Your broken chains and orphan earrings may not be wearable, but they are not worthless.
By Mary Marino
Hachik Givelekian of Royal Jewelry at his workbench; Givelekian is working on matching earrings for this Opal pendant. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The gritty bazaar-like atmosphere of the “diamond district”—47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues—can be overwhelming to navigate if you’re looking for the best jewelry repair shops. Most shops are located above or below street level, since they are small operations and don’t need expensive street level storefronts. Each shop has just enough room for a resident expert, the necessary tools and a vault.
On my recent trip to the area, I visited seven trained goldsmiths who also did custom design work. One way to find legitimate repairmen or women is to ask repair people who their various clients are: If clients are well-known or reputable fine jewelers you can trust that the goldsmiths are also reputable. Since I myself have bought and sold jewelry and currently study metal-smithing and jewelry design I knew how to evaluate some of the best goldsmiths on the street. Here are my recommendations.
Royal Jewel Setting Company (54 West 47th Street, Suite 4FE, 212-997-1571), Royal Jewel is run by Hachik Givelekian, who specializes in antique and estate jewelry. On my visit he had on his table pieces of a delicate vintage opal ring that needed a good cleaning and a new opal. The repair estimate of $650 included the new opal, which he had to cut before it could be set. Hachik explained that restoration is risky because you don’t know the history of the item. For example, if an item was repaired in the past with soft metal welding material, too much heat applied now could cause the item to fall apart. Hachik also repairs watches for $50 and up and changes batteries for $5 to $40, depending on the brand of the watch. To re-string and hand knot your natural or cultured pearls on silk cord, prices start at $35 to $45 for an 18″ strand of 6mm to 10mm pearls.
The Laser Booth (44 West 47th Street, Suite 3, 212-382-2299), Luis Romero and Lina Caballero have over twenty years of experience repairing and engraving jewelry. They operate The Laser Booth and use state-of the art-laser beams to repair jewelry with fragile gemstones like emeralds and opals; lasers are safer to use than traditional tools that have to be fired to weld and repair metal, a process that can damage stones. Shops that do not use lasers remove the gems if the repair requires heat. They make the repair first and then replace the gems in their settings.
Carl Chan of Select Trading; some of Chan’s custom projects. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Select Trading, Inc. (36 West 47th Street, Suite 1107, 917-309-4010), Carl Chan of Select Trading has a large following since he’s one of the few people who can successfully repair stones that have invisible settings. If you’ve lost a stone from a favorite necklace, bracelet, or ring, he’s a master at finding replacement stones and setting them so that the item looks as good as new. To repair a ring with an invisible setting, prices start at $40 per stone for the labor. The cost of the diamond or stone that he will buy for you is additional.
Donna Distefano(37 West 20th Street, Room 1106, 212-594-3757), Jewelry designer, Donna Distefano offers repairs, restorations and real makeovers. She will even throw what she calls a “Jewelry Makeover Party” in her Chelsea Atelier for you and a group of your friends. Everyone is asked to bring a tired or out-of-date piece of jewelry. Donna will then discuss makeover options that can turn your unfashionable jewelry into something fabulous. She’ll also buy your old gold at market value and give you full credit towards the cost of your makeover items. And you can set up a private consultation with Donna to evaluate your entire jewelry box. If your caché includes precious items, she’ll send them to the National Appraisers Association on your behalf. Expect to pay $50 to $200 per item for the appraisal, depending on the item’s complexity. She will also repair and clean up your costume jewelry.
What Is My Jewelry Worth?
Besides their jaw-dropping size and net worth, what do the Hope Diamond, Liz Taylor’s Jewels and the DeBeers Millennium Star have in common? They were all entrusted to The Gemological Institute of America to be graded and identified. The GIA, a nonprofit organization founded in 1931, is known globally as the creator of the International Diamond Grading System, a quality report that assesses the 4Cs (Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat weight) of diamonds and precious gems.
The most convenient way to obtain a GIA Diamond Grading Report is to request one through a trusted local jeweler. Jewelers are better equipped to facilitate service arrangements and explain the GIA findings. Since a diamond grading report is an independent assessment of quality—it does not provide an assessment of value. So if you want to know the value of your jewels, you can take them to a for-profit company that grades and appraises jewelry in-house using GIA standards.
