As Marilyn Monroe once wisely crooned, “There may come a time / When a lass needs a lawyer / But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Indeed, that’s still true for lasses (or lads) who may find themselves cash-poor after a sticky divorce or a bad investment.
Now a new service offers you the chance to make the most off of your “best friends.” The high-end consignment website, The RealReal, which has been selling used designer goodies to bargain hunters since 2011, and is worth an estimated $300 million, has opened its first brick-and-mortar location, a jewelry-valuation office on 36th Street. There, senior fine-jewelry-and-watch expert, and graduate gemologist, Katherine Palmiter will appraise your pieces, free of charge. If you like the price you hear, you can then choose to consign the item through The RealReal, though there is no obligation to do so.
For many, selling jewelry on The RealReal is a way to make money off of something they aren’t using anyway. “Our consignors are looking to go get this season’s latest trend, or they’re looking to upgrade; they want to go from David Yurman to Van Cleef, or from Van Cleef to Harry Winston,” said Michael Groffenberger, senior category director at The RealReal.
According to Groffenberger, since The RealReal is a consignment store that makes 30 to 40 percent of the sale price, it has the same incentive as you — to get the highest price for an item.
Groffenberger emphasizes how this makes the process more transparent and protects you against dealers who may be trying to scam you. “If we believe something is worth $50,000, that’s what we’re going to tell the client. We’re not going to withhold information.”
Of course, there are other options for consigning luxury jewelry, like The RealReal’s online competitors Portero or Vestiaire, not to mention high-end consignment stores like Michael’s on the Upper East Side. However, none employ on-site gemologists on with the expertise and the equipment to determine if a piece is authentic or not. Both Michael’s and Vestiaire, for instance, say they rely on their own (non-expert) knowledge about the value of a piece. For designer pieces from Cartier or David Yurman, they will send it to the jeweler to confirm authenticity. According to Groffenberger, most jewelry is unsigned, meaning sending it to the brand is not an option.
Christie’s and Sotheby’s do employ gemologists, but they specialize in selling extremely high-end and rare pieces (think: over $100,000). While Christie’s occasionally hosts online sales of lower-priced pieces, those sales are infrequent. The RealReal will put a consigned item up on the site as soon as possible, and 80 percent of pieces are sold within the first 30 days.
That brooch in your jewelry box might be worth more than you think. “We surprise people with the value that we can achieve in our market,” said Palmiter. “That’s a treat.”