How to Sell a Diamond

Not all diamonds are forever. There may come a time in your life when you want to sell a diamond or two, for one reason or another. It may be an engagement ring from a previous marriage, or a pair of diamond studs from an ex-boyfriend. It may be a family heirloom, or just a diamond you don’t want to wear anymore. Rather than let it gather dust in your safe deposit box, you’d like to convert it to cold cash. Here’s what you need to do. And remember: Patience is a virtue! If you rush into a sale without doing your homework, you’ll get burned. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Have the diamond appraised.
You need to know what you have, and a qualified appraiser can tell you. To find one, contact the Appraisers Association of America, 386 Park Avenue South, Suite 2000, New York, NY 10016, (212) 889-5404. Tell them where you live, and ask for a list of appraisers in your area. They won’t tell you over the phone, but they’ll send you a few recommendations — it’ll take about a week. If you’d like their complete membership directory, they’ll mail it to you for $14.95. If you can’t wait, look in the Yellow Pages under Appraisers.
Check the appraiser’s affiliations. The top three groups are: Appraisers Association of America, American Society of Appraisers, International Society of Appraisers. Membership in any of these is a good indication the appraiser is okay.
Step 2: Ask the appraiser for the Rapaport value.
Rapaport is a wholesale price sheet published in New York that tells jewelry stores all over the country the prices they should pay for diamonds. The Rapaport prices are wholesale. The price the appraiser gives you will be the highest price you can get for your diamond. For example, if your diamond is a 1-carat, round, VS1-G, Class 2 cut with no flourescence, the Rapaport value would be $7,200. That’s the most you’ll get for it. That same diamond would sell for more in a jewelry store, but you’re not a jewelry store! Anyone who buys a diamond from an individual, who gives no guarantees or warranties, is simply looking for a good deal.
Step 3: Find a Buyer
There are a number of possibilities here, but I’m going to firmly guide you away from most of them. In my mind, the two best choices are: 1) Family or friend, and 2) a jeweler.

1. Family or friend:
This is my top recommendation hands down. I’ve seen people try every which way to sell a diamond or piece of jewelry, then finally discover that a family member or friend would love to buy it. Before you go to strangers, look close to home for a buyer. You’ll always make your best deal with someone who knows you, loves your jewelry and wants to own it, while a liquidator just wants to resell it for a quick buck.

2. Jewelry store:
Yes, but be careful! Never let the jewelry out of your sight — you don’t want someone pulling a “switcheroo” on you. Before the jeweler starts a spiel about how poor your diamond is, show him the appraisal. At that point, the jeweler will probably make you an offer that is below “dump value.” Dump value is a trade expression — it means 60-80% of the diamond’s Rapaport value, and it’s the lowest price a diamond should ever sell for. If the jeweler offers you below 60%, don’t take it. He’s going for a fast buck, because he knows he can resell the stone overnight to a dealer at regular dump value. But if the jeweler offers you 60-80% of the Rapaport value, he’s actually being fair.
Remember, to make any money from the deal he’ll have to find a new buyer for the diamond, and who knows what expenses he’ll incur to do that.
Let’s take our 1-carat VS1-G, Class 2 cut diamond from Step 2, which has a Rapaport (wholesale) value of $7,200. Dump value would be 60-80% of that, or between $4,320 and $5,760. Try to negotiate the best price, of course, but don’t feel insulted if the jeweler’s offer is 5% below the low dump price. He’s just trying to make a little money for handling the deal. But if he offers you only 40% or even 50% of wholesale, tell him NO DEAL!
Now let’s talk about some options that I do NOT recommend.

1. Newspapers:
The premise is simple: you take out an ad, a buyer calls you and gives you money for your diamond. But it’s never that simple. I have seen the classified ads work, but not often. In fact, I did a little survey on my own and found only an 11% success rate. You can do better than that in Las Vegas! Furthermore, placing an ad exposes you to all sorts of people including crooks who want to steal your jewelry. You’ll make appointment after appointment with “buyers” who don’t show up. Even if you attract a legitimate buyer, he’ll drag you back to the appraiser and then make a ridiculous offer. I would avoid the classifieds. It’s not worth putting yourself in danger.

2. On consignment:
A jeweler might say, “Hey, why not leave your diamond with me and I’ll sell it on consignment and make big money for you.” DON’T DO IT! NEVER leave your jewelry with anyone unless you’re paid up front. He can promise you the moon, switch your good diamond for apiece of junk or a cubic zirconia, then call you in a couple of weeks to tell you to pick up your jewelry because he couldn’t sell it!

3. Pawn shops:
The should be called “Prawn Shops,” because they’ll dip you in cocktail sauce and eat you alive. On average, pawnbrokers will offer you only 10% of wholesale. STAY AWAY!

4. Others:
You may have heard of Diamond Dealer Clubs, but these are only for the trade, and unless you’re in the trade you won’t get within ten feet of these places. Another option, for high-end jewelry only, is an auction house. The top two in the U.S. are:
Christie’s
502 Park Avenue at 59th Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 546-1000
Sotheby’s
1334 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 606-7000
by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®