How (and when) to get a Jewelry Appraisal

How (and when) to get a Jewelry Appraisal

A jewelry appraisal can serve many purposes, helping you to determine a fair and accurate value for precious metal and gemstone pieces that you own.

Here’s what you should know about the process, what to look for, what to avoid, and where to find the best appraiser for your needs.

What is a Jewelry Appraisal?

Jewelry Appraisal

A jewelry appraisal is a process that produces a document that describes the item in detail, determines the quality of the various elements, and assigns a value to that item.

Descriptions cover visible and measurable facts about the piece of jewelry, including weight, materials, and markings.  Subjective features such as gemstone quality and the overall quality of the creation and manufacturing of the piece are generally included as well.

Depending on the reason for the appraisal, the fair market value may be stated (used for tax purposes), the replacement value (for insurance purposes), or the liquidation value (for bankruptcy or business dissolution) may be included as well.

Appraisals will have a clear explanation of the grading process, and when complete, they are also signed or an official seal is affixed by the appraiser, along with any professional qualifications they might have.

Insurance companies recommend that appraisals for important pieces of jewelry be conducted every five years or thereabouts since the prices of diamonds, gemstones, and precious metals can change quite a bit.  You should consider following this guideline since an insurance company will use the appraisal to establish ownership and will replace the item based on the value stated on the appraisal.

How a Jewelry Appraisal Works

Before you get a jewelry appraisal, you should have a clear understanding of why you want the appraisal in the first place.  Is it for insurance purposes, or because you’re considering selling the piece?

This will help you choose the right appraiser based on your needs.  You will want either a gemologist appraiser trained in appraising gems or an antique jewelry appraiser who will also understand the intrinsic value of your piece, based on things like rarity, provenance, or a specific designer.

You can find an appropriate appraiser by going to one of the major professional organizations that have members worldwide.

You may be able to access appraisers locally, or you might have better luck finding an appraiser who works online.

Be sure you understand the service provided, and that the costs for the appraisal are clearly communicated to you before committing to any work being done.  If you’re getting an appraisal for insurance purposes, your insurance provider may also have specific certification requirements for an appraisal to be valid.

Some appraisers charge a flat fee and others charge by the hour.  Depending on how detailed and complex your pieces are, you could pay quite a bit for an appraisal.  Do not work with an appraiser who sets a fee based on the value of your piece.  It is a clear conflict of interest.  Find someone else to work with immediately.

In some cases, appraisers will evaluate your piece in front of you while you wait.  This protects both of you from loss, damage or miscommunication.  More often than not, you should be prepared to leave your piece with the appraiser.  You will fill out an intake form that will basically describe what is being appraised and that will indicate a rough value on what the piece is worth if it is lost or damaged.

Be sure to do your homework. Ask potential appraisers any questions you have in advance if you’re not clear about anything. Most are happy to work with you to provide you with the information you need regarding your appraisal process.

Jewelry Appraisal vs Jewelry Grading

It’s important to understand the difference between a jewelry appraisal and jewelry grading.  An appraisal will give detailed information about the piece of jewelry, as well as the anticipated value.

A grading report, such as one you might receive from the GIA or AGS, provides detailed information on the carat weight, cut, color, and clarity (collectively known as the Four Cs).  The other important distinction is that a grading report does list an estimated dollar value like an appraisal does.

Although appraisers have many tools at their disposal, they still are not as uniform in their analysis as grading laboratories are.  In a lab, professionals are working for a single company under established guidelines and parameters. With appraisals, professionals can operate independently, or be affiliated with a small or large jewelry company.

A grading report will also verify the authenticity of a gem.  But the grading report is subjective based on the lab standards where the gem in analyzed, and this can sometimes lead to discrepancies in grading reports between labs.

Many grading reports also include a diagram of inclusions (flaws) that can affect how light is displayed in a diamond. Most gemstones have inclusions, but how they are interpreted vary from lab to lab.  Flawless diamonds are rare and account for less than 1% of all finished diamonds.

Market value is established based on grading, so a grading report is the most transparent, accurate and objective tool to determine how the market values a piece of jewelry at a specific moment in time.

How to Appraise Jewelry Yourself

Appraise Jewelry Yourself

If you’re just looking for a ballpark figure on what your jewelry may be worth, you can do some research and appraise your own jewelry.  This may work well enough if you’re just kind of curious but not to the point where you want to actually get serious and sell it.

