Selling Silver Jewellery for cash

How to sell silver jewellery

Selling Silver jewellery can be a bit of a minefield. We’ve all got them. Broken silver chains, odd silver earrings, silver jewellery you bought when it was fashionable but now it isn’t.

Our customers ask us about silver jewellery a-lot. So we worked with our experts to create this guide.

It’s tough to know how to sell them. There’s a lot to consider:

    • How do you know it’s silver?
    • Will you get the best price?
    • What’s the true value of your piece?
    • Where’s the best place to sell your jewellery?
    • How do you clean it?
  • Is it scrap or not?

Our senior vintage expert Antony Charman has been valuing silver jewellery for over 50 years, so he was the perfect pick to help us write this very in depth article.

This guide includes everything you will ever need to know about selling your silver jewellery.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

1. What to do with old silver jewellery

Everyone loves a great story of hidden treasures in the attic! But what do you do with them once you’ve found them?

Silver jewellery is particularly hard to untangle. Some of it may be sterling silver, it might have semi-precious stones in it, it might have a hallmark or something more exotic, plus how do you know it’s real silver?

So what do you do with your old silver? If you don’t want to give it away or donate it, then selling is the next logical option.

The dream of most sellers is to find out that the family heirloom is worth a fortune. However, the reality is often different when it comes to assessing true value.  

One of the most important steps is understanding the market value of what you have. Here are a few things that tend to shock people when they sell their silver jewellery:

your silver jewellery might only be worth scrap value

You might think of your jewellery as rare and valuable, a jewellery dealer might think of it only in terms of its scrap or melt value.

Sentimental silver jewellery isn’t worth more

If the piece has a high sentimental value, it won’t necessarily equate to value in the jewellery trade.

Some silver jewellery depreciates in value

If you remember what you paid for your silver jewellery, you could be disappointed to learn it’s now worth a fraction of what you bought it for.

The ideal pieces of silver jewellery to sell are those you never wear, that have no emotional attachments or pieces that are damaged or broken.

A quote by Antony Charman next to a vintage teddy bear
The worst part of being a valuer is having to tell someone their items are not worth as much as they thought, especially if the items have sentimental value. I’ve never been one for breaking hearts.

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2. Is my jewellery silver?

First you need to understand how to tell if your jewellery is silver. Because silver is a soft metal it comes in various alloys.

Pure silver is usually marked 999 and only contains 0.01% alloy material. It is rare to find 999 jewellery because the metal is so soft it makes the jewellery hard to care for. It also scratches more easily.

Silver used to make jewellery is usually called sterling silver. It contains 92.5% silver. This is usually marked on the piece. Look for this marking to make sure you are selling silver and not costume jewellery:

A 925 hallmark inside a silver ring

Some pieces of jewellery do not have a 925 stamp, they may have a small tag that says 925. These pieces are less likely to be silver jewellery, in more modern times, these tags have been attached to fashion jewellery. So if your silver jewellery has a tag instead of a stamp, seek the advice of an expert who will test it for you.

Is sterling silver real silver?

Jewellery is not usually made from pure silver. The metal is soft, difficult to shape into jewellery and gets damaged easily. Even the purest silver is 99.99% silver.

To make silver stronger, it’s mixed with other metals like copper, zinc or nickel. The resultant metal is called an alloy. Sterling silver is an alloy that  usually has a purity of 92.5%, this means sterling silver contains 92.5% pure silver and the other 7.5% is the alloy.

Copper, zinc and nickel react with elements in the air. This process is called oxidization. Because in sterling silver the levels of these metals are higher, sterling silver tarnishes faster than pure silver.

The Assay Office in the UK states that sterling silver must have a minimum purity of 92.5%. There are countries in Europe that may sell silver jewellery with a lower purity as sterling silver. If you bought your jewellery from somewhere other than the UK or the US, it’s best to get it tested. Silver hallmarks from other countries include the marks 800, 835 and 900. In the US silver is commonly marked with the word sterling.

The best place to have jewellery appraised

If you are in doubt and you want to know if your jewellery is silver, only an appraisal expert will be able to confirm this with any certainty for you. They can test the metal with acid or a metal testing ‘gun’ that detects the purity of a metal.

