10 tips for successfully selling jewelry on eBay

How does your bat brooch, tennis bracelet, squash blossom necklace or poison ring stand a chance of selling, let alone being found, against more than 3 million results in a jewelry search on eBay? That is just one question veteran sellers and hopeful newcomers have to ponder in 2013.

Some anecdotes are instructive. An uncle-nephew team tending a case near me in an

Deco jewelry is coveted, so learn the lingo that makes people lust in their hearts for your lineup. The stones in this piece are called shoebuttons. (Photo courtesy Kathy Flood)

antiques mall was adding jewelry to the mix. They had asked the gallery’s owner what sells, and she answered “jewelry.” So they were dutifully devoting a shelf to it. The lesson here: Jewelry is a strong category but it isn’t snapped up simply because it’s jewelry. What they added to their case wasn’t going to sell in a million years: Neither old nor new, low on bling, lots of gold-plating, ho-hum design. You can’t give it away. Someone with a nearby case has much more interesting stuff all at $3 and $5 and even she can’t always sell it. In other words, you have to study what sells or create your own heat wave.

When I did my first show and had a nice spread with solid jewelry selections, I was disappointed in sales. The show runner told me I had to be a regular before I could enjoy the success I was after. It made no sense to me, but everyone says it’s true. Keep that in mind if you’re new to eBay. Sometimes it takes time for people to find you, let alone trust you or believe you know what you’re talking about. If you have a track record elsewhere and are an expert or have a huge inventory of excellent jewelry you’ll be listing, be sure to proclaim it boldly in your description.

Here are 10 tips to a shinier 2013. Let’s just call them pearls of wisdom.

1. Sell to the world. Foreign jewelry sales are 75 percent of my business, so when I land on auctions announcing (always with exclamation points), “U.S. only!” I feel bad for the misguided sellers. Not only are international sales fun (you meet great people everywhere), foreign buyers are eager to purchase American jewelry and often seem less tightwadish than we do. Let’s put it this way: If you’re selling $1,000 worth of goods on eBay each month, why would you pass up doubling, tripling or quadrupling your income? Because you heard about an Italian sale gone bad or someone told you to stay away from Russians? Maybe you even had a bad experience yourself. They are few and far between.

2. Study eBay’s completed auctions in each category to see what’s selling and bringing highest bids or buys. Pay less attention to what’s currently your competition. That’s counter-intuitive, but I always find it depressing (something you were going to price at $50 is up for 99 cents with no bids), and half the time if I priced accordingly or didn’t list at all because of competition with identical products, I would have missed sales. You can’t be stupid about it, but try going for the price you want. Doing your own thing can pay off. You’ll even hear from eBayers (asking “Why?”), telling you you’re pricing too high. When it sells, it feels extra good.

3. Be sure to befriend “Buy It Now” (BIN). I’d be much less enamored with eBay if I were an auctions-only girl. I don’t see how the strictly auction sellers stand it. It takes two to tango and if only one bidder wants what you’ve got – Ouch! Protect your product with Buy It Now because it only takes one person to waltz in and win it at the price you want. If you’re flexible on price, sure, go ahead and add Best Offer. Yes, with BIN you will lose some gorgeous sales, either because no one wants to pay your price or because an auction would have brought you even more money; but, generally speaking, BINning = WINning.

Antique cut steel enjoys many fans, especially when a piece is huge like this one. (Photo courtesy Kathy Flood)

4. However, be sure to include some auction formats in your listings. If you have a personal, one-on-one session with an eBay specialist (they’re free), the pro will tell you always to use straight auctions in your mix because they bring in bidders looking for bargains, buyers new to your listings who just might start looking around at what else you’ve got. Maintain some auctions to expand your buyer base. And, of course, what you do with after-the-sale relationships can be rewarding.

