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Liquidating a Jewelry Collection

Which Gems Give You the Most Value?

If you've recently been given the sad task of sorting through your recently deceased parent's jewelry and gemstone collection to prepare for the estate liquidation process, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of pricing and selling these precious gems. 

While diamonds are forever, they're not necessarily the most expensive gemstone by size or weight, and you may be surprised to learn that a much more unassuming stone actually holds the greatest value.

Read on to learn more about liquidating a jewelry and gemstone collection and some of the factors you'll want to consider when evaluating whether the price you're offered is fair. 

What Factors Dictate Gem Prices?

Gem prices are heavily driven by a few specific factors, and a generally inexpensive gemstone that is cut well and has incredible clarity may be more valuable than a higher-priced gemstone with visible flaws or imperfections. In general, when you want to identify the fair market value of a specific gemstone, you'll want to consider the following factors.

Carat

This term refers to the weight of a gemstone and can give you a good starting point when it comes to determining a stone's value. Although a one-carat gemstone with superior cut, color and clarity will be more valuable than a one-carat gemstone that doesn't have these qualities, there's a certain "floor" to the value of each stone.

Unless your gemstone has some major imperfections that make it unusable, it's unlikely your gemstone will sell for less than the minimum price per carat based on market prices.

Cut

Raw or tumbled gemstones are generally less expensive than those that have been professionally cut. However, even among cut gemstones, there’s a hierarchy. Some gemstones lend themselves well to certain shapes and cuts, and cutting a gemstone "against the grain" or applying an ill-suited cut can actually reduce the gemstone's value to below that of its raw equivalent. 

For example, the square beveled edges of the "emerald cut" were designed to help showcase the emerald's deep, brilliant color and clarity without risking the splintered edges that can commonly afflict round-cut emeralds.

Color 

While colorless diamonds are prized for their lack of color, other colored gemstones like rubies, emeralds, sapphires and garnets are measured largely by the depth and attractiveness of their color. Deep, clear colors are the most prized among colored stones while milky, faded or particularly dark colors are generally less valuable. 

Clarity 

The better a stone's clarity, the more it will shine and sparkle, especially after being cut. However, clarity often isn't the most important factor in computing a gemstone's value, especially for cut gemstones.

As long as any occlusion or minor imperfection within the stone isn't in a location where it will impede the stone's shine or sparkle, the blemish will have only a minimal impact on value. 

What Gems Tend to Hold the Most Value? 

There are a few gemstones that tend to be far more expensive than others of the same general size and quality. However, with the exception of the famed Pink Star Diamond, many of these gemstones may have names that are unfamiliar to even jewelry aficionados.  

Musgravite is an eye-catching stone with rich shades of purple, green and blue and is valued at around $35,000 per carat. Like painite, musgravite is quite rare and only mined in a few locations around the world.

Jadeite may look like an inexpensive stone due to its opacity and visual similarity to jade; however, with world reserves of this stone expected to vanish in the next decade or two, its $20,000-per-carat price may eventually become a relative bargain. 

Tanzanite is another unassuming stone with a higher-than-expected value; while this stone is soft and scratches easily, making it a poor choice for rings and other high-contact jewelry, tanzanite fetches up to $1,000 per carat. 

By keeping these criteria in mind, you'll ensure you're receiving the fairest possible price from your jewelry dealer as you manage your parent’s estate. Be sure to consider clarity, cut, color and carat in addition to the type of gemstone when making your decisions.