Antony Charman using a metal testing gun
This is the metal testing gun we use at Vintage Cash cow. Modelled by our lovely vintage expert Antony.

If you are getting your item valued, shop around. Make sure you know what type of valuation you are getting. Retail value, insurance value and regional values are not the same thing. For example if you get an insurance valuation for an antique item you won’t necessarily be able to sell it for that price.

That’s why at Vintage Cash Cow we offer free returns, because we need to see your items in person to accurately value them.

We’d rather send the items back for free than offer you a disappointing price if your items aren’t what you thought they were.

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3. Silver hallmarks

Most silver has a hallmark of some kind, even the smallest piece of silver jewellery. If you have old jewellery though it may not have a hallmark at all.

Silver jewellery hallmarks

Some silver jewellery won’t have hallmarks or a 925 stamp. This doesn’t always mean it isn’t silver.

A picture of Antony charman along with a quote
If your silver jewellery looks old and doesn’t have a hallmark, send it in to be appraised. If it looks new and has no hallmarks, it’s probably costume jewellery.

If your silver jewellery is old, it might not be hallmarked at all. By the same token, some hallmarks can be forged or imitated, although this is rare.

Silver jewellery can sometimes have a hallmark if it’s silver plated. Silver plated jewellery is common. If the jewellery is not valuable as a collectors piece it will only be worth the value of its base metals.

In silver plating, a base metal, usually copper, is coated with silver. Vintage silver plate can sometimes have hallmarks. More modern silver plate is usually marked with the letters E.P.N.S. Which stands for Electro Plated Nickel Silver, referencing the method used to plate the base metal.

An EPNS mark on Silver
Many thanks to Giorgio at SilverCollection for giving us permission to use this image.

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4. Sterling silver jewellery and vintage costume jewellery

There are lots of different types of silver jewellery, from the modern hallmarked pieces to the rarer vintage costume jewellery that has real silver in it. Here we’ll look at the different types of jewellery you might have and we’ll talk about how to identify each piece and prepare it for sale.

Silver semi-precious stone jewellery

In fine jewellery, semi precious stones are usually held into place with prongs attached to the mounting. With costume jewellery there may be claws, but a lot of the stones will be glued into place.

A selection of different silver mountings and settings
Photos of silver jewellery finding supplies kindly provided by Kernow Craft

For instance, if you have a pendant and it looks as though the stone or the cameo has been glued on. (Or if there are no prongs holding it on.) It’s likely to be  costume jewellery.

One exception to this is pearls. They are difficult to set into jewellery so older pieces will likely have glued on pearls. You only really see pearls in a setting on more modern jewellery.

Vintage costume jewellery that has a lot of coloured  stones set with prongs can be valuable. Don’t just dismiss a piece because it’s costume jewellery.

Selling  925 silver jewellery

If you are selling silver chains, silver bangles or silver pendants that have no other embellishments, check their weight. Silver tends to be heavier than replica and silver jewellery.

Silver jewellery is smooth, and consistent throughout. If you have a silver coloured chain, pendant or bangle that has a darker colour or even a different colour showing through on the parts that see heavy wear, it’s more likely to be silver plated.

A quote by Antony Charman with a picture of a vintage charm bracelet
The longer and heavier your silver chain or bangle is, generally the more valuable it is.

Getting the best price for scrap silver jewellery

If your jewellery is damaged or broken you’d likely only sell it for its scrap value. It’s unusual for jewellery to be repaired to be sold in the trade unless it’s a particularly coveted or rare piece.

Vintage and Antique jewellery is not worth as much if it has been repaired. If you are selling your broken and damaged jewellery for scrap, wait until you have a few pieces to sell, one piece on its own is only likely to fetch a few pounds.

If the jewellery has semi precious stones, pearls or any other materials used to adorn it, they will be removed before the piece is broken down and melted. When you go to sell your damaged things you will be quoted the weight of the silver, not the weight of the piece with the stones.

If you sell your silver at a registered pawn broker or a jewellery store it is sometimes possible to get any stones set into it returned to you. There can be costs associated with this though.