5. A word is worth a thousand pictures. Not really, but words are crucial. Don’t underestimate them. Description disasters are one of the easiest fixes to chronically desultory results. Sometimes I can’t even find a seller’s description of the product. Sometimes descriptions even begin with threats and scoldings because past buyers haven’t paid or they’ve been unhappy or – horrors – were from another country. Here’s what an expert at eBay says about the ideal listing: Provide tons of information in a list of bullet points. Bullets aren’t crucial, but set the description up in a list of short sentences or phrases. Spell out the item’s qualities, details and advantages. Do not tell long stories; shoppers want to get to the point – fast. (If you love telling product stories, do it at the end.) I use a large type font in a pleasing color that coordinates with the item. Include why something is a smart buy: Because it will make the buyer look better, get lots of attention, add greatly to a collection, bring years of pleasure, etc. Finally, if I’ve come to an auction via keyword search, I’ll stick with something that has a poor image before I’ll bid on something with skimpy description. Excellent pictures can lure you to an auction, but if you arrive because of search terms, words have got to fill you in on what you’re buying.

6. Go with a smorgasbord plan. Specializing has its advantages because you’ll be a destination known for Scandinavian silver, vintage bling or Trifari fur clips. But broad appeal is a more successful approach, even if you start with baby steps. Why lose the crowd that digs diamonds or the passionate cameo collectors? Broaden your buying horizons. This is where eBay tools are useful. When you want to expand your inventory, this can show you overcrowded categories without strong sales results.

This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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7. Speak figuratively. Whether you’re selling fine or costume jewelry, figurals have fans. They’re appreciated by a wide audience and you’ll get hits even if your dog’s a dog or your daisy is wilted. Figurals, meaning something in the form of a person or thing, often received lavish attention by designers in the old days, so they have appeal that ranges from quirky and arcane to beautiful and fantastic. People even collect their names and hobbies (i.e., Margaret Swan might collect swans, a gardener collects floral brooches). Put figurals in your mix and the dough will rise.

8. Be a frequent buyer. As Cheryl Leaf, grandmother of Lynn Dralle (the Queen of Auctions), always taught her, you make your money in the buying. Just as eBay’s 3 million jewelry listings are daunting when you’re competing with them as seller, oh, the deals you can snag as buyer to turn around and resell for a much better price. Pay attention to jewelry in the newly listed category with Buy It Now; search for misspelled popular brands, which are common; notice male sellers who have no interest in jewelry so say little about it and price it low; check out lots and collections because they often have valuable sleepers tucked in among the snores; when doing searches be sure to check the box that also searches descriptions; have the eBots auto-contact you every time something is listed you’re after (and your desires should be many). As a general rule of thumb when buying, stay away from the uninspiring and the unsigned (if for resale).

9. Learn the lingo. Every day, pick up a new-to-you jewelry term. Then include it, where

When jewelry has been featured in a fashion magazine, such as this big Mod colorful plastic bracelet by Stuart Freeman, that adds extra provenance. (Photo courtesy Kathy Flood)

pertinent, in your auctions. If you don’t know what something is or what a mark means, you’re missing potential buyers. Someone who wants a sautoir probably isn’t looking at every necklace. Some sellers don’t know the difference between a dress clip and fur pin clip and use the incorrect term, again losing bidders. What type and color are the pearls in your auntie’s choker? And there’s a whole vocabulary involved in Miriam Haskell jewelry you should learn if you want to sell it – or find it in the first place.

10. Stay on the sunny side. Don’t fall prey to negative think or speak. Yes, like a disappointing significant other, eBay will let you down. You might even feel betrayed, for reasons too numerous to count here. I have jewelry-selling friends and acquaintances who said they were going to quit. I thought it was all bluster, but they did it. If eBay were a person, it would have its feelings hurt severely every day because people say terrible things about it. All the grousing will have an affect on you if you listen or start complaining, too. Just sally forth. Work hard, learn the ropes, keep trying. If anyone tells you eBay is a losing game (and they will), don’t listen. It works.

Practically speaking, eBay will help you build your business and add to the bottom line. Emotionally, you can thrill more often in 2013 to those wonderful words in your email box: “Your eBay item sold!”

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