Stuff I had not worn for years; gifts I’d never really liked; love tokens from old boyfriends from my twenties; brooches (yuck) left from aunts; loads of single earrings, the other one lost. A motley collection BUT with an intrinsic gold and silver value.
So, having decided to declutter, I Googled the Goldsmiths’ Company, one of the 12 top livery companies of the City of London, which has been overseeing the trade of gold and silver in the UK for centuries, and asked for its advice.
The advice was to come to a valuation day, or ring up and make an appointment to meet a valuer, who would weigh, value and assess each item for a charge. If requested, the valuer could write a report on each item. The charge for my small stash was £250.
Prices are based on a percentage of the value of items. It does not have to be jewellery. Experts will assess all gold and silver household items, too. Then, if I wanted to cash it in, I would know the true value of the stock, just in case I encountered a less-than-honest broker. They suggest selling to a local jeweller, or to go to the old London jewellery quarter of Hatton Garden.
So this is how I ended up one Thursday morning, walking up the imposing stairs and into the marble hall of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Foster Lane, EC2 for an appointment with Rupert Huddy, an accredited jeweller, expert valuer and a silversmith of 39 years’ experience, whose father was a watchmaker.
Huddy visits the assay office of the Goldsmiths’ (where hallmarking gold and silver began) every Thursday. Though the Goldsmiths’ hosts these valuations, the actual organiser is the Guild of Valuers and Jewellers.
Huddy guided me to a small workroom where he had his professional instruments laid out, among them a magnifying glass, scales, methods of measurement, and a refractometer — an instrument that measures the refractive index of an item, which to a lay person means it can distinguish between different gems.
As the morning goes on, I learn a great deal about gold. Rose gold, for example, has that pink hue thanks to its copper content. Pure gold is too soft to make jewellery, so other metals are added, such as silver, copper or zinc. Pure gold is 24 carat, with its value descending depending on the other metals added.
Diamonds, by comparison, are a minefield. Suffice to say, size does not equal value: it is all about the quality of the stone. Gemstones (sapphires, rubies, emeralds and so on) are more confusing still, for there are many tricks that make them seem what they are not. They can be manufactured, tampered with and colour-enhanced. Most surprising is that gemstones set in a piece of jewellery that has knocked around for years are likely to be scratched or chipped and will have no resale value — it is too much effort and expense to extract and repolish them. They will probably be thrown away.
But gold has a value, no matter what shape or form it arrives in. My one-earring collection was quite weighty in gold, as were my old-fashioned gold rings, bracelets, and an assortment of dented, dangly hearts and ugly lockets. To my astonishment, their melt-down value would be about £1,000.
I took my jewellery to the extremely knowledgeable and nice jewellery maker Neil Fullard, with a lovely shop in Spittal Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire (01628 891966; email@example.com).
He took in my small cache and rang me two days later. “I will give you £1,000,” he said. Jackpot. Two honest experts in one week. And that is how we got new curtains.