An appraisal is an estimated of value that is formulated by an expert who uses testable and traceable methods to research a value. An appraisal has a purpose and intended use. For example, the appraisal may be needed to procure insurance for an item, or calculate taxes due on an estate.
Is an appraisal the same thing as making an offer to buy my jewelry?
No. An offer to buy is simply the amount of money that someone is willing to pay for your item. An appraisal is a researched opinion of value used for a specific purpose.
What are qualifications that my jewelry appraiser should have? Your appraiser should be an expert and have the credentials to prove it. A jewelry appraiser needs to have gemological training. The GG or Graduate Gemologist obtained from the GIA is the most common. The FGA (British Gemmological Assoc.) and several colleges have similar and acceptable programs.
·A jewelry appraiser needs to have metal arts/bench training. This means that the person understands construction methods and characteristics of metals.
·A jewelry appraiser needs valuation training though a legitimate organization like ASA (American Society of Appraisers), NAJA (National Association of Jewelry Appraisers) or AGS (American Gem Society) among others.
·A jewelry appraiser needs a commitment to continuing education in the jewelry field.
Isn’t a gemologist the same thing as an appraiser? No. A gemologist is trained to identify and grade gemstones and diamonds. An appraiser is and expert in their field and is trained to research market values and report these values in a document that is legally acceptable to the situation at hand. I.e. an appraisal for a divorce contains different information than one for insurance. Thus a jewelry appraiser is both a gemologist and an appraiser. We also feel it is very important for a jewelry appraiser to have training in jewelry manufacture and jewelry history.
Do you charge for an appraisal?
Yes. Like any profession, legitimate appraisers charge for our services. The education, professional affiliations that guide our practices, this website, insurance, maintaining gemological equipment, auction catalog subscriptions, office rent and advertising all cost money. The education in particular is extensive and expensive to obtain. Appraisers need to seek continuing education and maintain comprehensive libraries in order to produce credible results. All of these factors necessitate charging fees.
“Certified” This just may be the most misused word in our industry. It is wrongfully and prevalently used to describe diamonds with laboratory grading reports. The respected grading laboratories are fairly adamant that they do not “certify” stones but grade stones and provide a report of the results. In regard to diamonds, the word “Certified” usually means that the diamond is accompanied by a grading report from an independent laboratory.
People in the jewelry industry will often claim to be “GIA Certified.”This is not true, as GIA (the Gemological Institute of America) is a school that provides diplomas upon completion of their various courses.So, for a graduate of GIA to claim to be “certified” is that same as a person with diploma from UCLA claiming to be “UCLA Certified”- which is fairly bizarre. So approach “certified” people in this industry cautiously.They probably mean that they are GIA graduates, but you need to know what course that they graduated from.Someone who has completed a Wax Carving course is not qualified to grade or appraise your gemstones.
The American Gem Society does bestow the title “Certified Gemologist” to members who have gemology diplomas from GIA and pass the yearly re-certification exams of the American Gem Society.
What tools should I expect to see my appraiser use? A credible appraisal is produced using a credible process. You should see a gemological microscope, scales for stone and metal weights, millimeter measuring devices (Leveridge gauge or slide gauge), diamond master stones with proof of grading by the GIA or AGS laboratories, camera, metal tester, ring mandrel, Polariscope, Refractometer, UV light, tweezers, diamond probe, plotting diagrams etc.You may not know what most of this stuff is, but the idea here is that there is quite a collection of necessary tools for appraising jewelry. Someone who uses a magnifying glass or only a simple jeweler’s magnifying loupe is not performing a professional appraisal.
How long should an appraisal take? If you have a single simple item, the time that appraiser actually spends looking at, testing, grading, measuring and photographing will be at least 15 to 20 minutes. The appraisal document will take an average of 1 more week to receive.
Some jewelers may keep your item and deliver both the item and document to you in 1-2 weeks.In our case, the client can sit and watch the grading and documenting process and we mail the written documents a few days later.
There are two important things to understand. One is that glancing at an item and writing a quick value is not an appropriate way to perform an appraisal. The item has to be thoroughly examined, not only for valuation purposes, but to make sure that stones are secure and there is no damage. The second is that an appraisal requires research on the part of the appraiser, so getting a document on the spot is also a bit worrisome as the appraiser has not had time to check comparable items or even look at the spot price of metals for the day.
What is the difference between “retail value” and “insurance value”? There is really no difference. In order to insure a jewelry item, the insurance company requires an appraisal for retail replacement value. This is the amount that would be paid by you to purchase the jewelry item in a retail store.Thus the two values are one and the same.
