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Lessons in consignment - the beginners guide to auctioning your gems

Adam’s Auctioneers in Dublin hold fine jewellery and watch auctions three times each year, with outstanding pieces sourced from the continent as well as the Irish market. Irish Tatler asked Director and head of Adam’s Jewellery & Watches Department Claire-Laurence Mestrallet to share how best to monetise your pieces and access a global market full of potential

A pair of early 20th-century sapphire & diamond earrings sold by Adams. The original estimate was €10,000 to 15,000. They sold at auction for €35,000

Why sell at an auction?

You may be prompted by a life event – a divorce or inheritance for instance – or you may simply own pieces you know you won’t be wearing, and you realise that you’re paying high prices for insurance for pieces that are never worn. Opting to offer at auction enables the seller the opportunity to have more than one interested buyer and to gain the best price; it only takes two people to want the same piece for the bidding to increase and achieve higher results than selling to a single person at a flat rate.

How do you begin?

Auctioneers such as Adams have a consignment period in advance of a sale, usually about two months, where potential consignees can make an appointment to bring in pieces they are considering putting up for auction. You can telephone or email Adams to make an appointment. These are strictly confidential and free of charge. If you are not based in Dublin, you can start by emailing images, after which Claire can confirm whether the pieces are suitable for auction. At this point, it might be possible to provide a provisional estimate based on the images, a useful service for those not located near the auction house. For an accurate valuation, however, the pieces need to be assessed in person by Claire. Valuation days are held across the country throughout the year, so it is always worth checking with the jewellery department if there is one coming to your area.

What kind of items can you submit?

Any jewellery or watches will be assessed, for free, by Adam’s. It is advisable to bring any relevant documentation to this assessment with you: the original laboratory certificate of a diamond, for instance, and/or a past purchase invoice.

A sapphire and diamond mystery-set flower brooch, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimate €30,000-50,000, and sold for €137,500

Getting a valuation

Claire, a qualified gemmologist, has been head of the Adam’s jewellery & watches department since 2016. Originally from France, she has worked in Switzerland and London and has a wealth of knowledge of fine jewellery and watches. She has already achieved a number of new Irish records. As part of the service, she will take the item into the auction house, and value it, free of charge. She can, after the initial consultation, also arrange to do personal visits if a seller is unable to bring a piece into the auction house on St Stephen’s Green. If it is just a few items, Claire may provide immediate auction estimates for them. If it is a large number, she can take all the relevant information, inspect the pieces and draw up a valuation list which is then emailed to you a few days after the meeting.

The sale

For jewellery and watches auction novices, it is important to remember that the auction market value is different to the retail market value, so depending on how much it was bought for in the past, the value could vary between two and four times less than its original retail value. This is not always the case, but it is worth factoring in. In terms of fees to consign at auction, there’s a commission charge which will vary depending on what is being sold, an insurance fee of 1.5 per cent of the hammer price (the achieved result) and marketing fees. If the piece does not sell, it is returned to its owner and only a €25 unsold fee will be charged upon collection.

An Irish connection to an international market

While Claire sources items internationally for sale, many of the pieces that make up the auction here also come from the Irish market. The great advantage of selling through an auctioneer with the history and reputation of one like Adams is that it is open to a global market too, as all sales are live on various auction platforms, so bidders around the world have access to the online catalogue and can bid live during the auction from the comfort of their home.

Interested in consigning or getting advice? Contact the department to make an appointment, by telephone 01 676 0261 or email

Claire Mestrallet also provides jewellery & watches valuations for insurance and for probate purposes.

You can follow the Adam’s jewellery & watch department on Instagram: clm_adams_auctioneers

The next Fine Jewellery & Watches action takes place on Tuesday, 16 May 2023 with the deadline for consignments, Tuesday, 11 April 2023