Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I hadn't intended to sell my mother's jewelry. I'd wear what I could and keep the rest in a safety deposit box for . . . A daughter-in-law? A granddaughter?

My mom's taste is jewelry was, for the most part, big. She liked 14 karat gold with bold stones that begged attention. Her favorite set was a gold necklace with an amethyst the size of Rhode Island, a matching pinkie ring with a second amethyst, and, yes, a pair of earrings with an amethyst dangling from each. The whole shebang cost a mint; the replacement value was even higher.

Alas, I'm just not a gold, big stone kind of gal. I go for silver, subtle, unique.
Even so, as I planned what I hoped would be the last estate sale (I'd already used Internet ads, auctions, consignment shops) to finally sell the remainder of my parents' stuff, I didn't consider selling the jewelry. Maybe it was the sense that my mother wouldn't approve. Or that I was a ruthless daughter interested in money. Whatever the reasons, I didn't list jewelry in the estate sale ads.

People kept calling and asking if I had any jewelry to sell. Initially, I said "No." Then I went through my own collection, picked out what I no longer wore, and threw that into the mix. I sold a few items. Then I tossed in costume jewelry from the 50s and 60s. The response was lukewarm. And there wasn't much interest either in the items I really wanted to sell - the rugs, the set of four Henredon chairs, the custom media center with antique Japanese screen doors, the oak square table for four. If I didn't unload these things, I would have to give them away. The monthly storage fee was bleeding me dry.

Finally, I called one of the dealers who was looking for "better" jewelry. I knew he'd never pay close to what the jewelry was worth. But I'd taken it around to estate jewelers months before, only to be told that it wasn't their style. Or that they'd melt the pieces down for the gold. Now, that I'd never do.

"How much do you want for these?" he said, having put together a pile of my mother's finest jewels, including the amethyst set.

I had no idea. "Let me look at the insurance estimates," I said.

"I'm not interested in those. They're always much too high, and I'm not going to pay close to those amounts."

This guy was a pro. I picked up the red folder with the insurance estimates and started reading aloud the descriptions and estimated values.

"What do you want?" he said again.

I started adding numbers in my head. "How about $1000?"

"$800," he countered.

I hate bargaining. "$900, and that's my final price."

He reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and began handing me $100 bills. I thought of calling off the deal. My mother's going to kill me, I mumbled under my breath. "Sell these to women who will wear them proudly," I said loud enough so he could hear.

"What about these?" a second prospective buyer asked. She'd collected an array of less expensive pieces. Hardened by the first round of bargaining, I quoted her prices I was sure she wouldn't pay. I was surprised. She backed off of just one piece, an ornate silver necklace that looked Turkish or Indian. I vowed to wear the necklace sometime soon.

I cried myself to sleep that night. I missed my mom, wished I could call her and just shoot the breeze. Maybe she would have been practical about the jewelry thing and agreed that keeping it in a safety deposit box for years made no sense. Whatever her reaction, it would have been so good to hear her voice.

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