How to tell if gold is real

There are several tests you can do to determine if the gold in your piece is real.

Gold has unique properties.  For example, it is one of the densest metals on earth.  So, any metal used to attempt to replicate gold will be much less compact.

If you have gold bullion and coins of a purported certain weight, you can weigh and check the size of your bullion which is made to a set of specifications.  Anything less than pure gold will not weigh out correctly.

Also, unlike most metals, gold is not magnetic, so a real gold bullion coin, bar or piece of jewelry will not stick to a magnet.  This will also tell you if the gold you have contains other metals or not.   Be aware that gold is not the only non-metallic metal so a fake coin could pass this test.

Another test is that gold also has a distinctive “ping” sound when it is struck.  Precious metals have a high-pitched ringing sound when struck.  Base metals have a much shorter and duller sound.

Or you can drag your gold over an unglazed ceramic plate using slight pressure.  If you see a gold mark on the ceramic, then the gold is real. But if the mark is black then it is fake.

Once you determine your gold is real, then you need to figure out how much of it you have.  Start with determining the purity. Most gold pieces are stamped with the purity (i.e. 24k is 100% pure gold, 18k is 75% pure gold, and so forth).

If possible, weigh your gold, determine the current price for spot gold (either by the gram or by the ounce, depending on what you’ve got), and then multiply it by the purity.  For example, if you have a gold piece that is 18k, and it weighs 1 ounce, and the spot price of gold is $1800 per ounce, then your piece is worth approximately $1350.

If you’re looking to sell gold for the best price, be sure to check out our complete guide here.

How to tell if a diamond is real

A real diamond will not float, shatter under extreme temperatures, or hold the fog from your breath for more than a second or two.

Diamonds and gemstones are more difficult to appraise on your own.  They are valued on several factors, starting with the 4C’s. If the piece is antique there may also be added value beyond what the raw components are.

To be honest, the best bet is for you to seek out a friendly jeweler who will give you a thumbnail appraisal for free.  If you’re more serious about knowing the value, you should pay for the cost of a legitimate appraisal, especially if there is considerable value.

Are Jewelry Appraisals Accurate?

Jewelry Appraisals Accurate

Yes and no.

Appraisals can vary quite a bit depending on who is doing the appraising.  It’s not uncommon to see different grades for color and clarity from appraisers who are reputable, but who have slightly different standards or interpretations.

This is critical if you’re attempting to get an accurate value for insurance purposes or if you want to sell your piece.

To minimize the chance of an appraisal surprise, be sure to have your diamonds and gemstones appraised by a credentialed appraiser.

With an official appraisal, you’ll be eligible to receive the full financial reimbursement for your jewelry through an insurance company.

Jewelry Appraisal vs Selling Price

In many cases, appraisals are often inflated.  Insurance companies and jewelry stores will both inflate appraisals.

A higher appraisal allows an insurance company to charge higher insurance premiums.  The replacement value may actually only be half of what the appraisal is.  Jewelry stores use inflated appraisals to make it seem like someone is getting a great deal when the dealer offers to sell them a piece of jewelry at a big markdown from the appraised price.

Intentionally over-valuing items on appraisals is illegal under Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines.  It is also considered unethical by all nationally recognized appraisal organizations. The value assigned to the piece of jewelry should not be inflated beyond what is considered a fair retail selling price.

Reasons to Get Your Jewelry Appraised

Get Your Jewelry Appraised

People will seek appraisals for jewelry for several possible reasons.

The majority of appraisals are done for insurance replacement purposes.  When an appraisal is done, for this reason, the amount should reflect the real cost of replacing the item in the event is stolen or destroyed.  This “retail replacement” value should reflect the real cost of replacing the piece of jewelry by buying a new piece from a jewelry store that normally sells the type of jewelry being appraised.

Coverage for jewelry pieces can be added to most homeowner’s policies, but insurance companies usually require a complete jewelry appraisal by an independent jeweler.

These types of appraisals are fairly common and some retail jewelers may be capable of writing a formal appraisal for insurance replacement purposes.  This is especially true if the piece being appraised is similar to what they sell in their stores.

Appraisals for types of jewelry they don’t sell, or that are done for other purposes, require more advanced training and review.

Another reason people get jewelry appraisals is to assess the fair market value of a particular item.  Fair market value is the actual selling price that a buyer is willing to pay based on the item’s value in its current condition.

