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A large collection of unwanted faceted stones

Hi all,

First, I want to clarify that I’m NOT posting here in order to sell
anything, but to get some advice about what to do with a very large
collection of faceted colored gems. A recent thread

"Customer selling their own stones"

has inspired me to ask for feedback/advice from people who are far
more experienced in such matters than I am!

The story, in brief:

Currently, I’m the area coordinator of a Metalsmithing and Jewelry
Department at a public university. A number of years back (before I
was hired), a large and generous donation of colored stones was made
to the school’s Metalsmithing and Jewelry Department that have been
sitting in a safety deposit box, unused, for about 10 years. I
recently learned of the collection, had the stones professionally
appraised by a GIA-certified appraiser, and am now trying to sell
them and use the proceeds to create an endowed student scholarship
for the Metals department. Easier said than done, though! I’ve run
into snags trying to find auction houses that will handle the
collection, and as I do not use such stones in my own work, I have
no personal experience buying or selling large quantities of stones,
or working with stone dealers.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can sell such a
collection without becoming a stone dealer myself? (I already have a
full-time job!) Selling in lots is no problem; I’m just unsure of
the best way to locate interested buyers. There are a number of
independent jewelers in my town, but the sheer number of stones
available rather exceeds the local economy’s capacity to absorb them
without creating a glut! Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Haley Bates

An auction house. In Chicago the (former) Leslie Hindman Auctioneers
had a once a year auction of “Important Jewelry,” that would be a
perfect place to sell the school’s stones.

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Since you have the appraisals why don’t you have a public auction at
the same time that you do a student show. When people know that the
money is going to a university program they will spend more. This is
of course that the stones are fairly nice.

My two cents
Bill Wismar

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can sell such a
collection without becoming a stone dealer myself? 

Just a few thoughts to consider.

If the major auction houses such as Christies or Soothebys won’t
handle this, could it be because the overall quality of the gems is
below that normally considered desireable? If this is the case, it
occurs to me that the donation may have been made to the metals
department with the knowlege that the stones were on fairly low
desirability and quality, or in other words, of student quality. The
donation may have been made with the idea that these would be ideal
for students to be using as practice for setting, or for student
work. If that is the case, is it in keeping with the intent of the
gift to dispose of the collection? And is it reasonable to expect
someone to pay for a collection of marginal quality stones?

All that is just supposition, of course. the collection may not
match any of those “worries”… But if indeed the stones are of
fairly low quality or value, their best use might actually have been
as items to be given to the metals students for use in their class
work at some level.

The other thing I notice in your post is the statement that the
stones were appraised by a GIA certified appraiser. That raises a
flag. GIA does not teach, or certify, appraisers. They train
gemologists, which is not quite the same thing. They have, at times,
taught brief seminars in appraisal technique, but most of what they
do is teach gem grading. GIA students learn to evaluate the quality
of the stones, and their identity, but not to specifically determine
the true market value. While many GIA trained gemologists are indeed
competent appraisers, and perhaps certified by one or another of the
appraisal organizations, etc, The GIA diploma only verifies expertise
in gem identification and quality evaluation, not skill in
appraising. Appraising is a different skill, requiring the
determination of the appropriate value for an item, as well as
determining the market level at which that value should be stated for
a given use. This can create major misunderstandings, if your
appraisal was determined for a different use. For example, if your
appraisal determines what the replacement cost would be for the
stones for a retail level buyer, which is generally the highest price
level you could find, then your expectations of what this collection
is worth is vastly different from what you can expect to sell it for.
Be certain that the valuation you are basing your expectations on, is
stating a value for liquidation purposes, or auction proceeds, rather
than a retail purchase price, or you will be basing your actions on
wrong assumptions of the collection’s value.

Beyond that, if you wish to sell stones like this, I’d suggest
learning to put things on Ebay. It’s fairly easy to do, you can sell
things in groups or singly as appropriate, and once you’ve got the
basic template of how to do this worked out, other than slight
rewrites of the sale page and different photos for different lots, it
might not be all that difficult, especially if you can find student
help with the project… Alternatively, of course, there are the
major auction houses. Probably better than local ones. Christies and
Sootheby’s are the two biggest, I think. But as I say, if they won’t
take it, find out why. If the quality is just too low, then ebay may
be your best and most lucrative sales venue. Broken up into smaller
lots is likely better as well, than selling the whole collection as a
single lot, unless it’s a truely unusual collection that should be
kept intact for some reason…

Peter Rowe

Beyond that, if you wish to sell stones like this, I'd suggest
learning to put things on Ebay. It's fairly easy to do, you can
sell things in groups or singly as appropriate, and once you've got

There are also companies, such as iSoldit on eBay, that will list
the items for you.

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


Have you checked with the development department at your university?
Many donations come with strings attached and most donors frown on
the institution to which they donated something selling it for cash,
especially a collection that may have taken a lifetime to
accumulate. Before retiring, I worked as the deputy director of a
large university anthropology museum and know all about the
maintenance burden that donated collections can place on a
department. You’d be surprised about how fast donors or their
relatives will find out about a sale like this and complain to the
university. Just a word of caution.

Is there someway that the stones could be used in a gemology seminar
for your students? Probably more what the donor intended with the

Cynthia Clearwater

Mr. Bates:

To be honest, I am still trying to work that one out myself. You
may, however, have some advantages, depending on school policies and
other factors.

Rather than try to sell the stones as a lot, which would get you
perhaps 10 percent of the appraised value for a number of reasons,
perhaps you could call for volunteers among your more talented
students to set some of the stones in jewelry. Mounted stones are
always more valuable to the public than loose ones. The jewelry could
then be offered to alumni at a reasonable market price, stating the
purpose of the sale and taking advantage of a much larger market than
your local area.

If executed once per year, this will give you a revenue stream to
maintain the financing for your scholarship program until the stones
run out, at least. It will also permit you to realize a much higher
percentage of the stones’ appraised value, plus some profit on the
materials used to mount them.

Steve McQueen