How to sell jewelry in NYC without the ripoff: the CIRCA model

The business of selling personal jewelry has always been mysterious and fraught with suspicion, in my mind. So even though ethnic and costume jewelry is more my cup of tea since many years, I was loathe to take the risk of being hoodwinked. After reading this More Magazine article I decided to follow the advice given and take the risk.


First I went to see the "local" jewelry store and was sorely disappointed, not that it came as much of a surprise. Then I finally made an appointment with CIRCA (appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are also possible).

After showing my ID at a midtown building, I went up to the floor CIRCA is located on, catching a glimpse of a few elegant office lobbies from the elevator, on other floors. CIRCA's waiting room was tasteful and even a little splashy--certainly not the

 neighborhood jeweler. 

The appointment was with John Bianco, a very pleasant 

 and polite gentleman. He used the same tool to test the gold carat count as the previous jeweler, and found a similar result, but offered a far better price (almost double). In this case it's not "Buyer beware" but "Seller beware"!


Of course CIRCA has to make a profit somehow. Once jewelry is purchased, it is then sold to international collectors and industry professionals. Mr. Bianco's interview is as follows:


1) How did you get into the jewelry field? What was your career path before CIRCA?


I was born into the business. My father had a wholesale/retail jewelry business. That means we bought and sold jewelry to the public, and supplied other retailers and wholesalers with jewelry and diamonds. My father was adamant that my two brothers and I learn the business. I actually bought my first piece of jewelry when I was six years old. I still remember it - it was a mounting for a diamond ring.


2)      Please describe briefly the CIRCA business model.

CIRCA is the largest global buyer of jewelry from the public. We provide an upscale, discreet option to people who wish to sell their jewelry, diamonds and watches.


3)      What are your activities/duties at CIRCA?

I’m a senior CIRCA buyer, which means I meet with clients, assess and purchase their jewelry, diamonds and watches. I also help to train new buyers. It’s a rigorous training process for new buyers, because CIRCA places such an emphasis on both jewelry expertise and client service. Buyers are trained for 6-10 months before they are able to meet with a client.


4)      What tools do you use to appraise jewelry?

There are many tools that help us evaluate any piece of jewelry, a jeweler’s loupe being one of them; but the best tools are our eyes and our experience. Our job as CIRCA expert buyers is to determine what’s the most a piece would sell for to our global group of collectors. So, it’s not just about the intrinsic value of the metals and gemstones. It’s about the value of the item as a jewelry piece. Think of us as high-end art dealers; we understand the marketplace better than anyone else.


5)      Any career advice for a young person thinking of entering the jewelry industry?

Get as much education as you possibly can, not only about the industry but also exposure to the arts and history to give you a context for a particular period. From a more practical perspective, any young person entering this field should definitely take the courses offered by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), as well as Art History courses, or other related courses. It’s also a great idea to apprentice if you possibly can in the field of your choice. Nothing can replace this type of practical, hands-on training. It’s invaluable.


6)      In your many years of experience, is there any particular anecdote or story that sticks in your mind?

 A number of years ago, our CEO, Chris Del Gatto, and I flew to Europe to meet with a prominent family and purchase a diamond of over 50 carats. This was definitely one of the more dramatic moments of my career – not only was it a magnificent diamond, but it was also quite an adventure.



Even if the charming Mr. Bianco was not a social media maven himself, as he confessed, CIRCA is no slouch in the marketing and social media department: I noticed the blog at, as well as a Twitter account: @CIRCA_Jewels. 

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