Isn’t it to my advantage to have a value on my appraisal that is much higher than what I paid for my jewelry?
NO!! Absolutely not. Inflating the value on your appraisal simply means that you will pay higher insurance premiums.Many people think that an inflated value on an appraisal means that an insurance company will write a bigger check in case of a loss.Many insurance companies arrange to replace jewelry instead of writing a check directly to the owner.Thus it is really not to a jewelry owner’s advantage to have an inflated appraisal.
Should I try to get an appraisal that reflects a value that is lower than an item would cost me in order to save money on insurance premiums?
NO. This is first and foremost dishonest and no reputable appraiser would sign their name to such a document.Furthermore, an insurance company bases your coverage on the value on your appraisal. If you suffer a loss and are grossly under covered, the insurance company may not be obligated to honor the claim.Each company is different so check with your carrier.
What is the difference between a fair market value appraisal and an insurance appraisal?
Okay, this is a MOUTHFUL. So here goes. Fair market value is defined as: the amount that an item would change hands for, in its current condition (most often this is used), in its most common market (pawn shops, estate sales, auctions-because it is most often a used item) with neither the buyer or seller being under pressure to buy or sell (no one needs money right this instant) and both being aware of the relevant facts concerning the item (the seller knows what the item is worth as does the buyer). The sale is assumed to be to the ultimate consumer (the person who will use the item-not a reseller). Fair market value is used to determine the amount of estate taxes owed to the IRS. Sometimes courts ask for fair market value appraisals for property disputes like those that occur with divorce. Insurance appraisals are written to reflect (in most cases) what a new item would cost. Thus the two types of appraisals can reflect very different dollar amounts for the same item.
When all this is taken into account, it is very important that the correct type of appraisal is used for the situation at hand. Be it an estate settlement, a divorce settlement or insuring your jewelry.
How often do I need to have my jewelry appraised? Every three to five years. Ask your insurance agent how often the insurance company requires an appraisal. Also, remember that prices do go up and down depending upon market conditions, so an appraisal more than two or three years old is of little relevance in today’s market. If metal prices are very high or very low when your appraisal is done, then it is a good idea to look at having those items re appraised more often.
What should I ask my insurance agent when I have my jewelry insured? Ask your agent what is covered. Loss, damage to stones, loss of stones and theft should be covered. Ask how exactly a claim would be settled. It may not be the same process that you have experienced with other types of loss. You need to know if you will receive a check or a new item. Also, if receiving payment for a loss, is the amount for what the item would cost you to replace or what the item would cost the insurance company to replace. These may not be the same amounts. Just make sure the process does not surprise you if it ever has to occur.
What is an Old European Cut diamond?
An Old European Cut is a style of diamond cutting that precedes our modern round brilliant cut. Old European Cut diamonds were cut up to the early 1920’s. They are round, though some are somewhat “lumpy” or not perfectly round. The table (large facet at the top center) is usually smaller than a modern cut diamond. The culet (point at the bottom of the stone) is usually large and flat. AND Old European Cuts are not necessarily from Europe.
What is an Old Mine Cut diamond?
Old Mine cut diamonds are cut in a style that precedes Old European Cut diamonds. They are very similar to their Old European Cut cousins in that they have small tables, large culets along with more severe crown and pavilion angles. Old Mine Cut diamonds are square or rectangular in shape with rounded corners. This is because the diamond crystal is usually square and it was easier to leave the shape more or less square than to grind off enough material to make a diamond round. This makes more sense when we remember that diamond is the hardest substance known and thus one of the hardest to shape. Also, in the 1800’s, diamond cutting equipment was very rarely motorized, so shaping the stone was much more difficult and time consuming than it is today.AND, Old Mine cuts were not cut in the diamond mines.
What is a “Conflict” or “Blood” diamond? Conflict diamonds are diamonds that come from several small nations in western Africa. Their trade (and often smuggling) was used to finance civil wars in these countries. These diamonds are mined alluvially-in river beds-which is not the norm for most diamond mining. This type of mining allows the average person to retrieve the stones. Which, in turn, leaves these people vulnerable to government, insurgent and criminal pressures, which have included numerous atrocities. This area of the world is also rife with deep-seated tribal and ethnic hatreds, which irritate the situation. Fortunately, the vast majority of diamonds come from legitimate mines that build economic growth in their countries. The diamond industry, United Nations and national governments have worked to greatly decrease the amount of conflict diamonds that reach the market by implementing the Kimberly Process. The Kimberly Process is a series of documentations that traces legitimate diamonds from their original and legitimate sources.
