jewelry:
What’s old is new again! It’s true. It is become very common in dressing to mix items in your wardrobe that are new, old, and vintage. It’s also extremely popular in home decorating to use the same styling approach. Just check out the website Chairish to see how cool vintage and second hand items look when mixed with new. The same goes for clothing and wardrobe. Some of these inherited piece jewelry pieces could be the perfect way to add an awesome personalized pop to your next party dress or date night out.

4. Get rid of pile:
Here are the options for the inherited jewelry you don’t want.

a. Pass on to other relatives or friends. Host an evening of wine and Aunt Gerties jewelry. Each person can select 1 piece at a time. Rotate until it’s all gone. Have fun reminiscing about the relative and help each other pick out her/his next pick.

b. Donate inherited jewelry to your favorite charity thrift shop like the Good Will or Salvation Army.

c. Sell it online. This can be a big undertaking if you have a lot of jewelry. Even if you only have a fair amount of pieces, you need to be honest with yourself if you are up to this project. If you are at all interested in selling it. Check out a few similar pieces on a site like eBay just to see what’s listed and the prices that similar jewelry is selling for. You will need to do some prep work BEFORE you start listing. Here are is my checklist if you intend to sell pieces online:

III. Determine which sites you want to sell inherited jewelry on
The channels I would consider are:

  • ebay – can sell almost anything on ebay, both fine and costume jewelry
  • The Real Real – focus on better and high end luxury jewelry and timepieces


The most popular place to sell pre-owned or inherited jewelry is ebay. The biggest thing going for ebay is that they have a huge audience and you will get the most exposure for your items. This is a great place to research prices and it’s also very user friendly to set up an account and get selling You can easily create shipping labels directly on their site, so that means no trips to the post office and waiting in line. For most people selling a few pieces or personal items, it is FREE to list an item. Ebay takes a 10% final selling price fee once the item is sold. This is a bit of downside but, there is no other place that can give you this kind of massive audience, that is eBay. So, I honestly think 10% is fair considering their huge market and user friendly system to sell. If you are considering eBay you will need to do the following to get the best results selling your jewelry.

1. Make a list of each item you want to sell. This can be hand written, or created in Excel. Here’s a list of the  following columns I like to include:

  • Item description
  • Color
  • Brand
  • Dimensions
  • Any flaws or issues that need to be disclosed.
  • Sold price history
  • Auction starting price
  • Reserve Price ( for auction style listings, this is optional)
  • Listed price

2. Research. This is key. You will need to decide what is the lowest price that you want to sell something for. Considering your time to invest in this project including, research, photography, etc. determine a break point price, being a price that you are not willing to invest time and energy photographing, listing, etc. A break point price to me would be at least $ 10 per item or listing. If you find that many of the pieces you want to sell will only fetch $2.00 or $3.00, the other approach would be to sell the jewelry as a lot. This means that you elect to sell several items together in one lot or listing. So, mark you worksheet if you decide that there are some items you don’t want to bother listing or noting what items you will want to bundle together in a lot, if you have any. Any jewelry that is not worth your time to list can get added to the donation bag or box.

3. Go onto Ebay, and create an account. Or login to your account and start your research.. From your worksheet, key each item that you want to sell into the search bar on ebay. Include the brand name if you know it or the signature  or mark. Research each item you want to sell. Input the words that most specifically describe your piece and think about how would someone looking to buy this piece of jewelry describe it.

  • Example: Coro white daisy brooch vintage 1960s

This should yield some results. Look for the closest item that matches yours and then look to see what similar items have sold for recently. Make a note of those prices on your worksheet. From those SOLD prices determine which items you will list individually and which ones , if any you would bundle into a lot. Cross off all the jewelry items that you are not interested in selling. Move those pieces into a bag or box to be donated.

Now for those items you wish to sell do the following:

1. Take photos

  • Use your best camera or iPhone to take at least 3 photos. One of the front, one of the back and one from the side.
  • Set up your photos so that you have a plain white background and shooting with natural light.
  • Make sure your photos are in focus! If people cannot clearly see your item, you will decrease your opportunity to sell it.
  • Prop an item in at least 1 photo so prospective customers can scale it! A picture is worth a 1000 words. Make it easy for someone to understand exactly what it is, the color and size. I like to prop a lipstick with jewelry. But really any common item do; a coin, a pen.
  • Edit your photos by cropping and adjusting the light. Make your jewelry item look as good as possible.