If you only had one piece of silver jewellery that was damaged, you could take it to a jewellers and get it melted down and turned into something else, this is quite a popular option for those who don’t want to sell something sentimental.

With pawnbrokers it can be difficult to find one that is properly licenced and one that gives you a good quote. Make sure you have enough time to research all the options in order to get the best price for your silver jewellery.

When selling silver jewellery it’s a good idea to assess the expertise of who you are selling it to. If the buyer isn’t an expert they may overlook any intrinsic value the piece has. Making sure they can identify rare, vintage or antique jewellery means you’ll always get the best price.

On the other hand, if you have unwanted vintage items around your home. You could pack them all into a box with your broken silver jewellery and send them to Vintage Cash Cow. You could probably make more if you were to sell the items individually on an online marketplace, but there are fees and a lot of hassle associated with this.

We’ve created Vintage Cash Cow to make it easy for you to sell. The service is free because the costs of postage and insurance are accounted for when we make our offer to you. Our experts know how to appraise your silver jewellery and look past its scrap value so you can finally know if you have something a little bit special.

If you don’t want to accept our sale price you can have the items returned for free. So really it’s a no brainer.

A quote by Antony Charman next to three vintage silver lockets
We buy all kinds of jewellery, even costume jewellery, so if in doubt, send it in!

What happens to gemstones when silver jewellery is sold for scrap?

Jewellery companies add a very high mark up to the new jewellery they sell. Engagement rings and wedding rings, like cars, depreciate in value as soon as you leave the shop. If you sell those same rings a few days or even years later you’ll likely have to sell them for their scrap value.

Some jewellers and pawnbrokers will buy diamonds if they are set into modern jewellery, but it usually depends on the cut and the grade of the diamond.

Diamonds will usually be bought at the wholesale price, this means you’ll get less money for them than you paid when they were a part of the jewellery.

Because silver is a soft material it’s rare to find precious stones set into silver. It’s become prevalent in the last ten years or so, but you’ll find the diamonds set into silver will be lower purity. This is because stones set into silver are more likely to be dislodged.

A quote by Antony Charman next to a picture of silver jewellery with blue stones
Coloured stones rarely hold value once they’ve been removed from a piece of jewellery.

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5. Selling vintage silver jewellery

First try to find out if the piece is rare or unusual. See if you can find out where it came from and how old it is. If it’s in a case, there may be a date stamped onto the lining.  Look for letters, receipts or notes that can tell you when it was purchased and how much for.

When you are getting your vintage silver jewellery valued take into account what value you are being given.

Auction value, retail value and resale value are all different things. Make sure you know the difference between them before attributing value to your piece.

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6. What is your silver jewellery collection worth

The value of silver, as a metal, is determined by the weight, the purity and the current  ‘spot price’. This is it’s current market value.

It’s rare to get paid spot price for your silver jewellery if it’s being sold as scrap. This is because you’ll have to pay a commission on the transaction which goes to the dealer. This commission is how silver dealers make money.

Usually you will only be able to sell silver at spot price to a bullion dealer, they tend only to deal in very large amounts.

If your silver jewellery is antique or vintage it may be worth more than its scrap value. That’s where valuing silver jewellery becomes difficult.

Our experts have years of appraisal experience, they can spot valuable silver jewellery even if it’s broken or tarnished. If in doubt don’t just sell it to a scrap dealer, they may not be able to spot a rare or valuable piece.

You can sell your silver jewellery to Vintage Cash Cow no matter what condition it’s in. We’ll tell you how much your jewellery is worth and then you can decide if you’d like to sell it. If we think you can make more selling privately we will advise you to try it, we’ll even give you the benefit of our experience selling on these sites.

With a free sign up, free secure courier service, free returns, free advice and no hidden charges, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Silver jewellery brands

When looking through your jewellery watch out for these names: Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany, Georg Jensen, Thomas Sabo and Links of London, silver jewellery made by these fashion houses are usually quite valuable if authentic. However, there are a lot of copy designs in these jewellery brands.

