Most people have no idea what happens behind the scenes when their jewelry is appraised. Some assume that it’s a very quick process involving a brief look and “presto!”, an opinion of value is given. If you have the opportunity, choose an appraiser who offers by-appointment service. This gives you the chance to see firsthand how the appraisal process works.
In fact, the appraisal service is a very thorough and involved task. Essentially, an appraisal is a four-part process. First, the appraiser has a conversation with the client about their situation. Are they going to insure their jewelry? Sell? Divide the proceeds among family members? Or perhaps, donation? Each of these situations requires a different type of appraisal report.
Next, your jewelry is professionally cleaned and a thorough gemological examination is performed. A complete standard gemological lab is necessary to ensure an accurate assessment of your jewelry. The cost of such lab equipment can run $25,000 or more. Diamonds should be screened with a synthetic diamond detector for possible synthetics. Diamond color grading should be performed with GIA-Certified Color Master Stones, not a CZ set. A “legal for trade” diamond scale should be used for accurate weight information.
An initial check under the microscope of any condition issues is followed by testing of the precious metals, noting the type of manufacture, noting any trademark stamps which assist with possible designer origin. The gemstones and diamonds must be identified, and any treatments detected and noted. With the advancement of synthetics and gemstone treatments, these processes have become more difficult, requiring the appraiser to be up-to-date in detecting synthetics and treatments.
Quality factors are assessed, and measurements and weights are taken for each gemstone and diamond. It is critical that the appraiser accurately grade each diamond and gemstone as even a difference of one grade can equal thousands of dollars in value.
Watches must be examined for authenticity, condition, and model or style. Movement type, materials used in the case and bracelet, as well as the detection of any aftermarket parts must be assessed.
The third step is value research. Contrary to popular belief, appraisers do not set values. Rather, appraisers report values. Depending on the type of appraisal, various markets are researched. In the circumstance of insurance replacement appraisals, current retail markets are researched. With estate or equitable division, auction markets are examined for Fair Market Value. It’s important to find like kind and quality comparables when conducting this research.
The last step in the appraisal process is report writing. No longer is a one-page appraisal sufficient. It is imperative the report be thorough and accurate to ensure the client is properly protected for their specific situation. Information regarding procedures used and limiting conditions that may exist, as well as, resources used for value research should be included. And, of course, the actual description of the jewelry should be a part of the final report along with any related paperwork, certificates of authenticity, or lab reports. Additionally, the appraiser’s credentials and background and experience should be appended.
Last But Not Least
Above all, who is appraising your jewelry is every bit as important as how. Unlike real estate appraisers, personal property appraisers (including jewelry) are not required to be licensed, nor are they regulated. This means anyone can call themselves an appraiser regardless of level of (or lack of) education, experience, and vetting. Look for a jewelry appraiser who is a GIA Graduate Gemologist and has been credentialed through an industry organization, such as the International Society of Appraisers or the American Society of Appraisers. Be sure your appraiser is up-to-date in equipment and knowledge. After all, your appraisal is your peace of mind.