Necklaces

Necklaces come in an array of styles and materials, and a huge variety of designs – modern, vintage, antique and ancient – are available to buy at auctions on thesaleroom.com.

Diamond necklace

A pendant with an oval pink sapphire within a round brilliant cut diamond halo. With the diamonds totalling approximately 0.06 carats and the chain made of 18 carat gold, it sold for £190 at McTear’s in November 2019.

Whether you’re looking for something classically romantic or fashionably trendy, plenty of examples with a range of dates are available to buy at either specialist jewellery sales or general auctions that are regularly held across the UK and around the world.

If a new necklace from a high-street retailer is too pricey or doesn’t provide the unique style you are looking for, a second-hand one at auction could be just the thing.

Necklaces have been used for millennia for personal adornment. In many cases, they may also be considered works of art due to the high-level of craftsmanship or design.

Entry level prices for both hand-crafted necklaces and manufactured designs start at under £100 but many of the most desirable necklaces can easily sell for over £10,000.

Diamond cluster necklace

A diamond cluster necklace with round brilliant cut diamonds totalling approximately 0.55 carats and an 18 carat gold chain. It sold for £260 at McTear’s in November 2019.

 

What to look for

When looking to buy at auction, you may decide to focus simply on how an item looks.

Increasingly auctioneers are using pictures in their online catalogues showing a necklace being worn. This gives a much better idea of how it will hang and look on certain necklines.

Different types of necklace include:

  • Pendant – where an item of jewellery, such as a gemstone, drops down from chain
  • Rivière – a necklace comprised of a group of similar gemstones often joined together in a circle that are either all in the same size or graduated smoothly from smaller to larger stones. This form dates from the Georgian period and remains popular today
  • Choker – a necklace that fits closely around the neck
  • Collar – a necklace that lies flat to the body rather than hanging freely
  • Torque – a bar or ribbon of twisted metal curved into a loop, often with fashioned with ornamental designs. It looks more like a solid single piece around the neck.
  • Pearl strands – a group of pearls worn either fitted around the neck or hanging loose

It’s also worth remembering that the length of the chain will determine how a necklace will hang. Some necklaces have adjustable chains, for example, those with a movable clasp.

Chains can be formed from a large array of different materials, mainly metals such as gold, silver, silver plate and platinum but they may also incorporate other elements like beads or string. Styles of chains include links, mesh, twisted metal and single strands.

Stones

Some buyers of necklaces at auction look for a particular type of stone like diamonds or coloured gemstones such as rubies, sapphire, emeralds or topaz. With precious stones, the key factors determining value are known as ‘The Four Cs’ – carat (weight), colour, clarity and cut.

Carat is a measure of the weight of the stone with the heavier examples being worth more. Cut refers to the way the stone has been shaped with the symmetry and proportions affecting the sparkle. Colour is a measure of a stone’s purity which affects how bright it appears. Clarity is a grading that is affected by small marks, fractures or imperfections in the stone (many which might not be visible to the naked eye but can be seen under magnification and will typically be mentioned in an auctioneer’s condition report).

Some gemstones are more suitable for everyday wear such as the more hardwearing stones like diamonds, sapphires, rubies and tourmaline. These items are likely to keep in good condition, survive any knocks and stand the test of time.

Jewellery featuring less hardwearing stones like emerald and opal are better suited for pieces worn primarily for special occasions as they’re slightly less able to withstand the wear of daily use.

Antique and ancient necklaces

When it comes to second-hand necklaces, condition, age and rarity of the piece also have an important role in determining prices that items will fetch at auction.

Some people are drawn to older, antique and vintage pieces which offer a sense of history, quality and the individuality that allow the wearer to stand out from the crowd.

Popular antique styles include Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco as well as modernist forms dating from the post-War period.

A piece by a well-known maker or with provenance to an established collection will likely command a premium. Antique pieces are also often judged beyond the inherent value of the stones in areas such as workmanship, settings, designs and how rare such a piece within the known output of the individual maker.

You may also be able to find much older necklaces from Roman or Egyptian times at auction, usually in specialist antiquities sales. You may be surprised how affordable these items can be.

Glass bead necklace string

A 2nd-4th century AD group of three restrung glass bead necklace strings, comprising mainly blue, green, white cylindrical disc and oblate beads. It sold for £88 including premium at Timeline in March 2020.

Just because it may be 2000 years old or more does not make an ancient necklace expensive. Indeed, many small durable items from those times have survived, making them very accessible as well as desirable – wearing something that was first worn two millennia ago by a Roman lady can make quite a talking point.

In many cases, ancient beads will have been put on a new string because the beads survived but the original string did not – look for a word such as ‘restrung’ in the lot description.

Condition

The lot description will also usually detail condition issues such as any scratches. These may often be typical wear and tear for a necklace that was worn every day by its previous owner or they may be more severe.

You can request a condition report from the auctioneer if it is not already in the lot description. Attending a viewing in person will also enable you to try on the necklace you are considering bidding for and inspect it for yourself close up.

Auction houses with a jewellery department will employ a specialist you can contact to discuss your requirements and answer your questions.

In terms of diamonds and coloured gemstones, many lots offered at auction may have an indication of the inherent qualities noted in their catalogue entries. Often the best quality gemstones offered at auction have been submitted, prior to sale, to a professional independent laboratory testing (a service provided by a number of different grading bodies).

Always read the lot description carefully before bidding and feel free to contact the auction house to request a condition report or more photographs.

What to do next

Decide how much you’d like to spend and use the search facility on thesaleroom.com to find necklaces coming up for sale.

You can filter your search by, among other things, price and by location of the auction house to narrow down your selection.

To research recent prices at auction to see how much different necklaces sold for you can also try out the Price Guide.

If you are new to bidding check out our guides to buying at auction – it’s easy once you know how.

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