Much like personal collections of fine art, jewelry is an expression of both personal tastes and sentimental value. On top of this, of course, the best pieces also carry the potential to yield returns worth far more than the compliments they inspire or the good they do for one’s outfit. Here, Borgie*, an established jeweler who hails from generations of women in the same business, walks us through the finer points of exploring jewelry as an investment.
The intrinsic value of any piece of jewelry is based on two fundamental variables: materials and artistry.
With regard to the materials that make up a piece, valuation is simple and straightforward. Today, the current prices of precious metals and gemstones are readily available to anyone with an internet connection. However, the materials used for jewelry only preserve value of money. P1,000 worth of gold sold after 10 years may yield twice that, but in reality, its purchasing power may remain at par with today’s P1,000 as a result of inflation.
Artistry, by virtue of its being more subjective and multifaceted, is where things get a little more complicated. But it is also what allows well-made pieces to appreciate by leaps and bounds. In fact, it’s not unheard of for pieces to sell for sizeable amounts despite an absence of any precious components. In short, artistry—the authorship, rarity, provenance, and craftsmanship that collectively define a piece—is what makes jewelry a competitive investment.
Of course, this emphasis on artistry is not meant to belittle the value that materials can bring to a piece. This is particularly true if we’re talking of jewelry primarily as a an investment vehicle, in which case the wider market, the better. But people are generally programmed to be dismissive of jewelry that is not made of gold, silver, diamonds, pearls, and the like. Only a discriminating few will have an appreciation of the exotic. To be on the safe side, then, do not stray too far from traditional notions of what makes jewelry valuable.
The combination of artistry and precious materials, of course, is greater than the sum of its parts. That is to say, P5,000 worth of artistry applied to P20,000 worth of gold could sell for P100,000; whereas the same P5,000 worth of artistry on non-precious beads worth P1,500 may only command a selling price of P15,000.
While the appreciation of materials by themselves will always have a rigid cadence, they can boost the value of great artistry and, consequently, the merchandise as a whole (Still, it is important to keep in mind that if the artistry is of negligible value, there will be nothing to boost. Its price will not substantially rise above the cost of materials regardless of what was used for the latter).
All that said, every collector—and, it follows, every investor—must be armed with sufficient knowledge of the craft. How else will you develop a feel for the supply and demand dynamics in the industry and, naturally, how else will you know when you’re buying cheap? Since you could potentially be a seller yourself, it’s critical to be armed with the answers to all sorts of questions that could be thrown your way.
Investing in jewelry, therefore, is not unlike acquiring fine art or vintage cars. Asking knowledgeable resources in the industry and reading up on the subject are recommended. The best course of action, though, is to buy pieces from dealers with vast experience—those who have traded jewelry of various classes sourced locally and abroad, and have been witnesses to both longstanding classics and fads that have come and gone.
Interview by Arianna Lim
Art by Maine Manalansan
*In light of the sensitive nature of the jewelry business, the interviewee requested to be referred to only by her first name. To be put in contact with her, kindly request for a referral through the editor at email@example.com.