Old silver jewellery markings that are valuable

Check the jewellery to see if it has any marks. Is it signed?

Does it have hallmarks or a 925 stamp or tag?

There may be maker’s marks or foreign assay marks on a vintage piece of silver jewellery.

Makers marks are a sign that the piece is old or vintage and so could be worth more than just its weight as silver.

Icons demonstrating different silver makers marks
Many thanks to Phil at Silver Maker’s Marks for making this chart for us.

Are pearls in silver settings valuable?

In modern jewellery it’s common to use cultured pearls. These are created by oyster farming. In older pieces of silver jewellery though pearls are more likely to be natural. The only way to tell for certain is to x-ray the pearls, but many dealers can tell by looking at the shape and the shine of the pearl.

Cultured pearls are worth far less than natural pearls. While both hold value, the natural ones are more sought after and so will be worth more money.

A lot of older jewellery was also set with seed pearls, particularly in the Victorian era. Remember it’s common to replicate pearls in jewellery using plastic. Although this is rare on silver jewellery it’s worth having your piece appraised before selling it.

Silver jewellery with semi precious stones

Colourless gems may not always be diamonds. It is very rare to get diamonds on antique vintage silver jewellery. Where they are included they tend to be a little lumpier than the modern day equivalent as the cut of them is less precise.

Tiny or very small diamonds rarely hold value. There is a huge markup on diamond jewellery at jewellery stores, because the new ones are often in high demand. However, the re-sale value is low.

In some instances, old jewellery may contain precious stones from mines which are now exhausted. If that is the case the precious stone will be a lot more valuable.

Coloured stones or semi precious stones tend to hold less value. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds are becoming more popular. A piece of silver jewellery containing red, blue or green stones should be appraised. If the piece is vintage the stones are more likely to be valuable than in a modern piece.

In modern jewellery the gems that are used tend to be heated. This causes differences in colour, shape and sparkle. Vintage or antique stones were untreated and this usually means they are more valuable.

Look for stones that are clear, shine brightly and have no bubbles in them, these are more likely to be real.

Determining the authenticity of gemstones is very difficult. The practice requires years of study and even then the results can only be provided with a degree of accuracy.

A quote by Antony Charman next to a picture of a green semi precious stone
If you have old silver jewellery with red, green or blue stones in it, make sure it’s appraised by an expert. They are far more likely to know the difference between a replica and a real gem. However, remember, 9/10 pieces of jewellery set with stones are semi precious or costume stones.

Antique silver jewellery

If your silver jewellery looks highly unusual it may be a rare or antique piece. Some examples include:

Silver jewellery containing butterfly wings

Look for pieces like this with iridescent, usually blue backgrounds:

Three butterfly wing brooches

Silver mourning brooches

Look for brooches like this that contain hair:

A gold vintage mourning brooch

Vintage silver bug jewellery

Look for brooches, earrings, hair clips, pendants any type of vintage jewellery depicting bugs. Victorian and unusual vintage jewellery is more likely to be valuable.

A victorian bug brooch

Unusual vintage jewellery is more likely to be valuable than just the cost of its weight as scrap silver.

Selling used silver jewellery

Used jewellery isn’t necessarily less valuable, though the condition of your silver jewellery may effect the price you are offered when selling.

The best and most sought after jewellery is that which has been finely crafted.

Look at all sides of the jewellery. Any rough edges indicate a lower quality piece which is less likely to be valuable. If stones and other adornments are glued on this may also indicate a lower quality piece of silver jewellery.

The best place to sell silver jewellery

We are of course going to be biased and tell you that Vintage Cash Cow is hands down the best place to sell silver jewellery, here’s why.

As we’ve demonstrated on this page, there are many factors that influence the prices paid for silver jewellery.

It would be unprofessional for us to tell you what your jewellery was worth unless we saw it. We need to assess the weight of it, the purity of it and give consideration to any markings it has.

Vintage Cash Cow are committed to giving you the best price possible for your silver jewellery. This is why we’ll always tell you if we think you can get more money elsewhere. Our service is also free from charges, fees, hidden costs or anything of the like. We believe selling should always be free.

