How to Buy at a Jewelry Auction – Pros and Cons

If you’re thinking about buying a piece of jewelry, be it an engagement ring or something else, chances are your first instinct is to visit a jewelry store or a vendor’s website.

However, jewelry auctions have lately been increasing in popularity as a platform for purchasing various types of jewelry. Are these a good idea and what can you find on jewelry auctions? Are they just for the experts or can you just pop up and take a look around? Let’s find out.

What exactly are jewelry auctions?

In principle, jewelry auctions are auctions like any other but are focused entirely on jewelry. This makes them a great place to randomly browse pretty jewelry pieces, as well as a great place to talk with jewelry experts or to find a good bargain on some unique, high-quality, and/or vintage jewelry pieces.

The main concern most people will have with both online and traditional jewelry auctions is whether there are enough quality checks for them – whether you’re being offered good products or you’re being cheated with sub-par pieces.

The short answer to that worry is that it depends – some auctions are done by reputable organizers and include only trustworthy and responsible vendors. Other auctions – not so much.

So, just like going directly to a jewelry shop, you do need to first research them and make sure that they really are a place you want to take your money to.

What’s the difference between online and offline/traditional jewelry auctions?

chrsities auction
Source: Christies

Online auctions are still viewed with a little suspicion by a lot of people even now. And there are some good reasons for that – traditional auctions do offer certain services and conveniences that you can’t get from an online auction.

Nevertheless, both auctions types are a perfectly viable way to shop for jewelry. Let’s quickly breakdown the main differences between online and traditional on-location auctions here with the additional caveat that we’re specifically talking about good, well-organized, and reputable auctions:

  1. Traditional on-location auctions typically give you the opportunity to view the jewelry pieces in person. This is important because even the best 3D HD rotating representation you can get online still isn’t going to be as the same as direct eye contact.
  2. Traditional auctions also give you the ability to communicate with the experts there much more freely and easily. You can usually do that on online auctions via their various messaging services but the face-to-face contact tends to be more fruitful.
  3. Traditional auctions can also provide quite a bit of entertainment and a communal experience if you go there with a friend.
  4. Online auctions’ big benefit is their convenience. They may not be the “event” that a traditional auction is but they are much easier and more comfortable to visit, require little to no effort, and can yield the same results if you know what you’re looking for and how to look for it.
  5. Online auctions also allow you to look for and follow many more items at the same time as they offer you easier and more immediate access to their entire catalog.
  6. With online auctions, you can have an easier time researching, double-checking, and proofing everything that you’re shown in real-time. You can also use a mobile device to do research at a traditional auction but it’s much easier to do so at home while you’re participating in an online auction. It’s a lot less intimidating for people who don’t like the intensity of a traditional auction.

What are the benefits of buying at jewelry auctions?

How to buy jewelry from an online auction

Now that we’re a bit clearer on the differences between online and traditional auctions, let’s quickly go over the pros both auction types over shopping from retailers.

  1. Both online and on-location jewelry auctions offer an unsurpassed range of designs, sizes, and prices.
  2. At an auction, you can find a lot of unorthodox gemstone and material combinations that usually don’t make it to the catalogs of most big retailers. Jewelry retailers can have large catalogs too but they don’t usually offer the types of unique, vintage, and sometimes outright bizarrely cool jewelry pieces available at auctions.
  3. Auctions are very cost-effective and if you’ve done your research you can find some very favorable deals at an auction that would be impossible at a normal vendor. Most items sold at auctions are sold at their market value instead of their retail price because the people betting at auctions know what each item is worth. The market value of most jewelry pieces is often half or even one-third of their market price so you can save a lot of money at an auction.
  4. If you do your research you can find some literal and figurative gems at an auction that you’d otherwise have to break your budget to get through different means.
  5. A lot of the items sold on auctions have quite unique histories as well, adding to the value of the piece.

What are the disadvantages of buying at jewelry auctions?

However, buying from auctions can also have several disadvantages. These are some of the major considerations.

  1. Auctions, both online and offline, do take a bit of time where buying a jewelry piece from a retailer can be near-instantaneous.
  2. To get the most out of an auction you need to be well-prepared in terms of knowledge, research, and how well you’ve familiarized yourself with the auction’s catalog. You don’t need to be an expert but if you go there completely unprepared you most likely won’t be able to get the most cost-effective deal you otherwise could get.
  3. At auctions you can only get the jewelry pieces that are offered – you can’t ask for a new, custom-made jewelry piece per your own specifications. You can find something that matches your preferences but there’s a bit of luck involved.

Should I buy jewelry from a jewelry auction?

Our recommendation is that jewelry auctions are a great way to shop for unique and cost-effective rings and other jewelry pieces. Online auctions, in particular, are very convenient and allow you to double-check everything in real-time and do as much research as you want while auctioning.

Yes, you should be well-prepared in terms of research and knowledge even before the auction starts which tends to frighten some people off but our general advice is to do your research before going to a normal jewelry vendor anyway – it’s the best way to ensure that you know what you’re getting.

Additional tips for buying jewelry at an auction.

trifari jewelry guide

So, if you’ve decided to go to an online or traditional jewelry auction, here are some additional tips to help you out:

  1. Check the Catalog: Study the online catalog of the auctions thoroughly before the event begins. This way you’ll know what to look for.
  2. Do Your Research: A jewelry auction is no place for people who are unfamiliar with at least the basics of jewelry and gemstones. This doesn’t mean that you should be an expert yourself nor that the experts that are going to be there are fraudulent – it just means that if you’re familiar with the gemstone and jewelry basics you’ll be able to more easily find what you’re looking for and identify the best value/price deals.
  3. Pick a Budget: Prepare a maximum budget beforehand and remember to calculate the buyer’s premium into your purchases – accidentally going overboard with your budget can be problematic for most people and can tarnish the auction experience.
  4. Look for a Proxy Bid Service: Speaking of budgets, a good online auction platform should offer a proxy bid service – definitely look for that if you want to make sure that you don’t overspend.
  5. Check the Description: Thoroughly read the descriptions and the condition reports on all items you’re interested in.
  6. Get Information: Talk with the experts that are present at the auction and ask them all the questions you need answered.
  7. Inspect the Items: Ask to inspect the items closely, if they are not immediately presented – if the auctioneer denies you, it’s probably best to skip that item.
  8. Who Is the Certifier? Always ask about the credentials of the certifier, especially when it comes to diamonds.
  9. Look for Transparency: Look for transparency in everything you’re told and shown. If you think a particular auctioneer is avoiding your questions, move on.
  10. Be Assertive: If you’re at an on-location auction and not online, assertiveness is key – keep that hand in the air and make your presence known to the auctioneer. You don’t want their look to graze past you cause you because you weren’t assertive enough.

Wrapping Up

Buying jewelry from auctions can be an intense experience, especially if purchasing in person. However, there are many advantages to acquiring jewelry this way, and you can often find some exceptional pieces. The tips outlined above can streamline the process of purchasing jewelry from auctions.

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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