C ryptocurrency isn’t the only alternative asset class that’s catching the eye of young investors. Precious jewellery and stones, which have been prized for centuries for their aesthetic and artistic value, are fast becoming a smart investment for those looking to diversify their portfolios.
It’s important to remember that jewellery collecting isn’t so much about strategy as it is passion. There is no set formula when it comes to building a collection. Many renowned collectors throughout history, including the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and the Duchess of Windsor, were driven by their own personal tastes and desires when choosing jewels that would eventually be regarded as the most valuable and significant pieces in their collections.
For this reason, experts suggest that new collectors focus at the start on what they like most, instead of potential investment value.
“Personal taste plays a big part in jewellery collecting. Jewellery should have an emotional attachment to it so you can enjoy and wear the piece rather than letting it sit in your jewellery box. Preferably, your taste will hold investment value in it as well, but this usually grows by experience,”
While personal preference is a large part of the equation, there are other factors that one should consider before choosing their first piece. Ngan suggests doing research and learning more about industry trends. This also allows collectors to get ahead of the game and to invest in items before they become more popular or increase in price.
From there it’s always advisable to start with the basics.
Although it may be tempting to invest in a variety of stones from prized jade to fancy coloured diamonds, there’s a reason why colourless diamonds continually top lists of most collectors.
“Coloured stones such as rubies, sapphires, emeralds are not easy to understand because their origin, treatment, size, colour and clarity all impact the value of the gemstone. In contrast, colourless diamonds are a good starting point and understanding the 4Cs puts you in perspective in how they are valued and appreciated.
“Some clients may have preference for certain shapes – it all comes down to personal taste – but in terms of value retaining it is always the round diamonds. Round diamonds are cut to bring out all the best qualities and with the highest scintillation,” says Ngan.
Colourless diamonds have a clear grading system and have greater supply compared with the rarer coloured diamonds, which means that it will be easier to choose a stone that fits within your budget. Buy the best you can afford: Colour and quality are equally if not more important than size, especially if you are looking for a piece that will retain its value over time.
“Following auctions is a good start to understanding the value of stones. If you are buying with an investment mindset I would suggest sizes from five carats and up. For example, a five-carat diamond of top quality is very straight forward to understand in terms of its value, so a lot of buyers keep them unmounted and they are easy to sell afterwards,” advises Ngan.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but when they are vintage they can be even more desirable. Antique and vintage pieces – antique jewellery by definition is 100 years or older, while vintage is 50 years plus – are prized by collectors and take the spotlight at auctions every year for good reason.
Essentially, they tick all the boxes when it comes to investment value. Supplies are limited, and chances are that each piece is unique or one-of-a-kind. More importantly, they come with a provenance, a history of ownership that can make them all the more alluring.
“There is a unique sensation when you hold a jewel from the past. And when you look into the history of it you enjoy the jewel even more,”
That aside, not all vintage or antique pieces are made equal and their value is determined by various factors including brand/designer, current condition and workmanship.
Ngan says collectors should consider iconic creations by renowned jewellers such as Bulgari and Cartier because they are prized for their craftsmanship and showcase technical details that are unique to the brand. It’s best to look for pieces that embody certain innovations or milestones in jewellery making.
For example, the most sought-after pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels include their Zip necklace or jewels that showcase their intricate ‘mystery set’. Collectors also fawn over the carved gems of the Tutti Frutti collection by Cartier, which was inspired by India’s Mughal period, as well as the iconic Panthère, featuring the most recognisable of the maison. Each house has a golden era or period, so do your research.
In addition to the more established names, it can be worth investigating other jewellers that have come back into vogue, including the likes of Schlumberger, Futura and JAR. Be sure to check that the piece you’re eyeing is signed (engraved with the name of the jewellery house or maker) or has paperwork or certificates where applicable.
“Unsigned antique and vintage pieces are undeniably beautiful creations on their own, but they usually do not get the same spotlight as their branded counterpart,” says Ngan.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t have value; the key is finding the right piece.
“Different periods are influenced by different styles, techniques and technology available at the time. For example, platinum became the most popular metal to use in the 1920s, thus pieces created during that time which are kept in great condition are remarkable to own,” says Ngan.
Whether you opt for glittering diamonds or vintage pieces, the secret to building a successful collection in the long run is to follow your instincts.
“Don’t buy something you don’t like. It’s important to like the piece so even if you’ve missed out on the investment part of it, you still get to enjoy it. Then after all it is still a good investment in terms of your own enjoyment,” says Ngan.