Worth their weight in gold: The rise of pre-owned jewellery and watches

The pre-owned watch and jewellery market is experiencing explosive growth. File photo.

The pre-owned watch and jewellery market is experiencing explosive growth. File photo.

Published Jul 4, 2024


The pre-owned watch and jewellery market is experiencing explosive growth, capturing nearly half of all global luxury resale trade and expanding at a rate of 8% annually, outperforming the luxury industry as a whole. This trend is also evident in South Africa, with local pre-owned luxury reseller Luxity reporting an 32% increase in sales of watches and jewellery over the year alone.

The company’s co-founder, Michael Zahariev, says this is fuelled by a confluence of factors: affordability, investment potential, growing environmental consciousness, and demand for unique or vintage pieces.

He explains that pre-owned jewellery offers consumers access to luxury pieces from designer brands like Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Tiffany & Co which do not have a physical presence in South Africa. “These items are also available for lower than the retail price of new pieces which are often inflated by the current market value of materials and brand markups.”

“That said, pieces from high-end designers tend to retain impressive resale value which bodes well for those considering pre-owned watches and jewellery as an investment,” points out Zahariev. The latest State of the Luxury Market in Africa report supports this, highlighting that Cartier collectibles boast an average resale value of 74.6%. Furthermore, certain designs, like the ever-fashionable Cartier Love bracelets, maintain an even higher resale value, averaging between 85% and 96% of their original price. Certification of authenticity and the channels where items are bought also play a role, with certified pre-owned Rolex timepieces from authorised dealers fetching around 38% more compared to those sold by unauthorised sources. Recognising this, the luxury watchmaker will start offering an authentication service for its pre-owned luxury timepieces in South Africa in 2025.

He adds that, as designer jewellery and watches tend to be made from high-quality materials, such as gold, platinum, and precious gemstones, they retain their value and may also appreciate over time, potentially serving as a hedge against inflation. “Additionally, their tangible nature translates to liquidity, offering a sense of security in uncertain economic times.”

Growing public consciousness of the environmental impact associated with traditional watch and jewellery production is propelling a surge in demand for sustainable alternatives (including pre-owned pieces) with these purchases projected to account for 20% to 30% of all fine jewellery sales by 2025. “By opting for pre-owned jewellery and watches, consumers can revive existing pieces, thereby reducing the need for mining, energy consumption, and waste generation associated with creating entirely new items,” highlights Zahariev.

He notes that sustainability's increasing importance has also boosted the popularity of vintage jewellery and timepieces. “Celebrities, social media influencers, and fashion bloggers are at the forefront of this trend, showcasing the timeless elegance and versatility of pre-owned pieces. The allure of vintage items is understandable – there is a wide range of styles, from the intricate Art Deco of the 1920s to the bold vibrancy of the 1980s - with each piece imbued with history and adding a unique touch.”

Luxity's pre-owned jewellery collection initially centred around international brands like Cartier, Chanel, and Hermès. However, the company has experienced growing customer demand for pieces from local brands like Browns. The South African diamond jeweller sells natural diamonds that are ethically and responsibly sourced and which meet its standards in the areas of carat, cut, clarity, colour, certification, and contour. Consequently, less than 2% of the world’s diamonds qualify to be a Browns diamond. Zahariev shares, “In response to this shift in consumer preferences, we plan to expand our selection of local luxury jewellery brands in the coming year.”

“By choosing pre-owned, you don't just invest in a watch or piece of jewellery, you invest in a more sustainable future, all while expressing your own unique style,” he concludes.