Put your silver jewellery into a box with any other vintage items you’d like to sell. You can arrange a collection or take it to your local post office. As soon as we’ve got your parcel we’ll appraise the contents.

We’ll tell you how much cash we’ll pay for your silver jewellery and anything else in your box, then it’s up to you. You can accept the offer we made for an immediate payment or we’ll send your box and its contents back for free.

Our friendly team are always on hand to answer questions and will talk you through the contents and value of your box once it’s been appraised.

Sell silver jewellery to Vintage Cash Cow

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7. Best place to sell silver jewellery

There are plenty of options when it comes to selling silver jewellery. From online to high-street, here’s everything you need to know about selling silver Jewellery in the UK.

Where to sell silver jewellery

If you are selling silver jewellery on the high street, look for the hallmark assay guide. in England and Wales it’s legally required to be displayed in any premises that deal in precious metals.

A picture of Antony Charman looking at a dealer's notice

These are also called dealers notices only reputable companies will have them

When you go to a high street store, your silver jewellery will be tested and weighed. Make sure you can see your jewellery being tested and that you see it’s weight on the scales.

Don’t ask for quotes over the phone. A reputable dealer will only be able to give you a price once they’ve seen the item.

Shop around. If you visit a number of high street stores you’ll start to get a feel for the prices you are offered. This will help you see if there are any stores giving substantially low prices.

Online reviews are a great way to get to know a company. Some review sites like Trust Pilot have strict rules that mean a customer must have used the service to leave a review. This means  you can be confident they are genuine.

Where to sell antique silver jewellery

You can sell your antique silver jewellery to Vintage Cash Cow with no fees. Because we need to see your silver jewellery in person to accurately test and value it, should you decide not to sell your silver we return it for free.

The spirit of our service is to declutter in bulk. If you only have a few pieces of silver jewellery to sell, we’d advise you to sell privately.

Best place to sell silver jewellery online

If you only have a few pieces of silver jewellery to sell, an auction site like eBay or Catawiki is a great place to start.

There are usually fees for this type of selling, so compare a few different websites before you sell. It’s good to know how much you will pay in fees before you set the price of your silver jewellery.

If you are selling for a fixed price, make sure you know how much your jewellery is worth first.

If you know how much your silver jewellery is worth, and you are selling on an auction site, consider setting a reserve. You may have to pay extra for this service, but it means your jewellery won’t sell for less than the reserve amount.

Consider how you will send your silver jewellery to its new owner. If you use a courier service and pay to insure your silver jewellery, factor these costs into your selling price. Some websites will allow you to add the price for your item and a separate price for postage. Also consider any auction fees you will have to pay.

Best place to sell your silver jewellery on the high street

If you’d prefer to sell your jewellery closer to home there are a few options. Jewellers, auction houses and pawn brokers are some good places to start.

Many high street stores will compete on prices, so make sure you get a few different valuations before selling your silver jewellery. This will ensure you get the highest price.

If you aren’t sure if your jewellery is silver, it’s worth checking this with an independent expert before selling it. This will allow you to protect yourself against disreputable buyers. While it’s less common than it used to be, scams and rip-offs still happen.

An expert will likely look at your piece with an eye glass, they may test your silver jewellery with a little acid or a metal testing gun. Once they’ve tested and weighed it they’ll give you a price.

Best place to sell Silver jewellery at auction

Selling at an auction house can take a little while. Your silver jewellery will be appraised by an expert who will tell you what it could be worth.

Once you know how much it’s worth you may wish to put a reserve price on it. That means it won’t be sold for less than the reserve price. If your item sells your fees will be deducted from the final selling amount and the auction house will pay you the rest.

A quote by Antony Charman next to a picture of an auctioneer's gavel

Make sure there are no hidden fees. It’s usually free to sell in a pawn shop or a jewellers but an auction house usually charges fees.

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8. Cleaning silver jewellery

Over time silver can become ‘tarnished’. Tarnish is a dark, almost black layer that covers silver jewellery. It happens when silver comes into contact with naturally occurring sulphur compounds in the air. Sometimes it’s also called oxidisation.

