An appraisal is an opinion as to the authenticity, quality, design and value of a piece of property. To fulfill the purpose of this report, the property under discussion is jewelry. Since it is an opinion, backed and supported by training, equipment and experience, it is important to understand that there can be honest variations between competent appraisals.

Most people commonly believe that the declared price evaluation is the most important aspect of an appraisal. This is not true! Actually, the most important part (and the most protective to the customer) is an explicit description of the jewelry item, accurately depicting the design, the metal, and the stones.

Let’s define these two types of appraisals so you know which fits your own needs.

There are two usual types of appraisals: Insurance replacement value; and Estate evaluation. These are two completely different appraisals; one cannot serve the purpose of the other!

Insurance Replacement Value –

This is the type of appraisal that a customer usually needs to properly insure his/her jewelry against loss or damage. This appraisal price should give you the approximate cost of replacing the jewelry item or recreating it as closely as possible in order to accomplish this, the appraisal should take into consideration today’s market prices as well as current cost for labor, material, creative design, and the precious stone market.

Estate Evaluation –

Estate evaluation requires an appraisal of the cash value of any included item of jewelry. This cash value is based on what a willing buyer and willing seller would agree to without a forced sale. Since it does not consider today’s marketing costs nor current prices for labor, material or creative design, this type of appraisal is normally lower than appraisals for insurance replacement value.

Neither of these appraisals represent an offer to purchase your jewelry.

When a new piece of jewelry is purchased, you will probably need a replacement value appraisal in order to obtain insurance. Most insurance policies contain an option which will allow the insurance company to replace your jewelry with “similar” items. Therefore, the more descriptive the appraisal, the more certain you are of receiving proper replacements.

For your own protection, your insurance replacement value appraisal should virtually “fingerprint” your jewelry. It should include your stone’s cut, color, clarity, shape, weight and position. This descriptive appraisal will reinforce our protection and will make sure you are covered for truly similar jewelry. (This should help you understand our original statement that an accurate description is as important for your protection as the appraisal price!)

What should your appraisal contain?

For your own protection, your appraisal should offer the following information:

  • It should list and number the major stones giving the identification of each stone, the shape, the dimensions, the approximate weight of each stone, and “quality” of each stone.
  • The “quality” should identify the type of grading system which is being used when referring to color, clarity (internal quality) and cut.
  • It should list the number and size of the minor stones with their identification as well as their total weight.
  • It should identify the metal stamping and make reference to the type or workmanship of the mounting.
  • It should have a written description or a photograph of the entire piece that would assist in its identification if lost or stolen.
  • It should estimate the value of the jewelry.
  • It should list the equipment used to develop the appraisal.

When should you have your jewelry appraised?

There are simple guidelines that can help you arrive at the decision to have your jewelry appraised:

Insurance replacement value
  • On the purchase of new jewelry, assure coverage for replacement in case of loss or theft.
  • In view of continuing inflation, it is a good idea to have all your jewelry appraised every two or three years.
Estate Evaluation
  • When jewelry is involved in the probate procedure of a will, it is necessary to determine the price such jewelry would bring in a “willing” sale.

Who should appraise your new jewelry?

For very practical reasons, YOUR FIRST CHOICE OF AN APPRAISER SHOULD BE THE JEWELER FROM WHOM THE JEWELERY WAS PURCHASED. He/She is obviously familiar with the item, and has the detailed information to fulfill your appraisal needs. Besides, as his/her customer, you obviously have confidence in him/her. A note of caution! If another expert opinion is needed, extreme care should be used in selecting an appraiser. Unfortunately, an unethical appraiser may intentionally give an incorrect price on your jewelry in deliberate attempt to put your jeweler in an unfavorable light in the hope of casting doubts on your purchasing decision! (It may not be pure coincidence if he/she also shows you something “similar” for less money.)

In selecting a second opinion, take the following precautions:

  • Ask the appraiser to show you copies of appraisals he/she has done in the past. This will show you if he/she is
    accustomed to supplying the vital protective information you require.
  • Ask to see certificates indicating he/she has gemological training.
  • See if the appraiser has gem-testing equipment and instruments.
  • Determine if the appraiser carries merchandise similar to yours. If not, he/she may not have enough experience to be
    familiar enough about your type of jewelry to develop an accurate appraisal.
  • Determine if the appraiser has a good reputation in your community. Besides asking your friends, question local
    business organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau.

To end with the beginning, remember that the most reliable appraisal is an opinion based on knowledge gained through education and special training, backed up by technical equipment and reinforced by experience.

To give yourself the benefits of the most accurate appraisal possible, heed these points:

  • Don’t try to save money on an appraisal. For a professional evaluation, expect to pay a fair fee, usually based on an
    hourly rate. The more intricate the jewelry, the more time needed to examine it.
  • Don’t rush your appraiser. Give him/her adequate time to carefully examine every facet of your jewelry.

And, finally, if you still have questions, ask your jeweler. He values your trust… and you should trust his/her judgment!