How to tell if your diamond certificate and appraisal are legitimate.Starting the diamond buying process by educating one’s self about diamonds is the smart thing to do. Learning the Gemological Institute of America’s “4 C’s” of diamond quality to help determine how best your money is spent is important. Many diamonds these days are accompanied by a “diamond certificate” or diamond grading report. This is a third-party assessment of quality factors. But how do you know if your diamond certificate is legitimate or even worth the paper it’s printed on? I was driven to write about this subject after having a few separate clients seek an appraisal on their recent new diamond purchases. Each of these clients had bought their diamond rings online. They all felt like they had done their due diligence in determining what quality of diamond they intended on purchasing. And the rings were delivered with what appeared to be an authentic lab report issued by the Gemological Institutes Services (GIS). But it turns out the diamond certificate delivered with their new ring was bogus. Not only was the clarity overstated, resulting in a gross exaggeration of quality. The “replacement value” reported was also extremely inflated, indicating that the diamond was worth triple the price paid. As it turns out, all the diamonds were very low quality (I-2 to I-3) and had been clarity enhanced to improve their appearance. The clarity enhancement used is called “fracture filling” and is a process by which leaded glass is injected by vacuum into fissures inside the diamond. Fracture filling is relatively stable. But it can be damaged with heat during repairs and sometimes harsh chemicals used in cleaning products. None of my clients were aware they had purchased a treated diamond. Furthermore, the clarity grade stated on each of these so-called “diamond certificates” did not accurately reflect the apparent clarity post-treatment.
Did they get what they paid for?Yes and no. Was the price they paid fair for what they received? Yes. Were they accurately informed about what they were getting? No. You’ve likely heard the proverb, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." The GIS diamond certificate is the lipstick in this case. How to avoid a similar experience when shopping for diamonds? Look for a diamond certificate, or grading report, issued by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). GIA is the leading authority on diamonds and diamond grading. Accept nothing less and you are guaranteed accurate reporting of diamond qualities and any treatments that may be present. Also, take a look at the appraisal that may have been issued with your purchase. If the replacement cost stated is well above your purchase price, consider that a red flag and get a second opinion. The seller of your new ring is motivated to make you feel that you received an exceptional deal. That inflated value will only disserve you. When insuring your new ring, the premium you pay is, in large part, related to the value stated on your appraisal. And, if you suffer a loss, your insurance company is most certainly not going to pay out more than your diamond is really worth. Don’t get sucked into paying more in insurance premiums than you should. If you feel you have an inflated appraisal, seek out an independent jewelry appraiser for an accurate assessment and appraisal report.
Professional appraisers are experienced in distinct areas and practice within these “specialties”. They have gained education and experience related to these areas that help them assess the valuables you need appraised. Whether it's jewelry, wine, books, fine art, or a myriad of other collectibles, we have you covered. Introducing my appraiser partners:
Charles KellerCharles has worked as a personal property appraiser, consultant, researcher, and writer specializing in historical artifacts, rare and antiquarian books, fine art, and antiques for over 19 years. He earned his degree in History from UMKC in 1995, with emphasis on the cultural, political and military history of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the history of science. He has also attended the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia where he specialized in the principles of bibliographic description of books of the hand press era, 1450-1800. While having chosen to work outside academia, he has nevertheless consulted with or made special presentations for numerous institutions around the world, including the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, the University of Illinois Special Collections Archive, Imperial War Museum, London, and others. He also served on the board of trustees of the National World War I Museum, as well as on the museum’s accessions committee. Charles has worked with historical pieces spanning millennia, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s uniforms. He maintains membership in the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), as well as an international network of colleagues in academic and appraisal circles to assist with complex projects or specialized research. He currently serves on the executive committee of the H.G. Wells Society in the UK, regularly contributes to society publications, makes frequent appearances in media, including radio in the US and UK, and as a fact checker for various news organizations. He continues to publish on various aspects and periods of history, with his current research focusing on the international cultural impact of Weimar-era German cinema.
Rachael Blackburn CozadThe Principal of Madison Group Fine Art Appraisals, Rachael offers over twenty-five years of comprehensive experience in the visual arts and is a certified member of the Appraisers Association of America. From 2001-2012 she was the Director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, an institution recognized for its collection of modern and contemporary art, for its exciting exhibitions of work by established and emerging artists, for its large-scale public art projects, and for its Collectors Forum program for art collectors. Prior to this, Rachael was Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in Los Angeles, which controls the world’s largest collection of sculpture by the 19th Century French master Auguste Rodin. Rachael has curated exhibitions for many major museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Kemper Museum. She has led major projects at The White House and New York’s Rockefeller Center and internationally, in Australia, France, Russia and Singapore. Her record of publications produced in conjunction with these exhibitions is extensive. Rachael holds an M.A. in art history from California State University, Los Angeles, and a B.A. from Texas Christian University. She serves as a peer reviewer for the U.S. General Services Administration’s Art in Architecture program and also for the Museum Assessment Program managed by the American Association of Museums. She is a former Chair of the Southern California chapter of ArtTable, a national organization for professional women in leadership positions in the arts and a current member of the advisory panel for Art 21: the award-winning PBS television series on the visual arts.
