Jewelry and Family: Why Selling Jewelry Can Solve Family Disputes

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dba2092a-7a53-4ecb-b951-3ab12ca77b04By Andrew Fabrikant

Imagine giving your engagement ring to one of your daughters and not the other. Can she ever wear it around her sister? Each time the jewelry item is seen the thought seems to arise again: how much is it worth now? An uneven distribution of gems and jewelry often causes strife amongst siblings.

Arguments over valuables can separate families. We have seen it many times. I met with sisters over 15 years ago who stopped talking to each other after trying to share a pair of Van Cleef & Arpels earrings out of their mother’s estate.  Together the earrings are worth a fortune. Singularly each was worth a fraction of the whole.

In my experience conflicts like this happen more often than not. We have worked with thousands of families over the years and those who decide to sell the jewelry and split the proceeds are always happier than the siblings who fight over the jewelry.

Planning For The Future

You have planned your estate. You’ve determined the value of your retirement accounts, your life insurance policies, the equity in your home, cash accounts and investment holdings. All that’s left is your personal property – art, collectables and your jewelry. By selling the jewelry you no longer wear, you can help your family avoid conflict at a later date.

If you have valuable jewelry, I would suggest having an “Estate Appraisal” completed. A standard retail appraisal describing the jewelry will not give a true sense of its worth, jewelry is only worth what someone will pay you for it. An Estate Appraisal is a document that reflects what you can actually sell the jewelry in question for.

Giving your family true valuations and instructing them to sell your jewelry allows your loved ones to make decisions according to your instructions. Should the IRS be involved, they will be informed of a reasonable valuation and not the inflated numbers you may receive from a retail appraisal. It will also give the family an idea of what the jewelry is really worth.

To Sell or Not to Sell

If you decide to leave the jewelry in your will or try and separate it according to your wishes, resentment and jealousy are bound to arise. In our experience, those who decide to sell the jewelry and split the proceeds are always happier than the siblings who fight over the jewelry.

But before you make your decision, consider the following:

Remember, You Can’t Split a Diamond – Selling your jewelry has powerful advantages. You can invest the money to be distributed amongst your heirs according to your preferences. There are no evaluation issues. There is no potential conflict amongst family members. You cannot cut up a larger diamond, but you can divide the funds in innumerable ways.

Don’t Break Up Your Jewelry – Breaking up a piece of jewelry, splitting the contents to divide among several people can actually have a huge effect on value. In 2014 we saw a woman who was simply trying to do the right thing by her brother. He had been left out of the will as far as the jewelry was concerned. Their idea of splitting the jewelry fairly was to break up the pieces and share the diamonds evenly.

In the end they broke up an Art Deco diamond bracelet, sold the platinum mounting and brought us the stones. After seeing pictures of the original piece we concluded that they could have received at least $25,000 more had they sold it when it was intact. Their reaction to the information was to turn and blame it on the other sibling. Although we managed to talk them through it, this mistake did create a lot of tension and unfortunately they absorbed a tremendous loss. 

Be Careful When Buying Jewelry From the Family – On some occasions a sibling will buy an item from the parent’s estate, paying what we offered or perhaps even a little more. In our experience, years later we inevitably end up buying it from the sibling, as jealousy still became a hindrance in the family.  The person who did not buy it feels that the value has gone up tremendously and becomes resentful.

In the 100+ years we’ve been in the estate jewelry business, we’ve seen variations of this problem time and time again. Our advice is always the same, splitting up jewelry is not worth the hassle or potential conflicts that so often create negative feelings among family members. Instead, find a reputable jewelry buyer who can find the right markets for your estate and help you achieve the most money possible to divide among your loved ones.

Andrew Fabrikant has enjoyed a career in the jewelry industry for over 20 years. After attending Boston University, Andrew spent a year working in commercial real estate before rejoining the family jewelry business, overseeing operations at the International Jewelers Exchange on the corner of 47th Street and 5th Avenue. At the time, Andrew and Peter Fabrikant, cousins, and business partners realized that there was a high demand for estate, “used” jewelry amongst their private and industry clientele, presenting a unique opportunity for Andrew and Peter to offer their knowledge and expertise to those wishing to sell their jewelry and diamonds. Andrew & Peter Fabrikant, Fine Diamonds and Jewelry (FabOn5th.com), are nationwide leaders in diamond & estate jewelry buying. For more information call 1-800-570-Gems or visit http://fabon5th.com.

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