Marketplace

I used to joke that the parking lot at the end of my block was my “office” because I had closed so many deals there.

Since last winter, I have run a side hustle selling my stuff on Facebook Marketplace. And I’m hooked.

I can’t remember how the impetus to start listing stuff initially came about. Most likely I went down to my basement one day and saw the piles of unused baby gear and household goods and thought I might be able to earn a quick buck. Once I started making regular sales, I began to look at things around my home with a new eye: Do I still like this? How often do I actually use it? What could it be worth? Many things I’d been hanging on to for years suddenly looked like fresh merch for my virtual store.

Then the pandemic hit and, at the risk of sounding crass, it was GREAT for business. People were staying home, staring at their computers / online shopping all day, and redecorating the living spaces in which they were suddenly spending every waking moment. Being home all day myself, I could meet people at all hours between Zoom calls to sell my wares. Hence the dozens of trips I took to the parking lot at the end of my block, which served as a neutral public place for me to meet my customers.


Selling jewelry that I no longer wear has proven to be the most lucrative aspect of my side business. There’s something sad about jewelry that just sits collecting dust. It wants to be worn and admired! By selling it, I’m not just making a little extra money, but I’m also performing the humane service of liberating the jewels so they can be loved by others.

I’ve had some interesting experiences selling my jewelry this past year. To name just a few:

  • I sold this rose gold band featuring pave diamonds, which I purchased during my last year of a law school, to a man who eagerly shared with me that he was planning to send it as a gift to his newly discovered 16-year-old daughter living in Mexico! Apparently he reconnected with a woman he had been in love with many years earlier and learned she had secretly given birth to his child.
  • I’ve swindled only one customer to date, but totally by mistake. I listed this piece as a 14k rose gold ring featuring a morganite center stone and diamond halo. The woman who bought it messaged me the next day to say she had brought the ring to her jeweler for cleaning, and he informed her it was 14k rose gold plated silver. I was mortified. I (truthfully) assured her I had purchased the ring believing it was solid gold, and did not mean to mislead her. I refunded her half her payment, and all was well in the end.
  • I listed this 14k gold ring, naive to the fact that when it comes to trading in gold pieces, people seem to care mostly about the weight. I must have gotten 20 inquiries asking “how much does it weigh?” or “I’ll buy it if it weighs at least 4 grams.” At that point, I realized if I were serious about selling jewelry, I needed a gram scale. Now I have one and weigh everything. I finally sold this piece to a woman who thought it was just a pretty ring and seemed apathetic to its weight (which is good because, full disclosure, it didn’t weigh very much.)
  • As described in an earlier post, I once had a buyer use a “diamond detector” machine to test the stones in a ring I was selling. Thankfully they passed the test, but not without a few tense moments for me.

My experiences as a secondhand jewelry salesperson have taught me some unexpected lessons:

  • Certain jewelry seems to hold its value and popularity better than others. Predictably, people clamor for the recognizable brands like Tiffany and David Yurman. But less expensive, popular brands like Swarovski and even J. Crew sell quickly and consistently, as well.
  • Hallmarks are everything when it comes to reselling nicer jewelry. Prospective buyers want to see pictures of a designer’s mark and the stamp indicating the metal type. 925 is sterling silver; 750 is 18k gold; 583 is 14k gold; and 950 is platinum. You might be surprised to find a 925 hallmark on what you thought was a gold ring, which indicates it is, in fact, gold-plated silver, a.k.a. vermeil (see above — the woman I inadvertently mislead sent me a photo of the “925” stamp inside the ring I sold her to prove she wasn’t lying about its lesser value).
  • People are generally pretty bad negotiators. I can’t tell you how many prospective buyers have started negotiations by asking: “What’s your best price?” or just straight up saying “I like these but I can’t pay [your asking price].” I will never negotiate against myself as the opening move. If you want to offer something less than asking price, go right ahead, but don’t expect a seller to magically drop their price. My favorite failed negotiation was with a woman who messaged me about a ring I had listed for $100, writing, in rapid succession: “$50? $40? Hello?” Sorry lady, but no.
  • Apparently my taste in jewelry resonates with teenage girls.