2. Measure each piece. Use inches or centimeters to accurately describe the length, width and depth of the item. Note these dimensions on your worksheet.

3. Now your are ready to list your items. You will need decide if you want people to bid on your item, called AUCTION. Or if you want to list it at a set price, called BUY NOW.

  • Auction: Item is bought through people bidding on it. These usually run for 7 days. You can start the bid with a minimum price of   $.01!  You can also put a reserve price on an item, but this costs extra. The reserve allows you to only sell the item if it at least gets bid to that reserved price. If bidders don’t bid to that reserve price it will not be sold.
  • Buy Now: Buy now allows you to list an item at set price. This listing usually runs for 30 days. It also allows perspective buyers to make you an offer.

Both the Auction and Buy Now listings are free to list, your fee to eBay will be collected once per month, in the month following the sale. Again that fee runs about 10%.

Make a note of how you want to list each item. I prefer the BUY NOW price. eBay encourages the AUCTION format. If you chose the auction format Do NOT go with their suggestion to start the bid at an extremely low price, “to get people interested”. They will suggest to sell it as an auction and starting the listing as a really low  price.  Again, DO NOT DO THIS! If you list an item at say $.99 cents, the incremental bidding amount will be minimum of .50 per bid. Here’s what can happen: you list an item at .99. You could get 20 bids at .50 a bid, and you will only sell your item for $11.00. This is why I prefer the Buy Now listing. You will have more control as to what price you would like to sell your item for.

4. Pricing. This is one of my key points. As a rule of thumb figure out the rock bottom price you will accept for each item. Then pad 10% on top of that price to cover the fee Ebay will collect once the item is sold.

5. Write a description. ebay will guide you and prompt you with classifying each item. Write a brief description for each item. Again use words that you think someone would use looking for this piece of jewelry. Always use the name of the designer or maker if you know it. In this description note any flaws such as missing 4 rhinestones. Always state that the jewelry finding is in good working order if it is and notate if in fact there is any functionality issue with the piece.

6. Shipping. Shipping involves several components. You will need to do the following to prepare to ship a sold item.

  • What countries are you willing to sell and ship to? Do you want to charge for shipping or offer free shipping? Check out the options on ebay. You can get all the details about shipping and how to charge for shipping over on ebay.
  • What kind of packaging will you need to ship items? How many padded envelopes? Go back to your worksheet and count up how many listings you have figured out. You can get shipping supplies at places like Office Depot or ULine. So depending on how many items you are selling, you can buy a few at an office supply store or maybe snag some second hand boxes at your office. For jewelry, padded mailing envelopes work really well to protect the jewelry and are very affordable.
  • ebay makes it super easy to buy and print a shipping label right from their website. You can save time and get a little discount using their built in shipping options.

7. Check your listing after you have confirmation that your have successfully listed an item. If there are any errors, you have a limited time to edit anything like price and description.


If you have inherited fine jewelry or watches to sell you could try TheRealReal. They are best known for reselling better to high end clothing, accessories and shoes. They added fine Jewelry and time pieces in 2015. The upshot with them is that they have a highly targeted audience and do all the work for you. By work, I mean they come to your house, look at your items and decide what they can sell. Then your pieces are sent to one of there offices where it is photographed and listed. Once it sells, the item is shipped and you are notified that it sold. They pay out the following month for items sold. The RealReals fee is 30% of the sold price. This is extremely convenient and involves minimum work for you. The downside is that they are very selective on the jewelry they sell. Before you work with them visit their website and peruse the jewelry section to see if your jewelry would be of interest to them. If you see any of your jewelry items listed, make some notes of what price it is listed at. I have sold clothing with them and overall was very happy with this service. Here is a list of just a few of the jewelry brands they consign on their site:

  • Cartier
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Rolex
  • David Yurman
  • Chopard
  • Ippolita

You can see from this list that they focus on high end jewelry with well known names. They can be a good solution to liquid jewelry in this category, with minimum effort on your part. If you have some fine jewelry of this caliber, they do offer a free evaluation of the resale value they could get in their site. Check out The Real Reals FAQs page for more information.


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