My late husband never believed jewelry was a good investment because there is such a huge mark-up on it. I, on the other hand, have always loved jewelry.
So a few years ago when I happened to come across an estate-sale ring that caught my eye online, I quickly became obsessed with it. It was like no other ring I’d ever seen before – mainly because it was hand-made, hand-engraved and one of a kind. I’ve always been drawn to unique things, and jewelry is no exception. In fact, I’ve owned several unique pieces of jewelry over the years, such as a coffin-shaped onyx with 6 gold prongs shaped like hands carrying it, and a fox’s head done in brown tourmaline and diamonds.
But this ring, for a change, actually was more elegant than quirky. It was an oval-shaped natural sapphire surrounded by diamonds and set on a cabochon black onyx with side diamonds – all surrounded by 18K gold. Seeing it was only a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I began frantically throwing hints to my husband about buying the ring for me.
Finally, when I tucked a photo of it into his shirt pocket and taped another onto the bathroom mirror just before he shaved, he decided to have a talk with me.
“You know that I think jewelry is a waste of good money, don’t you?” he said.
“But what about Antiques Roadshow?” I protested. “People on there are always being told things like the necklace they bought for $20 at a yard sale is actually worth $20,000!”
He shook his head and chuckled. “Sure, they can be told it’s worth that much, but the truth is, jewelry is only worth what you can actually get for it. They’ll never find anyone who’s willing to pay those high estimates, mark my words.”
But still, I persisted, because I really, really wanted that ring. I also knew that if he waited too long, some other lucky woman would get it…and I would be beyond crushed because there wasn’t another ring like it in existence. And in my heart, I already thought of it as my ring, no one else’s.
Sure enough, the next day I checked my precious ring online and was devastated – it had been sold. My window of opportunity had closed. No more hinting, no more trying to convince my husband to buy the ring for me. No more fixing him all of his favorite foods and giving him more compliments and affection than any man could sanely tolerate in such a short period of time. It was over.
So on Valentine’s Day when my husband presented the ring to me, I felt as if I’d just won the lottery. While I squealed with delight, danced around the room and nearly cut off his oxygen with the hug I gave him, he just rolled his eyes and said, “I still say it’s a waste of good money.”
I wore the ring every day and I remember thinking that even if someone offered me $10,000 for it, I wouldn’t part with it. It was a special gift, one of a kind…and it was mine, all mine.
My husband passed away suddenly only a few months later. So the ring then became even more meaningful...because it was the last gift he ever gave me.
Fast forward to seven years later. My knuckles had become arthritic and the ring was a struggle to put on, even when I soaped my fingers. Soon, it didn’t fit at all.
Also at that time, my bills were piling up because of unforeseen major expenses – a contaminated artesian well, a dead refrigerator, a sick dog, four new tires to pass inspection, oral surgery for an infected tooth, etc. I couldn’t get ahead no matter what I did.
That’s when I made the extremely difficult decision to sell the ring. I have no children, no grandchildren, no sisters or brothers, so the thought of someone else owning the ring and handing it down through the generations made me feel good because it was something I couldn’t do myself. And not only would I hopefully be making someone else as happy as the ring had made me, I also would be able to pay some of my bills and perhaps finally get ahead.
So I took the ring to a jeweler to have it appraised because I had no idea what it actually was worth. The gemologist, a woman, couldn’t rave enough about the ring and its quality and uniqueness. She appraised it at nearly $4,000. I nearly laughed because I knew my husband hadn’t paid anywhere near that amount for it. When I left the jeweler’s I looked up at the sky, smiled smugly and said to him, “See? Jewelry isn’t such a bad investment after all!”
But just to be certain, I went to another jeweler in another town and had the ring appraised there. The value turned out to be very close to the other one.
That night, I searched the Internet for jewelry stores that purchased estate jewelry. I particularly singled out the ones that said, “Highest prices paid for your jewelry, guaranteed!”
And the next morning, I set out to sell the ring.
