What’s Your Jewelry Worth? An Appraiser Knows!

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A question often asked is, “What is the value of my jewelry?” Although this seems like a straightforward inquiry, the answer is - it depends. A determination of the value of a piece of jewelry can vary tremendously depending on the circumstances under which it is being appraised. For example:

INSURANCE APPRAISAL - If the jewelry is going to be insured, the insurance company will require a retail replacement value. This is the retail price the item would most likely be purchased for by the public.

ESTATE APPRAISAL - If the jewelry has just been inherited as part of an estate, it may need an estate appraisal, possibly for tax purposes. This would require a “fair market value” determination that can range from liquidation to scrap to auction values, again tailored to the individual situation.

No matter what type of appraisal is required, one should look for a professional appraiser who must be able to correctly identify gems and metals, grade beauty and rarity, assess the quality of workmanship, and be knowledgeable about current market values. The appraiser should be an experienced, unbiased, graduate gemologist accredited by a professional organization, such as the American Gem Society (AGS). The AGS is dedicated to uphold the educational and ethical standards of its membership to protect the consumer. Keeping these things in mind, it should also be noted that jewelry appraisal is not a pure science and subjective opinions may vary from one appraiser to the next, within a reasonable range.

As for the appraisal itself, gemstones are generally not removed from their mountings during this process. Thus, it is normal for a range of quality grades to be given due to the visible limitations that a mounting can impose. For an insurance appraisal, a good description and photographs should be included and are invaluable, particularly if it becomes necessary to duplicate a piece of jewelry as closely as possible to the original. The cost of an appraisal should be based on a flat fee (usually an hourly rate) and not on the number of pieces or on a percentage of the value, which is a clear conflict of interest for an appraiser.

Finally, as a rule of thumb, jewelry appraisals should be updated every three to five years as values of metals and gemstones can fluctuate - sometimes dramatically.

Sharon S. Axelson
Graduate Gemologist, Gemological Institute of America
Certified Gemologist Appraiser, American Gem Society

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