Know your Bling

by Gilbert Cheah

Things to think about before bringing that bling home.

Let’s face it, no matter how much we love jewellery, we’d like to think that the pieces we buy have investment value and will someday be worth more than what we paid. And while that may be the case, the investment value of jewellery depends on many factors and the most important are rarity, quality and brand. So, when you’re considering the bling, take into account these factors before buying, to maximize the potential for value appreciation over the years!

It’s a no-brainer that the rarer a piece, the greater its initial and future value. So even if a piece has no brand but is a rare gem—e.g. a flawless Type IIa diamond or a flaming red pigeon blood ruby, it will undoubtedly have greater investment value. The question now is, what is considered “rare”? Again, there are many factors that go into determining whether a piece is rare or not, but here are some good rules to follow when looking for jewellery whose value will increase over time.


… is important.

When it comes to precious stones, bigger is almost always better—unless the quality sucks, but that’s obvious. In general, the bigger the stone, the rarer it is and therefore, the greater its value. And the value of big stones is not just a bit more than smaller stones; it’s often exponentially greater.

For example, the value of a 10-carat diamond is not twice that of a similar 5 carat stone; it can be three, four, or five times more. Similarly, a necklace made up of a hundred 0.10 carat stones totalling 10 carats may look gorgeous but its value will not be anywhere as much as a more modest-looking piece made up of just 20 half-carat diamonds that also add up to 10 carats.

When it comes to colored gemstones like sapphires, emeralds and rubies, size matters too but other factors such as color and saturation, clarity and lack of occlusions all play a very important role as well. A 10 carat emerald with a cloudy appearance will not necessarily be worth more than a 5 carat stone with a rich color and good clarity.

Color Counts

Colored diamonds are rarer than white ones and there’s an hierarchy to the rarity of these colors. White diamonds are the most common, followed in order of rarity by yellow, pink, blue, green and red. In between are variants of these colors, such as orange or purple. The more vivid and obvious the color, the rarer the stone.

Color also matter for gemstones: The most prized and valuable rubies are those from Burma with the true deep, rich red color known as “Pigeon’s Blood” which separate it from lighter colored stones that are far less valuable. The best emeralds are a rich, deep green without blue or yellow tints; and blue sapphires should be a deep, vivid blue that is usually described as “velvety”. If the blue is tinted with a purplish or greenish shade, it is less valuable.

True imperial jade is a deep rich green, while stones that are pale green or olive green are less valuable. White and lavender jade are also highly valuable and the color should be as pure as possible, with rich saturation and a bright tone with no muddiness. Regardless of color, the best jade should be translucent as this is very important; the more light that can be seen through a stone, the more lustrous and valuable it is.

Natural Is Nicer

Natural stones that have not had their clarity or color enhanced are far more valuable than those which have been “fixed” so watch out for any stone that has been treated. For example, lower grade diamonds can be treated by laser drilling or fracture filling, which are known “clarity enhanced” stones.

Craftsmanship images from Van Cleef & Arpels

Colored stones such as emeralds and sapphires can also be enhanced by both oiling and heat treatments. Oiling an emerald will help hide its flaws and enhance its color, but this treatment is not permanent and can cause problems later, so generally, oil-treated emeralds are less valuable.

Heating of sapphires is far more common and results in a permanent enhancement of its color and clarity so it is more accepted and widespread. Anyone selling clarity-enhanced stones must stipulate this but there may be unscrupulous dealers who hide this fact, so it’s important to buy from trusted sources and demand a recent certificate and assessment from an internationally-recognised organisation, such as GIA or HRD.

Natural takes on even more value when it comes to pearls. At one time, all pearls were natural and very rare. In 1917, Mikimoto obtained a patent on its method of cultivating cultured pearls, and today, 99% of the pearls in the world are cultured through farmed oysters. Natural pearls are so rare that they command huge prices.

Branded Is Better

There’s no doubt that a piece from a prestigious international brand will usually command more value than a similar item without a brand or from an unknown company.

Old Is Gold

In general, older pieces will have more value than those made more recently, as long as the quality of the piece is undisputed. Antique jewellery that is in good condition with high-quality stones are in high demand and are especially valuable if they are from one of the top brands.

Also, jewellery before the industrial age was all hand-made, which makes it rare and valuable. Their value will certainly only grow over the years, due to their rarity and exquisite craftsmanship.

Finally, there’s an important factor to consider:

Price You Pay

As with the stock market, the price you initially paid for the jewellery will determine its investment value as well—if you overpaid, it might be a long while before you can sell the piece for more, so always shop wisely and look for value regardless of brand.

Watch this column for future articles on how to be a smart and savvy bling buyer!


Featured images: Yellow Diamond Cuff, Tiffany Blue Book 2016, Graff famous diamonds

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