Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tips on Buying Jewelry at a Live Auction

Recently, I purchased jewelry and semi-precious stones at a live theater style auction. I frequently attend auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's. But never before did I participate in an auction as a serious contender. This time was different. I was a serious bidder and wanted to buy a few jewelry pieces that I liked. Below are the tips that I followed to bid for jewelry and stones.

1. Attend the Jewelry Auction Preview

You have to inspect jewelry pieces or stones that you are going to bid for. Without knowing the quality of the jewelry piece or stone, you will not be in a position to bid accurately and may eventually end up loosing.

2. Know the Auctioneer

It is very important to know who the auctioneer is and what is his style. Except high end auctions, most liquidating or auctioning companies are owned by auctioneers. It is very likely that an auctioneer will be present at the time of preview. You have to strike a conversation with the auctioneer and get to know him. This is where small talk will come in very handy. Auctioneer holds all the decision making power including the right to eject bidders from an auction theater.

3. Understand the Rules of Auction

It goes without saying that you will not play a game without knowing its rules. Auction is a game and you have to know the rules. It will help tremendously if you go above and beyond in understanding the auction. For example, if the auction is a chapter 7 liquidation then the auction takes place in the presence of a trustee. It would be a good idea to explore the situation of what happens if something does not get auctioned. There can be many examples like this. You have to understand that auction is a competition and there are professionals who attend these auctions and make financial decisions not jewelry business decisions.

4. Make a List of Items You Want to Bid on

The purpose of the preview for you is to generate that list. You will not be able to bid successfully in that auction if you do not have that list prepared.

5. Set a Maximum Bidding Price on Each Jewelry Item or Stone

Discipline is very important when it comes to bidding. You have to set a maximum bidding price and not bid in excess of that price at any cost. Too often, people get swept in the swelling emotions and competition of the auction. In business schools they teach the outcome of this behavior as "Winner's Curse". When you win a jewelry auction, you most likely have paid more than the jewelry item deserved. However, if you are disciplined then you can stand a chance of avoiding this "Winner's Curse"

6. Take Advantage of Mistakes During Auction

In a big auction where there are hundreds or thousands of lots, the auctioneer and the bidders are going to make mistakes. It is not a question of if but when. The amount of mental concentration required to conduct a flawless auction or bid flawlessly is too great. This is where information and smarts will set you apart. If you can take advantage of these mistakes by either auctioneer or bidders then you will certainly come out as a winner. For example, in the most recent auction that I attended, the auction went on for 15 hours as they were auctioning about 2000 lots. I pounced on mistakes of auctioneer and bidders several times and captured valuable items for much less.

7. Prepare a Bidding Strategy if Multiple Lots In One Bid are Involved

If the auction is of the type where multiple lots are being auction in a single bid, then typically the winner of the bid gets to choose the number of lots he/she wants. You have to prepare a smart strategy where you should NOT choose more than 1 lot of the winning bid since there is a possibility that the other lots which go for a lower bid.

8. Verify Your Winnings

In order to close the loop on your winning bid, collection of items is the single most important thing that you should do after successful bidding. You have to verify if the jewelry items or pieces that you are getting are the same as the ones that you bid on.

Is Jewelry Disposable?

Jewelry is the best accessory. Out of all the types of accessories such as glasses, handbags, perfumes, watches etc., jewelry is one that is class apart. I am not saying this because I love jewelry but I am saying this as an accessory designer.

Jewelry is the only accessory which is neither disposable nor dispensable. Jewelry does not get consumed or gets worn out (unless of poor quality or artificial) neither does it get old. Any fine jewelry piece above $500 is certainly a financial investment and any piece below $500 is your staple. Further, it is hard to match accentuating power of jewelry to any dress on any body type. Jewelry is truly a unique accessory of them all.

Call to arms for managing your jewelry collection efficiently...

I would like present a viewpoint which modifies the conclusion drawn from the above argument. I believe that any jewelry below $500 should be treated as disposable. This does not mean that we should dump or trash our jewelry to get rid of them. What it really means is that you should manage your collection in a smart way. For all fine jewelry below $500, you should segregate your collection into three parts. First part consists of your perennial favorites that cannot be replaced. Second part of your collection consists of jewelry pieces that exist to provide a wider variety to your first collection. Third part of your collection are the pieces which were bought because they were fashionable or part of a fad at that time. Those pieces may still look good but they represent the transient part of your collection. I believe that it is the second and the third parts of your collection that are prime candidates for replacement because of the loss of "freshness factor".

How to Dispose Jewelery

Disposable nature of an accessory is truly revealed when it looses its "Freshness Factor". The same is the case with any fine jewelry below $500. Any jewelry that has lost its "Freshness Factor" is certainly not in the first part of your collection. There is a certain amount of emotional inertia in keeping that jewelry piece in your collection. I would argue that you should actively look to replace those pieces. There are many ways jewelry can be disposed without loosing out on value. Gifting or exchanging is an easy way to dispose jewelry without disposing its value. Selling it the most difficult option because your will either end up putting it on ebay or selling it to your local jeweler. You can also try to get your jewelry altered into something that you always liked or something you wanted to try. The bottom line is that there are multiple options when it comes to disposing jewelry without parting with its value.

So like clothes or handbags, why keep jewelry that is no longer serving your purpose? I don't..

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Will Silver Jewelry Look Good on Me?

I do not know of any woman who has not asked that question. Silver jewelry is very enticing and affordable. Yet, you always wonder if it looks good on you!!. Not everyone can carry some of the staple silver styles, yet you can always find a design that suits you perfectly. I am presenting a few thoughts on how to think about silver jewelry and how can you maximize the quality of your experience and satisfaction with silver jewelry.

