A Quick Guide to the Jewelry Appraisal Process
Getting your jewelry professionally appraised is one of those things that most people are sort of vaguely aware they should be doing but don’t, like putting on sunscreen before you leave the house or eating kale. Why bother getting an evaluation when you or your partner have already spent the money so you can love it forever and ever?
Well, there are a few reasons you might want to consider investing in a jewelry appraisal. Having the certified details about your jewelry might make things easier down the road and give you some peace of mind now. It certainly never hurts to have more knowledge and insight about the things you own.
As Audrey Hepburn (may have) once said, “A jewelry appraisal is always a good idea”.
Okay, maybe that isn’t the right quote, but close enough!
Why Get a Jewelry Appraisal?
A jewelry appraisal is basically an identification certificate for your jewelry item which you would use if the piece was lost or stolen, or if you wanted to try and sell it in the future. An appraisal gives you a quick, clear way to convey as much information about your jewelry as possible.
If you’re trying to find or replace your fine jewelry, the appraisal consolidates all its specifications, distinguishing features, and financial value. If you’re trying to sell it, the appraisal tells potential buyers everything they need to know. For the former, you will want to request an appraisal specifically for jewelry insurance. For the latter, you’ll ask your appraiser to make a note of the item’s resale value.
More on those deets a little further down.
Jewelry appraisals are also super helpful in difficult situations where you need to be aware of your financial values, such as in inheritance or divorce settlements. If you ever have to deal with marital separation, you’ll need to know whether your jewelry counts as a marital or premarital asset. You can find out more about reselling your wedding ring.
Another great thing about jewelry appraisals is they will usually show a replacement value higher than what you originally paid for it. This is a satisfying way to see that your item was a good purchase that retained its value.
Be wary, however, of artificially inflated “vanity appraisals”. These are usually given by the retailer at the time of purchase and are designed to make buyers think they’ve been given a fantastic deal.
Where to Take Your Jewelry For An Appraisal
Many fine jewelry retailers will include complimentary appraisals with your purchase. While these can simplify the process, we saw above how house-branded appraisals aren’t always the most reliable. For insurance purposes, these certificates will ensure that you get a good return on your investment if anything ever happens to it. The downside is that, in the meantime, you’ll be paying a higher insurance premium.
Alternatively, you can take your jewelry to a third-party appraisal service. While you may be able to find a jewelry evaluation service in your area, you’ll be able to reach a wider range of expertise by searching online. The Gemological Institute of America and the American Gem Society both have databases of reputable appraisers, or you can look through the database of the Accredited Gemologists Association.
It’s always a good idea to go to an evaluator who has some formal gemology or diamond appraisal training, such as a certified gemologist appraiser. The GIA is the industry standard for this kind of education. But the most important thing is to start a conversation with them. Talk about exactly what you’re looking for and why, and see how confident they are in what they are able to offer.
The Jewelry Appraisal Process
Step 1: Consultation
The appraisal starts with a consultation, either in person or online, between you and the evaluator. You’ll discuss what you’re looking for in the appraisal and how it will be used. For example, the appraisal could be used for insurance, separation finances, or for resale purposes.
The appraisor will also address any questions or concerns you might have, and thoroughly clean the jewelry item to remove dust and oil residue so they can examine it accurately.
Step 2: Physical Examination
After the consultation, the direction taken depends on the type of jewelry being examined.
A physical examination can be done by looking at the jewelry’s construction and materials, as well as its condition. The appraisal specialist will then identify whether the piece is signed or dated, and they’ll also look for any hallmarks, symbols, or stamps that might indicate its country of origin. A hallmark, or a symbol of any sort, could give clues to the age of the jewelry.
- Diamond jewelry – they will look at the 4 Cs of diamond grading and take precise microscopic measurements to get an idea of its market value.
- Colored gemstones – they may test the jewelry to verify the stones and identify any color treatments used.
- Vintage or estate jewelry – they will look for distinctive characteristics or maker’s marks to identify its place in the current jewelry market.
Step 3: Market Standards
The appraisor will determine if the jewelry piece’s appraised value can be established by market standards. Some pieces will have an easily established price depending on their materials and craftsmanship.
For example, jewelers often have catalogs that list pieces that are commonly sold by jewelers around the country. These prices can be compared to your jewelry piece, and you’ll have a clear idea of its value.
Step 4: Sentimental & Historical Value
The appraisor will identify if the piece has any sentimental or historical significance. This is not something that will often play into an appraisal, but it could help justify paying more than market value for a piece.
If it has significant value to you, the appraiser will mark that in their appraisal report and factor it into their analysis. If you have any other jewelry pieces by the same maker or designer, that can give an indication of its value as well. This is especially true if you have a piece of jewelry that’s meant to be part of a set, or that otherwise matches one another.
This is a good way to figure out whether you have designer jewelry and if the piece has any significant value at all.
Step 5: Final Report
An experienced jewelry appraiser will have a wealth of knowledge that comes from many years of reviewing jewelry from different time periods, styles, and walks of life.
Once they’ve assessed all the clues they can uncover from your individual jewelry piece, they’ll compile them into a final report. This may include the type of metals and precious stones used, weights and measurements, estimated age and notable branding, treatments, and any identifying features, as well as an approximate repurchase price for insurance purposes. If you ask them to include a resale price, it can be listed on the report as well.
Appraisal Tip – Both the jewelry and commodity markets can change rapidly. It is recommended that you get an updated appraisal done every five years.
Jewelry Appraisal FAQ
While not absolutely essential, getting a professional appraisal from a certified appraiser does give you and your jewelry a layer of financial protection. The identifying details in an insurance report also increase your chances of getting your jewelry back if it is ever lost or stolen.
While we all hope that our insurance is something we will never need, we can’t know for sure until it’s too late. If your jewelry is particularly valuable and something you never let out of sight longer than a five-minute shower, it’s not a bad idea to have it properly insured. Even if you never need to use it, the coverage and extra security will help you feel safer.
In terms of pricing, most appraisers will charge by the amount of time spent. This can range anywhere from around $40 to a few hundred dollars an hour. Some evaluators charge per piece, though this can be tricky because jewelry items vary so much in complexity and each presents its own set of challenges.
Don’t Delay in An Appraisal
Taking jewelry to be appraised can be a daunting task, and it’s scary to think that anything could happen to our beloved jewelry. But taking this one extra step will help ensure that you and your valuables are protected should anything ever happen to your jewelry, or in the event that your circumstances change and this piece isn’t right for your life anymore.
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