4 Things to Consider When Buying Jewellery at Auction


When it comes to buying jewellery, most people won’t think to go to an auction house for their jewellery purchase. With many having only heard of the big auction houses such as Bonham’s jewellery auction or Christie’s jewellery auction, and with most people’s experience of auctions being limited to mostly what they’ve seen on screen, the thought of buying at auction can seem out of reach for most.

But that’s often not the case; there are many smaller auction houses (just do a quick internet search for ‘jewellery auctions near me’ and you’ll soon see!) and buying jewellery at auction can be a really sustainable way of buying vintage and retro pieces which have a little bit of history behind them.

Having said this, you do need to know what you’re getting yourself into; there’s no safety net like you’ll find when visiting an independent jewellery shop. If you’re ready to buy at a jewellery auction, here’s what you need to know:

Research your jewellery auctions

If you’re new to buying jewellery at auction, then it’s important to research your auction houses. Just like with jewellery itself, certain auction houses will match your style and your price point better than others. You should be able to view the auction catalogues online, so this will give you a good idea.

This step is important because, unlike when you go into your trusted local jewellery shop, you won’t have anyone on hand to ask about certain pieces. You won’t be able to ask your advice at an auction like you would within your local jewellery shop, so it’s important to know that the auction house matches your style and your budget before you jump in with a costly jewellery mistake.

And once you have found an auction house that does match your needs, don’t forget to sign up for email notifications of upcoming jewellery auctions!

Research the jewellery auction’s catalogue

Make sure you have researched the jewellery auction’s catalogue in advance so that you know what you want to bid on in advance. This could be learning as much as you can about the period of the piece of jewellery you’re after, comparing prices with similar pieces at other auction houses and attending pre-sale viewings if this option is available.

You can also ask for a condition report in advance and possibly even ask to see a photograph of the piece being worn. This is important as it’s quite difficult to gauge what a piece will look like if you’re only viewing online or from afar at the auction itself, and this experience is often what people find is most different in comparison to shopping at your trusted local jewellers.

Know the bidding process

There are often several different ways that you can bid at a second hand jewellery auction. There’s the traditional raising of a hand or paddle within the auction room, or you can bid by telephone or online in real time. You can also leave your maximum bid with the auctioneer before the auction begins.

It’s worth researching what is meant by estimates, opening bids and reserves so that you know the lingo being used and how the auction process takes place. It’s not always explained in advance, and as with all aspects of life, knowledge is power.

We’d also advise setting the maximum that you want to spend in advance so that you do not spend more than you’re willing to! Don’t forget that there will be additional charges on top of the actual auction price, such as buyer’s premium and tax, so remember to factor these in.

Remember that you can have pieces fixed or remodelled at your local jewellers

Although you should know the piece in advance if you’ve read the condition report, if you do visit a jewellery auction and buy a piece which perhaps isn’t quite right for you on receipt, remember that your local jeweller will always be able to remodel the piece if necessary or carry out any repairs required.

You’ll find that jewellery auctions offer the chance to buy one-of-a-kind pieces, and that’s why many people love buying from a second hand jewellery auction. It’s certainly fun and thrilling, but you do need to do your research in advance.

One of the things that’s so loved about visiting your local jeweller is that we already have all of the knowledge about our pieces, and the techniques that can create beautiful one of a kind handmade pieces, too. So why not buy some vintage pieces at jewellery auctions but mix them up with handmade pieces from your local jeweller? Here at E.K. Jewellers, Hainault, we can help to give you the perfect mix of pieces bought at auction and purchased in store with our help and advice.

Posted on by Ian Tubby.