Aren’t diamonds just overpriced by Debeers?After all, there are diamonds everywhere.
There are varying opinions on this, but we say, “NO” for two reasons. Here’s one. There are lots of diamonds out there-walking into a jewelry store proves this. What we don’t see is just how those diamonds got to that store. It’s this journey that that is expensive beyond belief. It takes 23 tons of ore to produce a 1 carat gem quality diamond-thus most diamond miners have never actually seen a diamond crystal! The world’s major diamond mines are either massive open pit mines or very deep underground mines. On top of the huge expense of running these operations is the added burden of their locations. Russia uses jet engines to thaw the permafrost in order to mine in Siberia. Canada has mines that are also located in arctic conditions and some are in the middle of large lakes. (The History Channel documentary “Ice Road Truckers” shows some of the difficulties of supplying these mines). Many of the African mines and the Australian mine are in remote areas that are very difficult to supply. A large source of diamonds is also the coast of Namibia where dikes are built to actually hold back the ocean while immense vacuum equipped ships sweep gravel off of the seabed. Any one of these mines will have to generate at least 1 million a day to simply operate. That means that the tiny little stone that comes out of the 23 tons of ore that has to be processed has to be worth a lot of money. The second reason that we say, “no” is that Debeers continues to loose market share. Some figures put Debeers market share as low as about 45% right now. Debeers used to control almost everything. What we see happening is that larger higher quality diamonds are getting more and more expensive while small stones (used as accents) are holding steady. It seems that we are seeing Debeers loose control and wholesale prices rise for many sizes of diamonds. It was supposed to be just the opposite. The market is not doing what critics expected.
What is a treatment? Treatments, also called enhancements, are any process, other than shaping and polishing, done to a gemstone to improve its appearance or durability. Common treatments include, but are not limited to: heating to improve color or clarity, fracture filling, laser drilling dark inclusions in diamonds, diffusion of color causing chemicals into the surface of gemstones, dying, applications of coatings to change or improve color, improving diamond color using high heat and high pressure and irradiation to change color.
How can I be sure that my stone won’t be switched? Be proactive but be reasonable. Have your stone plotted or mapped. This gives you a way to prove the identity of your stone. When leaving jewelry for repairs, ask to look at your items under a microscope. Have the jeweler point out a specific characteristic that you can recognize in your gemstone. When you pick up your items, have the jeweler show you that same characteristic. Remember that jewelry, especially diamonds can look radically different after a thorough cleaning. As strange as it sounds, every jeweler has been accused (probably more than once) of switching a gemstone after doing nothing more than removing a year or two worth of dirt and grime. Jewelers switching gemstones is really quite rare. In the twelve years of performing appraisals, we have encountered only two actual switches and BOTH WERE INSTIGATED BY THE SPOUSES OF THE STONE OWNERS and involved absolutely no fault on the part of a jeweler. Though the instigating spouses tried very hard to make the situations appear otherwise.
How can I clean my jewelry at home? There are various jewelry cleaners that you can buy from your jeweler or at grocery or drug stores. Follow the instructions. Personally, we use Windex or 409 and a soft brush. Most cleaners are safe except on turquoise, pearls opals and possibly emeralds. If in doubt, have the stone professionally cleaned. DO NOT use toothpaste, which is abrasive, and scratches metal. Also avoid any product with CHLORINE, which can destroy the structural integrity of gold alloys.
What everyday activities can harm my jewelry? This really depends on each person. Some of us are very hard on our jewelry and some are not. In general, we recommend not wearing jewelry while gardening, working out, doing house cleaning or any type of athletic activity. Sleeping in your jewelry can actually half the life of the metal. Sheets act as an abrasive, which over several years can have a serious effect. Chains are especially easy to damage when worn while sleeping.
How often should I have my jewelry checked by a jeweler? What exactly is the jeweler checking? We recommend having jewelry checked every six months by a BENCH JEWELER (a person who actually repairs jewelry) or a sales person with bench training. They are checking to make sure that stones are tight in the mounting, that prongs are of appropriate thickness and have enough contact with the stone to ensure security. Ring shanks, clasps and chains should be observed for wear. All items should be examined for cracks in the metal, and damage to gemstones.
I know that diamonds are the hardest substance known, so how did my diamond get chipped? Diamonds are hard but hardness is defined as resistance to scratching. Toughness is defined as resistance to breaking. Diamonds are very tough but they can chip or break. One reason is cleavage. Cleavage is a characteristic that some crystals possess in which the crystal tends to split if hit in a very specific direction. Diamonds have cleavage. Prior to lasers and diamond saws, cleaving the diamond with a mallet and wedge was the best way to shape it. This is still used today but is less common than in the past.