A picture showing the stages of silver tarnish
Special thanks to Erin Pelecano for allowing us to use this image.

It’s common to assume that silver  jewellery should be cleaned before it’s sold, this isn’t always the case though. Cleaning your silver jewellery could damage it, and thus reduce its value.

Specialists can identify the key information they need no matter the condition of the piece. It’s highly probable that a dealer will want to clean the jewellery themselves to avoid potential damage.

If you are selling your silver jewellery privately you should clean it before hand. This allows the potential buyer to see any imperfections. If you are listing your silver jewellery online make sure you take detailed pictures of the hallmarks. A potential buyer will want to know it’s real silver before they part with their cash. However, take care while cleaning.

If your silver jewellery is lightly tarnished use simple hot soapy water and a very soft cloth to clean it. If there are embellishments on the jewellery be careful not to catch them with the cloth.

There are polishes you can buy on the high street, like Goddard’s Silver Dip, however these are specialist substances so should be used with caution. If your silver jewellery has gem stones be very careful with professional polishes. Some semi precious stones like opals, coral and amber will be damaged by silver dip.

A quote by Antony Charman next to a picture of vintage silver jewellery
We prefer you to send your silver jewellery to us uncleaned. We have a specialist cleaning machine here. Similarly, if you have tangled silver jewellery don’t spend ages untangling it. Our experts have plenty of tricks to untangle your jewellery.

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9. How to take photos of products to sell online

  • Photograph your silver jewellery against a white or black background.
  • Try to take the pictures in natural light as artificial lights may distort the colour of your jewellery in the picture.
  • Make sure you take plenty of up close pictures of any markings, anything unusual or anything damaged. This way the seller knows what they are buying and it will reduce any customer service action needed on your part later on.
  • Take a picture of your silver jewellery on a weighing scales. This shows your potential buyers the weight of the piece.
  • Take a picture of your silver jewellery next to a ruler or tape measure. This shows your potential buyers how big the item is.

Check this article out for some more great photography tips.

A quote by Antony Charman next to a picture of a polaroid camera
A light box is a great way to professionally photograph your jewellery. If you don’t have one, try taking photos against plain backgrounds in natural light to make sure you really show off the piece.

If you have other vintage items around your home you can pack them all into a box with your silver jewellery. You can send them to us for free or we’ll arrange a door step collection.

Once we’ve have your items we’ll tell you how much we’ll buy them for. If you are happy with your offer you’ll get paid immediately, if not, we’ll send your things back for free.

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10. Selling silver jewellery – what to do post sale

If you’ve sold your item privately then there may be things you need to do post sale. If you’ve sold on an auction site for example you’ll need to package up and send your silver jewellery to its new home. The person buying it from you may have questions or special instructions, so make sure you keep an eye out for any communications from them.

If you plan to sell more than a few items online or privately, you’ll need to make sure you stick to the posting timescales that you’ve advertised. Negative feedback from your buyers can influence how much you’ll be able to sell in the future.

Be wary of scam buyers on auction sites. Don’t send an item unless the buyer has paid for it. If you don’t opt for a courier delivery, make sure the item is sent by recorded or signed for delivery.

check that your parcel is insured for the value you sold it for. If it goes missing in the post it means you shouldn’t lose out on the money. You can check with your local Post Office if you have any concerns.

Make sure to message your buyer to let them know you’ve posted the jewellery and when they can expect it to arrive.

Of course, if you are selling to Vintage Cash Cow, there’s nothing to do after you’ve sold your jewellery. Well, except to decide what you’ll spend your money on. You put your feet up, we do the rest 🙂

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We hope this exhaustive guide gets you the best possible price when you sell your silver jewellery. Make sure you bookmark this page so you can always find it.

Speaking of money, if you want to just skip straight to getting cash for your silver jewellery sign up here. We’ll buy your silver jewellery no matter what condition it’s in. We even buy costume jewellery and silver plated jewellery.

This is the first part in our new selling guide series. Sign up at the bottom of this page so you don’t miss our future guides.

Next up – The monster 10 step guide to selling gold!

Let us know how we can help you with any aspect of the process here in the comments. We’re here to help 🙂