The Gemological Appraisal Laboratory of America Inc. (10 West 47th Street, 212-382-3772), is one such company. GAL provides documents you can use for buying, selling or insuring jewelry that include the retail and resale value. If you’re selling, you’ll have an idea of what your jewelry is worth. If you’re buying jewelry, GAL can protect you from being overcharged. Insurance companies require appraisals in order to issue policies to cover jewelry. “Technology is so good today that synthetic diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires can all be made in a lab using the same composition as those mined from the earth,” GAL Owner Ken Lejman told me, explaining also that a trained eye is not enough. Special machines are used to look for inclusions, growth patterns, and the color spectrum of a gem to determine if a gem is real or fake. You will then receive a signed appraisal that identifies your individual gem.
Diamond appraisals start at $75 a carat and the total price is based upon the carat weight of the piece. The weight of stones that are already in settings is calculated by measuring each stone and estimating its weight based on its size. Appraisals for colored stones start at $65 for a simple ring or necklace with a single stone and go up, depending upon the number of stones in the piece. Watch appraisals start at $75 and depend on the size, brand, and number of diamonds in the watch. Omegas and Rolexes without diamonds cost approximately $125 to $200 to appraise. Pocket watches and unsigned watches cost $150 to appraise.
Where Can I Sell My Jewelry?
Years ago, between the tawdriness of a pawn shop and the rarefied world of the high end auction houses, there was a gap when it came to selling your jewelry. Circa (530 7th Avenue, Space 530, 212-486-6013) has filled that gap. Circa understands that most jewelry boxes contain far more ordinary jewelry than statement-making stunners. Pawn shops are indiscreet and auction houses seek only stunners so where can you turn treasures into cash? Bring them all to Circa.
Owner and founder Jeffrey Singer and his associates are renowned for their expertise and courteous discreet service. They look for diamonds, fine jewelry and watches. I spent time with Singer and his director of brand management, Natasha Cornstein. They sat me in a private room and showed me some recently purchased items. Some were dazzling and others surprisingly ordinary, yet they all fetched what I thought were extraordinary prices. One 16″ Cartier Alhambra Necklace brought its owner $4,000. A pair of David Webb scallop shaped ear clips with diamonds yielded $7,500. Original packaging and paperwork increase the value of your jewelry.
Circa buyers are experts in recognizing value, but they also have what Singer calls a “bedside manner”—an acknowledgment of the emotional attachments people have to their jewels. They’ll intuit if you’re not quite ready to part with an item and send you away with an invitation to come back anytime. If you are ready, they’ll send you home with a check.
Where to Sell Your Gold
Gather your broken chains, orphan earrings and other odd and ends. They may be unwearable, but they are not worthless. Everyone wants to buy your gold. First thing to know: Avoid street hawkers. You’ll get the best price if you know where to go.
Start with Myron Toback (545 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1000, 212-398-8300), I met founder Myron Toback, whose sons and grandsons now run the 50 year-old business. The senior Mr. Toback took my wedding ring and put it into a machine attached to a computer. The ring is palladium white gold, which is a combination of several metals. Within seconds the exact breakdown of the metals showed up on the screen. The Tobacks also do the acid tests for gold (see below). They work off the daily prices of the gold market and make offers accordingly. You get paid on the spot. They’ll buy silver too.
Deena Jewelers(578 5th Ave, Suite 2, 212-921-9825), Chuck and Alice work out of a small booth where they sell jewelry, but mostly their business is buying your gold and selling it to refiners. I watched them test, weigh and calculate the value of a customer’s items and hand over a check for $1,100 for a fat gold chain and a gold ring. They tested the items by scratching the gold onto a small slate tablet and using drops of acid to determine the exact gold content. You can seek a second opinion in the same room at another booth. The vendors share a room, but they don’t share information so you’ll be able to compare two estimates.
Mary Marino is the co-founder and editor of Flashionista.com, a fashion jewelry website for women. Mary was a designer in the fashion industry for 25 years.