EmeraldEmerald was regarded as magical and mystical to ancient Egyptians. The Inca and Aztecs found great wealth in the abundant emeralds of the Yucatan. Eventually, Spaniards, who discovered the western hemisphere, returned to Europe with the finest emeralds they had ever seen. Hernando Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, tried to bring huge chunks of Emerald that he took from the Aztecs back home with him. However, one of his ships was shipwrecked, and delicately carved Emeralds in the shape of flowers and fish and other rare Emeralds, including an Emerald the size of a man's palm were lost forever. Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia are major sources of emerald. Colombia, however, is well known for the finest quality and commands a premium. Emeralds, by nature, are more heavily included than other gems. To find an eye-clean emerald is extremely rare. Zambian emerald rivals the saturation of Colombian emeralds. However, they tend to be darker in tone. Zambian emeralds are generally cleaner internally than Colombian, so they tend to be a great option for the middle price range. Brazil is the main source for commercial color emeralds. Washed out in appearance, they do have the redeeming quality of above-average clarity.
RubyOne of "The Big Three", ruby is considered the King of Gems. Throughout time, ruby has been historically the most prized of all colored gemstones. Worn only by royalty for many centuries, rubies are mined in Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka, with Vietnam and southeastern parts of Africa as more recently discovered sources. Ruby is second only to diamond in hardness, along with sapphire its mineral cousin. "Pigeon's blood" red is considered the finest red in ruby. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is the source of the world's finest quality rubies. Burma's finer rubies have become increasingly more difficult to find. It is speculated that the mines were played out several decades ago and what was coming out were hoarded goods. However, the U.S. banned trade with Myanmar in 2003. Since then, the trade was limited to what was left in U.S. wholesalers’ coffers, resulting in a spike in pricing. Recently, the embargo on Myanmar was lifted, and Burma ruby can now be found more readily available. In the meantime, African ruby has made a name for itself presenting some very fine specimens.
SapphireWorn by royalty throughout history, sapphire belongs to the corundum mineral group along with ruby. In ancient times, it was believed that sapphire colored the sky. Sapphire is a classic; one of the "Big Three". It rates 9 on the Mohs scale, second only to diamond and is considered durable enough even for men's wear. It is a popular alternative for an engagement ring. However, as with all fine jewelry, diamonds, and gemstones, sapphire requires some care in wearing. Sapphires can chip and scratch with heavy wear, so it's recommended to take your rings off when active.
“A Diamond is Forever”. DeBeers’ marketing arm created this classic tag line back in the 1950’s. Technically, diamonds are forever. They are the hardest mineral on earth and are handed down through generations….at least most of the time. There are cases, however, when your diamond may not be yours forever. Here are some of the most common ways diamonds make their way out of your possession. Disposal disaster – Your ring sits on the kitchen sink counter while you wash your dishes. One swipe and it flies into the drain and too far down to retrieve. The teeth of the disposal munching on your diamonds, you can almost hear the sound of memories and thousands of dollars swirling down the drain. You can’t seem to get to the off switch fast enough…
Spring rolls around like clockwork every year. And every spring, I can count on seeing clients who have gone on vacation to sunny destinations and brought back jeweled baubles from their trip. Their stories are unique, but the theme is the same – “Boy, did I get taken...did I pay too much?” It takes me back to a three-part series of articles I wrote last year titled, “Going on a Tropical Vacation? Why You Should Bring Home T-Shirts, Not Jewelry.” Here are links to Part I, Part II, and Part III. These three stories are worth reading, especially if you plan to travel to the tropics. So far, those clients that have sought an appraisal for their vacation purchases have been disproportionately disappointed with their purchase. Most feel like they did not get a good value for the money spent. And when you’re spending thousands of dollars, that’s the last thing you want to feel. If you’re headed on a tropical vacation soon, my advice - pick up some T-shirts!
Here are some tips for insuring your new (and not so new) jewels:
- What is the standard coverage limit for jewelry on your homeowner’s policy? Each policy is different; and in some cases you have a choice as to what standard coverage limit you have. Talk with your insurance agent about your options.
- What is your comfort level of risk? Is there jewelry in your box that you may not be absolutely broken hearted about if it were gone? Or, maybe you have a high level of risk comfort and a savings account to back it up. If you
In observation of Labor Day, I honor the people who work passionately to mine and cut the beautiful gems and design and craft the jewelry we wear and love. Here’s to you! Click on each link to see inside the world of: Diamond Miners Diamond Cutters Gemstone Cutters Jewelry Design Artists Jewelry Designers Goldsmiths Diamond Setters Engravers