Why did I pay so much, and when I consider selling my jewelry, I can expect only fraction of the price I paid? I thought diamonds were valuable…
First of all, to understand the value of jewelry in the retail market, it’s important to consider the source. Or should I say sources? That shiny object sitting in the locked case under perfect lighting in the jewelry store has been on quite a journey. And that journey involves many people who are just like you and me with families and a community they live in and support.
Gemstone and Gold Mining
The journey begins with precious metals and diamond and gemstone miners. They explore, establish and operate mines from large and sophisticated to small and basic. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent exploring for the right location to set up a mining operation. And thousands of workers are involved, from the construction of the setup to the actual mining operation itself.
The materials are sorted or refined after mining. Again, by people working daily.
Diamond and gemstone cutters traditionally come from generations of family. Cutting skills are passed from generation to generation and taken very seriously. The cutting procedure is precise and takes hours for just one gemstone to become fully polished. Tools and equipment have evolved over time, making the process more exact. For that reason, as with all technological advances in tooling, a greater cost is shouldered to stay up-to-date.
Jewelry designers bring these materials together in the wearable pieces of art that we call jewelry. While traditional wax carving of prototypes are still sometimes used, today the majority of jewelry is designed with CAD – computer aided design. These computer programs cost thousands, and the designers who use them also spend thousands of dollars in training. Designing one piece of jewelry can take hours or even days. The designer makes a prototype before a piece of jewelry is produced in multiples and then completes detailed modifications. Finally, a model is made for casting once the design is approved.
Casting a piece of jewelry requires sophisticated equipment. Some design studios have their own casting equipment onsite. But the majority of casting jewelry is done in large operations, similar to auto manufacturing, where focusing on one step is most efficient.
Finishing is next. Finishing a rough casting involves multiple steps. The goldsmith completes an initial polishing by hand on the bench. The goldsmith then applies a final polish with a fine rouge on a stand-alone polishing machine. Special finishes, such as brushed, hammered, and Florentine are the last step.
Diamond and gemstone setting requires a skilled goldsmith. In large manufacturing settings, much like auto manufacturing, diamond and gemstone setters do only setting. In small shops and studios, goldsmiths handle all steps of casting, finishing, and stone setting. Indeed, the risk is relatively high for damage during the setting process. Although not often, a diamond or gemstone can chip or break during the setting procedure.
Wholesale distribution involves many people and sometimes two to three levels of wholesale. Decades ago, wholesalers carried hundreds of pieces of jewelry in large rolling bags, traveling hundreds of miles going door to door selling to retailers. Robbery was a real threat, and today very few wholesalers take this risk. Instead, several times during the year wholesalers show their collections at jewelry and gem shows. The risk of traveling with their goods is still there and security for these vendor shows is very tight.
The final destination before your jewelry is yours is the retailer. The jewelry retailer invests in an inventory offering a range of styles and prices. Other costs for the retail jeweler include security systems, vaults, gemological equipment, payroll, insurance, and light bills. The sales staff require training to help them understand and relay important information to the shopper.
Selling Your Jewelry
Hence, a small army of specialists make a living bringing those works of art to you. When selling your jewelry, the value is in the materials in the piece. You will not recoup the cost of the “artistry.” So, enjoy the artistry and know that you have contributed to the support of many families.