Many careers happen as a result of a mixture of hard work and luck, and dealing in antique jewelry needs more than its share of both. But you can’t major in antique jewelry at college, and there’s not much in the way of internships or graduate open days, so how do you even get started in the business?
Have The Passion
Dealing in antique jewelry isn’t just a job. It goes way beyond that, and needs to, if you’re going to be successful at it. You need a real love of what you’re doing, to the point where the items you buy and sell are more than just commodities. There are many jobs you can make a lifelong career of, even if you hate it, but dealing in antique jewelry isn’t one of them.
It’s very difficult to fake enthusiasm convincingly enough to show someone that you love what you do. Passion for any subject brings forth a natural flair about it that people will notice and allow them to connect with you beyond a simple financial transaction.
Ask yourself if you’d be happy to buy the piece yourself and, if not, it might be better left alone.
Know Your Subject
It’s all about knowing the basics.
If you try to make a living from antique jewelry but can’t tell a 2 carat art deco engagement ring from a similar looking paste equivalent being sold on Instagram, then you’ll be out of the business almost before you get started. Trust us when we say you can never do too much research or have too much knowledge about the items you want to buy and sell.
That doesn’t mean you need to know absolutely everything about every aspect of antique jewelry before you get started. You can enter the trade with a limited scope to your overall knowledge, as long as what you do know, you know very well. If you’ve researched a particular style period or limited your learning just to rings or other items, then just stick to dealing in those while you expand your knowledge.
Learn how to value what you see, learn when someone is telling you something that might not be true, and learn to walk away from a deal that isn’t right.
Know Your Market
One of the most difficult things about buying and selling anything these days, is that many people have a broad idea of an item’s value before they walk through the door. As long as they know what grade of diamonds and other stones are present, then the internet will tell them a lot about its potential value. But crucial things they won’t know are current pricing trends, the market availability of similar items, or even the fact that provenance and grading certificates can affect the value up or down.
As long as you know how to use the knowledge you have about the current market, then you the risks of you being caught out with depreciating prices on pieces you buy will be reduced. There’s no guarantee of anything in antique jewelry values, but the more experience you can acquire, the better your chances of making a living.
Hold Your Nerve
A small profit is better than no profit, so don’t overpay for any item just because you like either it or the person selling it.
When starting out, it’s likely that you’ll be bringing some stock in from other dealers. This is where a good eye, knowing your subject and being willing to negotiate will be crucial. Most dealers will realize that selling to another dealer isn’t like selling to the public, and will be willing to discount the price if necessary, especially if it’s on a piece that they’ve had in their catalog for a while.
Unsold pieces are, by definition, loss-makers, so stay focused, stay strong and don’t be fooled into thinking someone is doing you a favor. The only favor being done is by you when buying their stock, and it’s better they know that you know that.
Build Stock First
If you have a potential buyer walking past your store, or browsing your website, and you have only a handful of things for sale, there’s a good chance they’ll pass right on by. Human nature means we’re drawn to things we deem to be popular, so we like to see well stocked stores as it means there’s something to be impressed by.
The biggest part of setting up an any retail business dealing in tangible goods, not just antique jewelry, is having the working capital to get started. Don’t underestimate how much money that can involve in an industry like ours. If necessary, take time to collect a good level, of stock even if it means only buying quality pieces at the cheaper end of the scale. Estate sales, bankruptcy sales, and even house clearances can all turn up unexpected surprises, so be prepared to do some legwork.
Diamonds are expensive, so look for alternatives to get you going. Over time, you will make enough profit to start buying bigger and better jewelry.
Keep Stock Moving
As we’ve said, unsold stock isn’t making you a penny, so don’t be afraid to take what might initially look to be too small a profit on pieces you’ve had for a while. Also, by “moving”, it doesn’t necessarily mean in and out of the store. Just rotating displays, especially in storefront windows, can freshen everything up very easily, and can help to show that you have a good selection on offer.
Networking with other dealers is a good way to know if someone is looking for a particular ring, for example, so if you have one in your catalog a quick phone call can be very beneficial. Most dealers get along with each other quite happily, despite the competition element, and accept that inter-trading is inevitable.
Have Good People Around You
Most business owners survive not just because they’re good at business, but by knowing who they need to support them. If you’re not a natural marketer, for example, consider employing the services of someone who knows how to promote your business in the best way. Also consider using an accountant, as a good one can save you a lot of money even in the short term. If you try and do your own taxes, chances are you’ll end up out of pocket. An accountant will know how to offset any losses you may experience, and at least keep you going until you have a solid base.
Running a business is a difficult thing to do well, and it takes a lot of investment both financially and in terms of the time needed just to do seemingly routine things. But don’t be downhearted. Many successful companies started with one or two employees and now have multi-million dollar turnovers. From small acorns, mighty oaks truly do grow.