That pesky question “how much is this worth?” is pesky precisely because there’s no simple answer.  Last week, we talked about the liquidation value of estate jewelry, the price you might get for it if you bring it to a pawn shop in Fort Lauderdale. But what that pawn shop will pay for the piece isn’t the only value that can be assigned to it. Here are a few others, which will help you understand the appraisal business a bit better.


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  • Retail replacement value: the amount determined when insuring an item. After all, what good is insurance if you can’t replace the thing you lost? This value is almost certainly going to be higher than what you’d get from a pawn shop.
  • Estate value: the amount determined if the item will be taxed for an estate.
  • Fair market value: what appraisers are required to use by the IRS, and which pretty much ensures that the above two values will be the same.

These values get tricky when it comes to estate jewelry, since finding a replacement cost is contingent on actually finding a replacement—a similar item in quality, condition, etc.—in the common marketplace. But because you can’t replace an estate piece with something new, common market value is determined by what is currently available for sale. And this is where it gets even more tricky, because the price of what is currently available for sale is affected by something very important: desirability.


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Your item, by virtue of its desirability could be worth ten times its original value, or ten times less, perhaps just the wholesale cost of the gold and gems. Owners who are might be sentimentally invested in a piece are often disappointed to hear this, and it’s not unusual for a pawn shop owner to advise them to just keep the piece.

When we buy estate jewelry at National Pawn and Jewelry, we need to be aware of what will resell and what our customers might find desirable, even today—and what we can offer is reflective of a piece’s sellability to someone with modern sensibilities and vintage taste.