Search for good designs in Silver Jewelry

Silver jewelry is cheaper to manufacture as compared to Gold jewelry. This allows jewelers to design, make and stock a much wider variety of designs. This wider variety of design availability has its advantages and disadvantages. The primary advantage is that there is always a design available which will perfectly suit you and your aspirations. The disadvantage is that now you have to search for those perfect designs amid a plethora of mediocre and mass produced designs.

What does this mean for you? Should you now waste a great deal of time and effort in looking for perfect designs in silver? Well, the answer is maybe. If you are looking for that greatest satisfaction and a perfection in design then you are sure to find that in silver jewelry. You can be rest assured that somewhere out there is lurking a design waiting for you. However, not every one can spend so much time and effort looking for perfect designs. Hence, you should invoke trust in companies that sell designs you like.

Silver Jewelry, after all, is an acquired taste.

Silver jewelry is, to draw an analogy, like a beer. You may not like it the first time but you will acquire the taste and eventually start liking it. It may even become your staple jewelry for all occasions like beer is to all social gatherings. However, Silver like everything else, needs to be elevated to a higher level. You have to look for designs that you like and you think will suit you better. You have to differentiate quality from quantity. Ultimately, you have to try it and bear the audacity to carry it. Without a trial, you may never know that you carry a liking for silver jewelry.

Know your Silver Jewelry

Unlike Gold Jewelry, Silver jewelry is a different products doing the same function. You should definitely know and learn what owning silver jewelry entails. Silver jewelry is not maintenance free. Getting comfortable with silver is important. There are various aspects about silver that you should know such as whether you want to buy Sterling Silver or not? How to maintain silver jewelry? What does oxidation mean? How to clean silver jewelry? Knowing answers to these questions will allow you to enjoy your silver jewelry and be satisfied with it.

Silver Jewelry Bottom line

You have to find our own comfort zone with silver jewelry. You should at least try out add a few pieces to your collection so that you can figure out your own silver comfort zone.

Friday, February 05, 2010

5 Must- Knows about Gold Plated Silver Jewelry

1. It is plating not just polishing

Gold plating on silver jewelry is not the same as gold polish on silver. Plating is a chemical reaction which allows gold to adhere to silver. Gold polish is like a paint on your silver jewelry which will wear off much faster. FDA requires a layer of at least 3 microns thickness on a metal surface to be called plated while polishing can be as negligible as 0.01 microns of gold.
Gold polish has a much shorter life and can wear off more easily than gold plating can. Technically, gold plating can survive a very very long time if the jewelry is worn with basic caution. Before buying any silver jewelry with gold plating, you need to be certain that it is gold plated and not gold polished because you will be paying for your jewelry accordingly and you should be prepared for the maintenance that may be required from the same.

Gold Plated Sterling Silver Jewelry

2. What is the thickness of Gold Plating?

Thickness of gold plating directly impacts the quality, look and longevity of any gold plated silver jewelry piece. The greater the thickness of gold plating, the better the gold plated silver jewelry will look.
Not only will the propensity of plating to wear off become lower, but also the plating is more likely to survive any impacts or unfortunate mishandling of the jewelry piece. One of the disadvantages of greater thickness is that it increases the cost of the gold plated silver jewelry piece because gold is much more expensive than silver. Also if the bonding of the two metal surfaces is not very fast, then in some events, the plating may chip off from delicate positions of the jewel.
Plating will last longer on a rough surface rather than on a smooth polished surface
The gold plating on this hand beaten sterling silver bangle should last much longer than that on high polish bangles

3. Watch out for chips, cuts and rough spots

When buying gold plated silver jewelry, you should immediately check for chips, cut or any rough spots on the piece. This is normally an indicator of either low quality of plating or possibility of gold plating done on a incompatible design. Next section talks about this.
The one other reason for chipping off of gold from plated jewelry is when the chemical bond between the two surfaces is not complete. In the best cases, the gold should bond molecule to molecule with the silver alloy which is possible by using fluoride based chemical reactors as the bonding adhesive.
The few places that you should look out for chips in the plating in jewelry are:
  • Around sharp edges and corners
  • Hinges and joints
  • Areas where the stones dangle if required
  • Crevices of highly textured surfaces
  • Wires and other really narrow surfaces
  • Parts of jewelry where the product will be frequently bent such as edges of bracelets etc

    4. Is Gold plating compatible with the design that you are choosing?

    Not all silver jewelry is a good candidate for gold plating. The design of the jewelry directly affects whether gold plating will look good on that silver piece and sometimes even whether it will last long enough. There is no straightforward method to evaluate whether a design is compatible with gold plating but it comes with experience. You should ask opinion of your friends and jewelers to understand more about design compatibility of gold plating on silver jewelry.
    Example of a good design for Gold Plated Silver Jewelry

    5. How and when will the Gold plating wear off silver jewelry

    There are many circumstances in which Gold plating will wear off from over silver. Gold adheres very well to silver but it will eventually wear off. The composition of gold and other alloys used in plating have a direct impact on the quality and longevity of plating. The chemicals used for bonding the gold with Silver also affects its longevity.
    How you wear jewelry and care for it is one of the most important factors that determine the longevity of gold plating on silver jewelry.
    • Extreme temperature change can in some circumstances affect plating.
    • High impact such as dropping your jewel on a hard surface
    • Exposure to ultrasonic cleaners
    • Leaving jewelry carelessly with each other or letting it rub against other hard surfaces can create scratches
    • Acidic baths, even in mild forms which is possible during jewelry cleaning or repair can definitely affect the plating on your jewelry. Always inform your jewelry repair person of plating when required.
    You should take good care while wearing and maintaining gold plated jewelry. This doesn't mean that you cannot wear gold plated silver jewelry in your normal course of the day (otherwise what would be the point of owning such a piece), but a little care and caution goes a long way.