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9 Tips for Attending Your First Jewelry Auction

Written by Anna Currell
September 5, 2023

Attending a jewelry auction is an excellent way to find unique, interesting, and beautiful pieces of jewelry that you may not be able to find anywhere else. If you want to get ready to attend your first ever jewelry auction, you’ve come to the right place — we have all the insider info you need. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about attending a jewelry auction, including how the events usually work and what to expect while you’re there. Let’s take a closer look!

What is a Jewelry Auction?

A jewelry auction is an event where pieces of jewelry are sold to the highest bidder. Typically, private collectors, estate managers, jewelers, designers, and other independent owners consign their jewelry to the auction house. This gives the seller access to the auction house’s resources, from professional appraisals to a cultivated audience of customers, for which the auction house will usually take a cut of the profits. The jewelry on sale usually encompasses a wide range of materials, eras, and values, and there are all different types of auctions with different specialties, including online, in-person, and hybrid event formats.


How Does a Jewelry Auction Work?

Any in-person jewelry auction begins with registration. You'll be assigned a bidder number and given a bidder paddle, which you’ll use to place your bids in the auction room. There will be a scheduled preview time where you can inspect the items up for auction. This allows you to evaluate each piece’s condition and authenticity, assess your interest in buying it, and get a closer look at anything you’re considering bidding on. 

When it’s time for the auction, registrants will be seated in the auction room and the auctioneer will explain the rules and bidding process before any items come up for sale. Listen closely, because different events may have their own unique rule sets and procedures. The auctioneer will bring up the first lot of jewelry, describe the item for sale, and kick things off by announcing an opening bid.

Then the bidding begins! Interested bidders will raise their paddles to place increasingly higher bids until the auctioneer bangs the gavel signaling the winner. This process continues for all the jewelry lots up for auction until everything has been sold. If you win the bidding on a particular lot, you’ll need to take your paddle number to the payment desk to arrange to pay for and collect the items you won. Sometimes shipping or pickup options are available, depending on the specifications set by the original owner of the piece.


9 Tips to Help You Navigate Your First Jewelry Auction

Now that you’ve got the basic overview of how a jewelry auction works, here are some practical tips to help you navigate your first event:

#1: Do Your Homework

Do your research ahead of time. Look through the auction catalog to get an idea of the types of jewelry for sale and their estimated prices. Take a careful look at each piece of jewelry to make sure it’s in good condition and exactly what you’re looking for before you place a bid. 

#2: Get Clear on the Process and Terms

It’s helpful to understand the basics of auction bidding and the terms used. Things can move quickly, so you need to know what’s going on in real time. You can always ask questions if you’re unsure, but here are a few terms to learn in advance:

  • Auctioneer: An auctioneer is the person who conducts live auctions. This person acts as a host, recognizing bids, facilitating bidding wars, finalizing sales, regulating the overall process, and managing the energy of an auction event.
  • Bidding: When a piece comes up for bid, auction attendees raise their paddles or call out bids to indicate what they're willing to pay. Competitive bidding drives up the price until the highest bidder wins.
  • Hammer Price: The winning bid at the end of bidding is called the hammer price, referring to the moment the auctioneer brings the hammer down to close the sale. The hammer price is the price the winning bidder agreed to pay, before any additional fees.
  • Buyer's Premium: On top of the hammer price, winning bidders are typically expected to pay additional premiums set by the auction house plus any applicable taxes. The winning bidder owes the combined total of the hammer price and any buyer’s premiums.

#3: Check Out the Pieces Before Bidding

Inspect pieces you're interested in bidding on carefully before the auction starts. Find the ones you like best and take notes on the pieces — look for signs of repairs or alterations that could impact their value, and keep an eye out for dents or damage.


#4: Create a Budget

Set a spending limit and stick to it — creating a budget before even entering the auction can help you be realistic. Auction fever can cause excited newcomers to overbid, so knowing your max bid on any items you want before the action starts can help keep you from getting carried away.

#5: Dress to Impress

Don’t forget to dress appropriately. When in doubt, opt for business casual attire and minimal distractions — this probably isn’t the event for your loud bangle bracelets, for example. Make sure that your outfit reflects that you’re both respectful of the items on offer and serious about bidding.

#6: Show Up Early

The early bird gets the worm! Or rather, the bird that arrives early can prepare to bid on the worm. Arrive early to make sure you can conduct your up-close inspections and do any necessary schmoozing before the event starts, and still get a good seat with a clear view of the auctioneer and auction stage — up front is best. 

#7: Stay Attentive

Listen carefully to the auctioneer and bid clearly. Make clear motions with your paddle when you’re bidding to avoid any miscommunications, and make sure the auctioneer officially accepts your bid before moving on. Pro tip: don't jump in on the bidding too early as this can push up prices or get you outbid quickly.

#8: Keep Track of Prices 

Keep track of hammer prices to help you learn the true auction values of each item. Analyzing how final hammer prices compare to opening bids can help you anticipate the spread, adjust your max bids and budget decisions on the fly, and develop a winning bidding strategy.

#9: Be Prepared to Pay Right Away

Be prepared to pay immediately if you win an item at auction. To make sure everything goes smoothly, have your preferred form of payment ready and be sure to arrange to collect your items right away so you’ll have your new jewelry in your possession as soon as possible. 


Now you have everything you need to attend your first jewelry auction! We hope you win the pieces you have your eye on. Want to learn more about the world of jewelry? Sign up for our Quick Jewelry Repairs newsletter below to get tips, tricks, and information sent straight to your inbox.

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