I sell lots of things other than jewelry on Facebook Marketplace, primarily art and furniture. I’ve started selling things for other people on commission, as well. My parents, for example, have hired me to help empty out their storage unit, which is full of antiques and collectibles. One of my favorite Marketplace experiences to date happened this summer when I sold my mom’s antique bamboo easel to an enthusiastic buyer who, days later, sent me a photo of its final placement in her gorgeous home. That easel never looked better! It felt so good to know it ended up exactly where it belonged:

The listing photo for the easel

The easel in its new home

One of the worst (and most comical) experiences to date also happened this summer, when I listed a pair of new Birkenstocks for a family friend. Birkenstocks are a pretty divisive commodity as it is, because many people seem to aggressively despise them. I suspect my family friend tried the shoes on before handing them over to me to be sold, because there were faint toe marks on the footbed (though the soles clearly showed absolutely no wear). I made the mistake of listing the shoes as “brand new,” which—in light of the toe marks—provoked the ire of half the population of the Chicagoland metro area. In a barrage of fast-flowing comments on my listing, people said horrible things about my character, accused me of being a liar, told me the photos made them physically ill. (Hysterically, in the midst of all the negative comments, one oblivious woman offered me $50 for the shoes.) It was truly awful, and my first real taste of the horrible toll that online bullying can take. I edited the photos to make clear that the shoes were indeed new, and the attacks stopped. But I was reeling all day from the abuse. Now I can laugh about it, but it was traumatic at the time.

The replacement photo of the offending shoes

Selling on Facebook Marketplace has served not only as a recreational outlet for me during these Covid times, but has also allowed me some unexpected, albeit fleeting, human connections that make the world seem a little more…normal. It feels good to bring joy to strangers by imparting to them jewelry and other things that have served me well but are no longer “sparking joy.” (But note: I now have a strict “no Birkenstocks” policy.) The extra money I make that goes toward buying more jewelry as source material for this blog doesn’t hurt either.



PS: I was out for a walk one morning when I came across this amusing ad posted on a schoolyard fence. Not the most efficient way to sell a piece of furniture (caption reads: “FOR SALE (Please leave contact for inquiries inside of plastic sheet)”):

Turkish Delight

During a 2008 family vacation in Istanbul, Turkey, I purchased this majestic, antique ring at the Grand Bazaar:

It features roughly cut diamonds of varying colors set in a blackened-metal crown with a tapered rose gold band. What I love so much about this piece is that, in its beauty, it is rough and imperfect and mysterious. This is no fussy diamond ring; this is a ring that has really lived.

Buying this ring was an unforgettable experience, and the memories of that day came flooding back to me recently, for reasons I’ll explain below.

One of the defining experiences of visiting the Grand Bazaar is haggling with its spirited vendors. You are all but laughed off the premises if you pay the initial asking price for anything. When it came time to negotiate the price of this ring, young Caroline–not yet the seasoned lawyer of today–was apprehensive and probably tripping over my words, failing to convey that believable “we-will-walk-away-from-this-purchase-right-now” energy. I can imagine my dad stepped in at some point to play hardball when it became clear I was in over my head. He must have said something about the less-than-perfect quality of the diamonds (which is actually the source of their charm, see above), because the next thing we knew, the salesman brought out his Hail Mary sales tool: “The Diamond Detector.”

It was a small machine featuring a dial with red and green markings and an attached metal rod. When he pressed the rod tip to the stones, the dial needle shot to green and a cheerful beep was heard. “See, diamonds detected!” he said, gleefully.

This machine seemed so impossibly simple, so far-fetched as an actual scientific instrument, that we didn’t know how to argue with its results. I bought the ring, never really knowing with absolute certainty if the diamonds are real. In the end, it didn’t really matter.

Fast forward to this past fall. I began purging my home of things I no longer used or loved, including jewelry. I listed a vintage ring with diamond accents on the Facebook marketplace, and was super excited when a prospective buyer pinged me almost immediately to see the piece in person.

We met in a nearby parking lot to do the exchange. Standing between our respective cars, hidden from view, it felt like a drug deal. “You got the ring?” He whispered. “Yeah, I got it right here,” I said, discreetly pulling the box out of my jacket pocket. “There’s one thing I gotta do first before I give you the money,” he said. And with that, he pulled a diamond detector machine out of his pocket to test the stones. I wanted to laugh–thinking about that day many years ago in the Grand Bazaar–but also instantly got nervous, wondering if my ring might be exposed as a fake. He pressed the rod to the ring, and it beeped. His face didn’t reveal whether it was a good beep or a bad beep. But it must have been good, because before I knew it, there was a stack of cash in my hand, and he was gone.

Diamonds detected, indeed.


Here are some rings with a similar look:

Brilliant Earth, Morganite Lotus Flower Ring ($2,400):

Victorian 0.97 Carat Diamond Gold Cluster Engagement Ring ($5,250), available at 1stdibs.com:

Jessica McCormack, Oval Sapphire and Diamond Halo Ring (price available upon request):

Edwardian Sparkling Diamond Daisy Ring ($2,530.50):

Sundance, Vintage Rose Ring ($1,100):