Hi: New to the board and truly clueless when it comes to pearls. I have an old 17 inch strand of 7mm Mikimoto pearls handed down through my family since they were purchased by my great grandmother in the 1920s. They have been cared for and maintain their luster without yellowing or any blemishes. I took them to a jeweler for an appraisal and they told me they really had no monetary value because they were so old. She said they were AA+ and in excellent condition, but that they had more sentimental value and should be restrung. She then offered to buy them from me for $500.00. This doesn't sit right with me, but I have no idea. Do pearls lose their value or was this a con?
This is an heirloom piece. Don't part with it for $500. I'd recommend getting a full appraisal done by an independent gem lab. If you don't mind shipping your pearls, I'd recommend contacting Sharon Wakefield, BSChe, GG, ISA-CAPP, of the NW Gem Lab. She is internationally recognized and would also have valuable insight into who might be interested in purchasing the strand for a more reasonable amount.
Here is the lab's contact info:
Northwest Gemological laboratory
PO Box 8243
Boise, ID 83707
FAX (208) 362-2889
Pearls such as these do not lose their value, especially in the strong market that we live in today. Your jewelry appraiser certainly must not understand the value of an antique, especially if it is kept in good condition. Either the person was misinformed or was trying to take advantage of you. In this case, a second opinion would be very wise. If you have a reputable estate jeweler in your area, they may be able to help you if you do not feel comfortable with sending your pearls to a lab. Also, if she said they weren't worth any monetary value, why would she offer to purchase them from you? I think you were right to go with your instinct!
I second that opinion. If the pearls are round, I recommend having them x-rayed. There is a fair chance that they may be naturals because in the 1920s the Ginza Mikimoto store still sold naturals as well as cultured ones. Even mixtures were still common until WWII. Whoever told you that a strand of 7mm pearls from the 1920s is worth $500 needs to have their appraiser's licence revoked.
"They really have no monetary value..."
"But I will buy them from you..."
I do not know of anyone that will initiate an offer on an item that has no worth. Those two phrases are enough to make me run the other direction. It is a shame that local jewelry stores will do this to people. There is a prominent jewelry store in a town near where I live that was notorious for switching people stones when they would bring in their rings for cleaning and inspection.
Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert
Victoria Canada, and Los Angeles, CA
I just caught this thread and I think Stephen has laid it out perfectly - it seems very strange to make an offer on an item that has no worth. I'd report them to your local BBB, its this kind of stuff that really hurts the jewelry industry and especially the pearling industry.
Even if you do not choose to report her to the Better Business Bureau, it would be a good idea to call her out on the information she gave you. I think she may have felt that you didn't know anything about them and preyed on that. Now that you do know more about your pearls, give her your two cents worth. I think it is so wonderful that you've taken upon yourself to educate yourself about your pearls!
Even if the jeweler was to change their tune and offer considerably more for them, I hope you would not consider selling such a precious heirloom. However, at least for insurance purposes and so that you can tell your posterity when you hand them down, I would certainly encourage you to have them appraised by a certified appraiser. It will be exciting to determine what their true monetary value is. If you find out, please be sure to come back and tell everyone!