Jewels and jewelry have been kings’ ransoms and motivated murderous coups.
But in peacetime, they’re desirable as investable assets, but more for beauty than cash value.
“[We] always recommend clients buy jewelry to wear and enjoy, rather than specifically for investment purposes,” says Jean Ghika, director of jewelry at Bonhams in the UK and Europe.
For that reason, National Gemstone, a U.S.-based dealer, suggests you place no more than 15% of your portfolio in jewels and spend at least $10,000 on one or two high-quality gems.
What to buy
“Signed pieces from the best jewelry houses—Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron—rarely lose their value and often appreciate over time,” says Ghika. There is also strong demand for art-deco jewelry.
Natural pearls are another sound investment, commanding prices often ten times over the presale estimate. That’s because they take years for oysters to produce, and compiling a strand matched for colour, size, skins and lustre can take decades.
And then there’s the king of gemstones: the diamond. Ghika recommends buyers consult expert appraisers.
Any loose diamonds should be certified for clarity and colour. “Steer clear of anything that’s not certified from a reputable laboratory,” she says.
The same holds true for coloured stones. Some of the most desirable coloured stones in the marketplace are the rare ones: Kashmiri sapphires, Columbian emeralds and Burmese rubies.
If you’re looking for a quick return, jewelry is not the answer. But if you’re looking for long-term appreciation— and if it’s something you love—you may find it constitutes a good investment in the long term.
- Diamonds naturally attract grease, and any solution with high alcohol content will dissolve grease and clean the stone.
- The lustre on cultured and natural pearls dulls if perfume or hairspray gets on them. Wipe them with a silk cloth after wear.
- Emeralds are more fragile than sapphires, rubies or diamonds, so take care not to knock them. They should not be immersed in water.
- With any intricate jewelry, ask a specialist’s advice on cleaning.
Buying & selling tips
Diamonds are categorized by four Cs: cut, colour, clarity and carat weight. The best diamonds are white and free from natural inclusions. Diamonds are priced on a non-linear scale, so a stone just over one carat will fetch far more than one that’s 0.99 carats; a two carat stone is worth considerably more than twice a one carat stone due to rarity. Look for diamonds certified by the Kimberley Process, which is designed to prevent diamonds used to fund despots from entering legitimate trade.
Rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are the major valuable coloured stones. Higher quality stones have well-saturated and even colour, and are more transparent. They’re also free of interior cracks, chips and inclusions that break the surface of the stone.
Pieces from the art-deco period with signatures from the big houses—Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet—are most popular. Pieces by these houses from the 1950s and 1960s are still available, and are more affordable than antiques. Also look for jewelry by more contemporary makers from the 1960s and 1970s, such as Andrew Grima, John Donald and Stuart Devlin.
Antique jewelry can still be found for as little as $250. Damage or past repairs can impact value considerably. You should ensure stones are original and all settings are secure. Pieces from the Victorian period tend to be readily available; those from the Regency or Georgian period, less so. A piece will command a higher price if it comes in its original, fitted case.