Good Investment: What Makes Jewellery Rise in Value?

We love to talk about investing in a piece of fine jewellery as a way to justify our spending, but what actually does make for a good investment? Rachael Taylor picks up some hot tips from experts on how to curate a collection that will deliver returns.

When purchasing a piece of luxury jewellery, it is common to consider whether that jewel will offer not just pleasure for now but also a good investment for the future. Any jeweller worth their salt will tell you to follow your heart rather than your head when it comes to collecting, but the question remains: what makes a piece of jewellery go up in value?

Making of the Van Cleef and Arpels Albertine ballerine Clip

“As with any manner of object, whether it be a painting, sculpture, rug or furniture, the very finest and most beautiful amongst them hold and increase in value,” says Peggy Grosz, senior vice-president and creative director at Assael, which is known for its own clever investment in South Sea and Tahitian pearls. Founder Salvador Assael is credited with making these gems valuable, and in 1993 an Assael Australian South Sea pearl necklace broke a world record when it sold at Sotheby’s New York for $2.3 million.

“With some, a rare and desirable material [will increase its value],” notes Grosz. “With others, the creative artistry and ability of the creator, or the craftsmanship, but a combination of these attributes in anything always creates desirability and value.”

Luxury jewellery naturally has a tendency to hold its value due to the nature of the precious metals and gemstones used to create it. Gold, in particular, is a steady store of value. “Although the term ‘investment asset’ might evoke an image of a bullion coin or gold bar, any piece of jewellery crafted in a precious metal may be seen as an opportunity to hedge against inflation, economic instability and currency devaluation for those willing to play the long game,” says jewellery designer Arabel Lebrusan, founder of Lebrusan Studio.  Just don’t expect sharp returns based solely on this factor, she warns: “The process of [precious metal] inflation is erratic and slow”. When it comes to jewellery materials, the high rollers are the gemstones, and should you bet on the right stone, the returns can be large and swift.

The key to investment success in gemstones is rarity and scarcity, says Niveet Nagpal, president and designer at coloured gemstone jewellery specialist Omi Privé. “An example of this would be alexandrite, where production has been reduced because the original source in Brazil is depleted,” he says. Another is Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline, which was being offered for $250 a carat when it made its debut at the Tuscon gem show in 1990. The deposits were exhausted within 30 years, and now exquisite examples can fetch as much as $200,000 per carat, according to gem hunter Don Kogen, who talks about the rise of the neon-blue gemstone on his podcast Journey to the Stone.

“Many people use diamonds as an example of rarity, however coloured gemstones are objectively more rare in the earth than diamonds,” says Nagpal. “There will always be more demand for fine-quality gemstones in the marketplace than we will be able to source.”

Rarity must also be coupled with demand to create a valuable jewel; after all, something is only worth has much as someone is willing to pay for it. Sometimes the desire for certain objects can be so great that rarity plays a lesser role. This is certainly true of coveted jewellery brands.

“Desirability can work independently,” agrees Sarah Duncan, head of fine jewellery at resale platform Luxury Promise. “Cartier does not limit the production of their flagship lines, such as the Love collection, but desirability is incredibly high due to it being seen as status symbol pieces and worn by highly emulated figures.”

Model wearing Van Cleef & Arpels necklace in ruby and diamond from the Legend of Diamond high jewellery collection

The Cartier Love bangle is a great example of a piece that will likely hold value. Buy an 18ct rose gold version fresh from the Cartier store today and you’ll pay a little over £7,000; buy the same pre-owned piece at Luxury Promise and expect to pay a little under £6,000.

“Great design always speaks for itself; even better is when great design is made by and signed by an important firm with a long-term track record like Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels,” says Elyse Zorn Karlin, co-director at the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts and consulting curator for the Chicago Collects: Jewelry in Perspective exhibition at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago, which opens in May 2024. “Any piece by an important jeweller or jewelry firm that is one-of-a-kind will command high prices on the secondary market.”

This ties in to the other value-boosting element: provenance. Tracking a jewel’s history can inflate its price; all the better if that story has some sort of brush with fame or notoriety. Zorn Karlin lists celebrity owners and royal connections as provenance power-ups, as well public paper trails. “Documented pieces – in books, in archives, or similar pieces in museum collections – will also be highly desirable and will probably continue to increase in value,” she says. Just like metal prices, however, the power of provenance can fluctuate, impacted by real-time demand. Zorn Karlin gives period jewellery as an example of this: “It is cyclical. When a past style becomes very popular, the prices will rise, but there is a flip side to this. In time, the prices may come down again as the period goes out of favor.”

Van Cleef & Arpels Ballerine clip in white gold, ruby, emerald and diamond

Wider market forces can also impact pricing. Lucy Crowther, founder of jewellery brand Minka, has seen an increase in demand for antique diamonds in the past year, which she believes is a reaction to the rise of lab-grown diamonds as shoppers kick back against modernity in favour of authenticity. “This has driven prices up quite considerably,” she notes. Such fluctuations make collecting jewellery for investment purposes a little like playing the stock market: those serious about making a return must know when to buy, how long to hold, and just the right moment to sell. As such, regular valuations are key to best understand how your investment is performing.

“Hamilton & Inches has provided valuations for clients' jewellery for over 155 years,” says Victoria Houghton, chief executive of the iconic Edinburgh jeweller. “Given we value all types of jewellery, not just pieces created by Hamilton & Inches, we see how jewellery valuations regularly change. This is why we recommend clients have their jewellery revalued every three years to ensure their insurance cover is adequate.”

Influencing factors that Houghton decrees as important to a strong valuation are evolving tastes and rarity. The latter is something she is gaining experience with on a first-hand basis through the sale of Scottish gold. Hamilton & Inches is one of only two companies licenced to sell jewellery made from gold mined in the Scottish Highlands, and production levels are currently low – making it a rare and scarce material with an attractive provenance. Needless to say, demand has been strong. Each piece comes with a certificate to shore up potential resale values, and the alloy of the gold itself is infused with a secret ingredient so that it can always be traced back to the Cononish mines when tested at an assay office.   

Victoria Houghton, chief executive of Hamilton & Inches

Design is also important, Houghton says. “Much like art, an individual designer’s personal profile can also influence the valuation of the jewellery they create,” she says. “If the designer announces they will no longer create new pieces, or they pass away, the pieces they created during their lifetime are likely to hold and, on occasion, rise in value depending on the calibre of their work and their reputation among clients.”

This has certainly been true of jewellery artists such as René Lalique, Suzanne Belperron and Andrew Grima, although adding value to design is also something that can be done within a designer’s active career, as jeweller Sarah Ho has discovered. “An example of this is our Candy Cane Toffee diamond ring,” she says. “I purchased the [3ct toffee-coloured] diamond a while ago and created a version of the Candy Cane collection [with stripes of enamel over a gold band] rather than just a simple solitaire ring. When we had the stone revalued, it had increased, and the new design also added value.”

 Sarah Ho Candy Cane Toffee ring in gold and diamond featuring a 3-ct toffee-coloured oval diamond

With so many factors at play, there is no guaranteed route to purchasing a jewel that will one day be worth more than you paid for it – especially when you consider that what you pay at retail is always going to be much higher than the resale value of the jewel or gem. The key is to buy wisely, and to keep in mind the leading factors that can add value to a jewel. As Grosz at Assael recaps for us: “Fine, rare materials, innovative design, high craftsmanship and an overall timelessness is a combination that will bode well for increasing value.”

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