Seeking options on how to sell family jewelry

Q: My aunt left me a piece of very fine jewelry. I have had it appraised and was told the appraiser could sell it for me on consignment. I feel that I would do much better by arranging a private sale. How do I go about doing this?
Name withheld, via e-mail

A: Sure, you probably can do better if you are a super salesperson. Your first thought might be to sell the jewelry via an Internet auction. But the Internet is ripe for fraud and just isn't the venue to market anything expensive, says Philadelphia gem appraiser David Atlas.

You could advertise in your local media. But Mr. Atlas wonders how comfortable you'd be allowing strangers into your home. If you decide to go this route, he suggests putting the jewelry in a bank safety-deposit box and arranging to meet any potential buyers on that neutral - and secure - turf.

Another route would be to sell through auction houses that are found in most large cities. For example, DuMouchelles, in Detroit, regularly auctions top-notch pieces brought to them by private parties. To get an idea of the market, check their website, www.dumouchelles.com, which displays many gems and gives expected sales prices.

You should put a minimum price, or reserve, on an auction piece. But Atlas says that if it's too high it may scare away bidders, and some houses assess a fee against unsold items with high minimums.

Q: I've heard that foreigners who live in the United States can receive a five-year, no interest loan from the Small Business Administration to establish a business. Is this true?
T.C., Dade City, Fla.

A: Not a shred of this is true. "We don't have no-interest loans," says Mike Stamler, a spokesman at the Small Business Administration headquarters in Washington. Nor does the SBA have any grant money to start a business, which Mr. Stamler says is another piece of wishful misinformation that flies around the country every so often.

Loans that are available are made at market-based rates, says Stamler. And while immigrants might be able to qualify, they first need to have standing as a permanent resident alien. More information is available at www.sba.gov, or 800-827-5722.

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