How to buy jewellery at auction

4 March 2019
By Fashion Quarterly

Auctioneer of fine jewels and watches Lauren Boustridge shares her advice for buying precious pieces at auction.

Lauren Boustridge’s academic and career credentials are as multi-faceted and engaging as a brilliant-cut diamond. The fine jewels and watches specialist at Webb’s auction house in Auckland studied media, theatre and film with the idea of going into acting. But when she realised inhabiting other characters wasn’t for her, she switched to geology – seemingly disconnecting herself from drama for ever – and set her sights on working with jewellery.

Much of the jewellery Lauren deals with is antique, often from the UK and France, while modern pieces tend to come from the US and Hong Kong.

“There’s something special about antique jewellery – everything is done by hand, it has finesse, and there’s a uniqueness in the way old-cut diamonds sparkle, whereas modern stones are so bright with advanced cutting techniques. It’s also just a little bit unusual in the New Zealand market,” she says.

Jewellery is like fashion but on a much slower scale, says Lauren. While engagement-ring styles tend to stay the same, brooches are resurging.

“They are such a versatile piece and can be worn in the hair, or on a scarf, a cuff or belt. Rose gold is popular now, as are early European and old mine-cut diamonds with good colour and clarity. From the millennial generation, there’s a push to buy something really unique or a bit different; a piece that tells a story.”

These clients are also driven by the green movement, says Lauren, and buying at auction aligns with the desire to reduce waste and the pressure put on the environment by the demand for new products.

Lauren’s auction insights and advice:

  • It’s a smart buyer who buys at auction because you are paying a fraction of what you’d pay at retail. When you compare the insurance value of a piece to its market value, people very quickly realise the mark-up.
  • There’s never a stupid question – if you have any queries, we are here to help.
  • Gather all the information you can about a piece you are interested in, such as gemologist and condition reports.
  • Jewellery is the hardest thing to photograph; in print it never looks like it does in real life. Even if nothing catches your eye in the catalogue, come and take a look in person.
  • Be patient – if you are after something in particular, it will eventually come up. If you are not in a rush, you’ll find the perfect piece.
  • Jewellery bought at auction can hold its value. You could buy something for $3000, wear it for 10 years and, if it’s well looked after, it will probably sell for the same amount – maybe less, maybe more, depending on how tastes have changed.
  • The internet is a great source of information for people wanting to educate themselves about jewellery

* Pieces can be viewed online at and will go under the hammer at 2pm, March 24.

Words: Jo Bates
Photography: Meek Zuiderwyk


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