Cash-strapped households should look to the nation's second-hand stores, markets and car boot sales if they wish to generate some much-needed cash this summer, according to personal asset lender Borro.
It says customers have been asking it to value rare and unique jewels and gems that have been found in vintage sales, markets and car boot sales in recent months.
Samantha Lilley, head of valuation at borro, says: "One client thought her ring was a glass-set piece of costume jewellery her aunt had left her in a will. It transpired that what she thought was a glass set was in fact a 5-carat potentially flawless Asscher cut diamond worth well over £300,000."
Lilley says there are five things to bear in mind if want to find unearth a diamond in the rough at a car boot sale or market:
- Check for Hallmarks: If something is set in precious metal of either 9-carat, 14-carat, 18- or 22-carat, there is instant value in it. It is always worth checking necklace clasps and the inside of rings and bracelets for hallmarks.
- Check the settings: A lot of Victorian jewellery may not be hallmarked, so see if the metal it is set in is tarnished. If it is showing discolouration, then it is most likely plated jewellery, but if not then it may be a gold set piece.
- Check the stones items are set in: This is easier than it sounds. Often, items which are set with paste or glass are quite easy to spot as they lack the "depth" of other gemstones and diamonds.
- Avoid pearls which are peeling: These will be imitation and not worth a thing.
- Don't turn your nose up at costume jewellery: Costume jewellery can be highly collectable, despite being made of synthetic materials. Check for signatures, though. For example, Chanel and Dior jewellery will command high prices at auction houses, as well as at vintage shops.
"I'd advise anyone to trust their judgement – if you think something is decorative and desirable enough it's more than likely that you will have a unique piece that will not be available on the high street. It's always worth that rummage – you never know when it will pay off!"
Borro itself has seen a vast array of high-ticket items brought in during recent months, as wealthy customers look to raise short-term finance from personal asset lenders, cheaper and quicker than they can from more traditional lenders.
The top ten assets people have lent against and their loan values include: a £60,000 loan on a Lamborghini Diablo; a £50,000 loan on two 1kg fine gold bars; a £34,000 loan on a collection of historical books; and a £25,000 loan on a Patek Philippe Annual Calendar wristwatch, set in 18ct rose gold.
Paul Aitken, chief executive at borro, said: "We are seeing clients using high value assets such as luxury cars, fine art, diamonds, jewellery and even vintage wine collections to unlock finance.
"People are turning to alternative sources of lending for a variety of reasons; most of our customers are looking to facilitate business transactions and opportunities while others come to us to fund surveys and pay other fees relating to property refinancing.
"Other reasons include supporting an irregular income, funding holidays and school fees, and helping to pay tax bills and other unexpected expenses. borro provides a solution for those looking to raise finance, by releasing the equity held in their personal assets."