Chipping a diamond can occur during normal wear if the stone is hit at the right angle. The actual blow to the diamond doesn’t even have to be very hard. Many people, who have chipped a diamond while wearing it, have no idea when the damage occurred. So check with your insurance company to see what their policy is in regard to chipping a diamond (or any other stone).
Should I buy from a jeweler that sells “wholesale to the public”? True wholesalers do not sell to the public. Wholesale is the cost a retail jeweler pays their supplier for the items that they in turn sell to you. A retail jeweler CANNOT sell inventory for the same price that they pay for it (i.e. true wholesale). If they did, they would not stay in business because they would not make money to buy new inventory, let alone pay their rent. So in our opinion a business that states, “wholesale to the public” is just putting a catchy phrase on the door.
Should I buy platinum or white gold? This is a matter of personal opinion, specific needs and finances. Each metal has advantages. Platinum is more expensive but requires significantly less upkeep over time. Platinum prongs and shanks do not wear away as quickly as white gold. Platinum does not require rhodium plating to maintain a white color over time. Platinum is preferred as the setting metal for delicate stones as its working properties allow less stress to be placed on stones during the setting process. On the flip side, large flat areas of high polish platinum tend to show scratches more readily than other metals if the surface is not burnished (a process that hardens the metal).
White gold is less expensive than platinum. There is 14KT white gold which is 58.5% gold and 18KT white gold which is 75% gold. The properties of each differ slightly. 14KT has less gold content and is thus less costly than 18KT. Both tend to have good resistance to scratching but most white gold alloys (recipes) require rhodium plating to achieve and maintain a white color. The particular alloys for many white golds result in very hard metals, which require more pressure to be exerted during stone setting. More pressure exerted equals more risk to the stone. White gold prongs will need maintenance much more quickly than platinum.
So, you should by the metal that best fits your particular situation and is best for the stone that you are planning on having set.
Does jewelry always become more valuable over time?
No, though it seems as though jewelry would always appreciate over time, this is not always the case. Many factors are at play in this situation. For example, the prices of metal fluctuate. Colored stones rise and fall in value in response to supply and demand. Supply of gems is dependent upon weather, natural disasters and government difficulties in many third world countries that are sources. A gem in short supply may suddenly drop in value if a new supply is discovered. News and media can devalue a gem by sensationalizing a treatment or social issue associated with a particular gemstone. Finally, jewelry is fashion and trends rise and fall. Certain vintage jewelry, Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Edwardian for example, is very highly valued by collectors and fashion conscious buyers alike, while nugget textured jewelry is not in high demand in the current market. This trend could continue or completely turn around in the future.
Jewelry is really expensive so it won’t wear out. Right? Jewelry is expensive, but like many things in life, it requires maintenance. Jewelry should be cleaned and professionally examined for wear at least every six months. Rings are especially vulnerable to damage as they endure all of the wear and tear that our hands do. The normal abrasions of clothing, sheets, seatbelts, paper and towels, to name a few culprits, all work to gradually wear away the metal in our jewelry-especially the metal in rings.
Jewelry with moving parts or hinged components, like bracelets, needs to have special care paid to these parts. The reason is that hinges and chains are in effect metal rubbing against metal with every movement, which in turn results in minute amounts of metal wearing away. Items like tennis bracelets are particularly vulnerable to this and will eventually develop weak areas with constant wear and require repair.
Carat, karat or carrot? What is the difference? All three words sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things in different countries.
Carrot: orange vegetable associated with bunnies and good eyesight
Carat: a measurement of weight used for gemstones in most of the world.
Karat: refers to the fineness of metal or the amount of gold in a particular type of metal. For example 14karat (14K or 14Kt) gold has 58.3% gold, 18karat (18K or 18Kt) has 75% gold and 24kart is all gold. However, in Great Britain, the word carat is used in the same way as karat is here in the United States.
I thought synthetic stones were just developed. Actually, synthetic rubies were first developed in about 1860. Sapphires and spinels followed soon after. By the early 1900’s rubies were prevalent on the market. In the 1920’s many platinum and diamond Art Deco style pieces were accented with synthetic rubies or sapphires. Synthetic emeralds were developed in the 1940’s and common in the market by early 1970’s. Synthetic diamonds were developed by General Electric in the mid 1950’s and are used extensively as abrasives. However, synthetic diamonds are just starting to be common on the jewelry market.