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Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Jewelry at Auction

There is a veritable cascade of diamonds and pearls in the jewelry auction world these days, and the sales can be a great way to find a rare or special piece. But what do you need to know before you raise your paddle?

A scene from the April Magnificent Jewels Sale at Christie's.

A scene from the April Magnificent Jewels Sale at Christie's.

Source: Christie’s

Corrected

You’ll never find such variety of jewelry for sale as you will at a jewelry auction. You can bid on everything from antique jewelry from the 1800s to contemporary masterpieces, exquisite loose gemstones, or pieces with exceptional provenance that were owned by celebrities or royalty. With so many choices, it can be difficult to know where to begin, intimidating first-time buyers. You can find everything from simple, everyday earrings that go for under $5,000 to record-breaking diamonds that cost more than $50 million. (The record price achieved at auction went for the Pink Star, a 59.60-carat fancy vivid pink, internally flawless diamond that sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $71.2 million in 2017.) Auction houses hold live and online auctions throughout the year, but the biggest are held in spring and winter.

Joanna Hardy, a former auctioneer at Sotheby’s who is a sought-after jewelry consultant and author, is an expert at helping clients navigate auctions through her work at Omnēque, a London-based vintage-jewelry platform. In a Zoom interview, she spoke with us about the sometimes-confusing auction world, and shared her best practices to help you find—and win—pieces you will love.