Great fine jewelry and costume pieces for the avid collector can be found at estate and online auctions. But it pays to do your homework first.
Step 1: Compare prices Preview auction items and check the auction estimate of the piece you're considering. If it's fairly modern, the jewelry manufacturer may be able to provide its retail price. If it's an older piece, look at recent prices for similar designs.
Step 2: Look at the quality Look at the quality and materials of the piece. Consider the size and value of each component, especially the metal and the stones, as well as the piece's maker.
TIP: Read the documentation and terms carefully, especially the fine print, before you bid. Consider paying with PayPal or a credit card rather than cash.
Step 3: Talk to the auctioneer Contact the auctioneer to ask questions. Ask for photos of any signatures or markings that will help establish the piece's authenticity.
Step 4: Invest in an appraisal Consider paying for an appraisal, especially if you're bidding online and you can't see or touch what you're buying. Use an independent gemologist who is also an appraiser, and ask the seller or their representative for a sales receipts with details in writing.
Step 5: Resist temptation Decide how much you are willing to bid and abide by it. Resist getting caught up in a bidding war, unless, of course, you absolutely have to have it.
FACT: The Hope Diamond, displayed at Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., is 45.52 carats and was discovered in India in the 1600s.