Four jewelry stores later, the highest offer I’d received was $400. I felt personally offended. I even could hear my husband saying, “I told you so!”
But I was not about to give up. I went to three more stores the next day. All three made me feel as if the ring should have been a gum-machine prize. The highest offer I received was even worse than the day before…only $300.
The bills still were piling up and I was getting desperate, but not THAT desperate. So I listed the ring on eBay for $2,000, which I thought was a fair price, considering the appraisals I’d received. Those written appraisals had cost me $125 each, and I even offered to include both of them free of charge, for the buyer’s insurance records.
After several weeks of no activity on eBay, a man offered me $1,250 for the ring. I decided to accept it, and the money immediately was deposited into my Paypal account. But I had mixed emotions the next day when I went to the post office to mail the ring. I was relieved to be getting some much-needed money, but I also felt as if I were losing a part of me…a part of my husband.
Well, eBay has a 30-day return policy. On day 29, the guy who’d bought my ring requested a refund. The reason given was he preferred the sapphire to be a darker blue.
I was speechless! It took him nearly 30 days to realize that? Wouldn’t he have realized the sapphire wasn’t blue enough to suit him when he opened the package on day one?
“I’ll bet his wife wore the ring all 29 days,” one of my friends said. “Either that, or he’s a shady jeweler and took out all of the real stones and replaced them with fakes!”
Even worse, I’d already used some of the money that I then was required to refund to him.
He returned the ring and before I sent him a refund, I took the ring to a jeweler for yet another appraisal, praying it wouldn’t come back as being worth only $75 with “cubic zirconia and manmade stones.” The appraisal was $3,750, to my relief. But it cost me another $110 to find that out.
Part of me was thinking at that point, “Maybe this is my husband's way of telling me to keep the ring.”
But then I saw an ad in the paper for a jewelry store offering consignments for fine jewelry and estate items, so I headed over there with the ring. I signed a contract for 6 months and stipulated that the least amount I’d accept for the ring was $1,200.
The jewelry store had a gorgeous website, and I waited for my ring to appear on it, certain it immediately would attract a lot of intention because of its unique look.
But three months later, my ring still wasn’t on the website, so I called the store to ask why.
“Oh, you have to pay over $100 for that privilege,” I was told.
“But it doesn’t cost you anything to add my ring to your site,” I protested, “And it’s only to your benefit to try to advertise it, isn’t it?”
“Sorry, but that’s our policy.”
Needless to say, I wasn’t about to pay them to be on their website. But that also meant my ring wouldn't have much exposure. Sure enough, at the end of the six months it hadn’t sold.
“If I were you, I’d leave the ring here for the holidays,” the administrative assistant at the jewelry store suggested. “It’s our busiest time, so it will have more of a chance to sell. Or...you can have our buyer make you an offer and buy it outright, if you prefer not to wait.”
I opted to have the buyer make me an offer because, after all, my bills still were a major concern.
The buyer contacted me later that day and said, “Well…I won’t even make you an offer because I know it would only insult you. The ring’s not really worth that much. If I were you, I’d keep it on consignment a while longer and see what happens.”
So I kept it on consignment through the holidays – again with no sale and no exposure on their website. Out of curiosity, I sent one of my friends into the store to pretend to be interested in buying a vintage sapphire and diamond ring.
“Oh, we have a gorgeous, fine quality, one-of-kind ring I think you’ll love,” she was told.
And sure enough, my ring was shown to her – a real steal at only $4,000!
I was so upset, I picked it up a week later and took it home.
Then came the pandemic. And my financial problems grew even worse.
So last week I listed the ring on eBay once again, mainly because desperate times call for desperate measures. This time, for only $949, which just happens to be the amount I still need to pay my property taxes in a few weeks. So my fingers and toes are crossed.
Meanwhile, I still can hear my husband chuckling from up above about jewelry being a crummy investment.
But I have vowed never, not ever, even if I were being tortured, to admit he just might have been right!
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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