Fair market values tend to run lower than retail replacement values because replacement values often reflect the cost to replace a used item with a new equivalent.

Fair market value appraisals are generally required for charitable donations and estate appraisals.

I’ve found that Cash for Diamonds USA is a very reliable website to sell jewelry at a fair price. They have over 250,000 satisfied customers and a price match guarantee, so you can be sure that they’ll give you a price that you’re satisfied with.

In other cases, people may seek an immediate liquidation value appraisal.  These are on the lower end of valuations because of situations that create their need.  Divorces or estate or probate liquidations may require this type of appraisal so that the dollar amount can be factored into settlements.

How to Get a Jewelry Appraisal for Insurance

Most appraisals are done for insurance purposes.  This is because most people want insurance coverage that will provide a return on the replacement value of the item.

Experienced retail jewelers who have some level of appraisal training can probably write an insurance appraisal, especially if the piece is similar to jewelry they sell in their store.  More experienced retail jewelers may also have enough years of looking at jewelry that they may be able to provide an appraisal for types of jewelry they don’t sell.

When you contact a potential retail store appraiser, ask specifically if they have an on-site expert gemologist, and what the extent of the appraisal is that they can provide for you.  Some will provide appraisals for insurance purposes, estate tax evaluations, and other similar reasons, but not every jeweler can meet every need.

You should have no trouble finding an appraiser for insurance purposes.  Talk to several people before deciding what route to take.

Also, do not assume that a homeowners policy will protect you against the loss of expensive jewelry.  Most policies have low limits (i.e. $1,000) and only protect against certain types of losses.

To be fully protected, you need to take out a dedicated jewelry insurance policy.

How Much Does a Jewelry Appraisal Cost?

 Jewelry Appraisal Cost

It depends.  Since every piece of jewelry is different, every appraisal will be different as well.

A simple piece may take as little as one hour to appraise.  But a large and complex piece of jewelry with several gemstones could take several hours.

Appraisals have a base cost of between $50 and $100. Appraisers typically charge a flat fee or an hourly fee for an appraisal.  Hourly fees can run between $50 and $150 per hour.  An appraiser should be able to give you a fairly accurate estimate of appraisal costs after the take a look at your piece, and before you commit to using them.

If a jeweler offers to appraise your piece based on a percentage of the value, find someone else.  This is a direct conflict of interest, and the appraiser could falsely inflate the value to earn a larger commission.

When an appraiser tries to purchase your jewelry or offers to sell it for you in exchange for a lower fee, these are also considered lapses in ethical practices, and you should go elsewhere.

To get an accurate appraisal, it must take place in person.  Online appraisals using only pictures can’t fully convey the marks and blemishes in a piece of jewelry.  Understand that appraisers often have specialist training and high-end equipment to do the job the right way which helps to justify their fees and rates.

Also, if you have several pieces to appraise, that will drive up the cost, as will using a specialist or an appraiser with niche knowledge which might be required for antique jewelry or items with cultural significance.

In some cases, your appraisal costs could rise quite a bit if the appraiser needs to research your piece.  Antique jewelry connected to history or that has a unique provenance can take several hours to fully understand and value.

Should I Get my Jewelry Appraised Online or Near Me?

There is no absolute right or wrong to this question.

What you want is an appraiser you can trust, either locally or located halfway across the country.

A professional jewelry appraiser should be certified or titled by a respected national appraisal organization, like the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers. Different types of appraisals require varying levels of training.

There are no federal or state requirements for appraisers, so look for a Graduate Gemologist diploma from the GIA or its equivalent which should be considered minimum gemological training.

How much experience does the appraiser have?  The appraiser should understand how various elements contribute to the value of a piece and be ready to demonstrate and download that knowledge to you.

A top-line appraiser will also be invested in continuing education to ensure they are knowledgeable about the latest gemological and appraisal issues.

Also, be sure to ask the appraiser about professional affiliations and their understanding of legal obligations as an appraiser.

One drawback of using a local retail jeweler for an appraisal is that often they don’t have their own gem lab or a full array of instruments needed to provide an accurate appraisal.  Those online appraisers who are fully equipped will likely let you know that’s the case as a potential selling point to use their services.

Ethics are also important. Although there are no state or federal regulations governing the oversight of appraisers, many industry groups adhere to a code of ethics.  Consider using members from the following groups for added peace of mind.

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