What are Jewelry or Gemstone Appraisals?
An appraisal is a detailed description of a piece and an assessment of its value based on market research. Insurance providers usually require appraisals for jewelry and gem riders. For each piece, appraisals should give a “retail value,” the replacement value, and a “wholesale value,” the cash or liquidation value. These value determinations will satisfy most consumers’ insurance needs. (For a more detailed discussion of appraisals and definitions of value, see Basic Gemstone Appraisal Terms).
What Information Should Jewelry or Gemstone Appraisals Include?
In addition to the customer’s name, date, and estimated retail and wholesale value, gemstone appraisals should contain detailed descriptions of the items in specific gemological terms. Each gem should have its precise weight, dimensions, cut, clarity, and color noted. The appraiser should determine and record if the gem is natural or synthetic, and if natural its geographic origin. Any gemstone treatments detected should be described. If the gem is mounted, the appraisal should include information on the karat, color, type, and weight of the metal. The appraisal should also disclose the appraiser or appraisers qualifications and titles and include their signature.
Be sure to clarify with your prospective insurer if they require any specific documentation or information from the appraiser.
Who Should Do the Appraisal?
Since gemstone appraisals require exact gemological information, you should find a certified graduate gemologist and/or a reputable gemological laboratory. Be aware that determining whether a gemstone is natural or synthetic is not always easy, even for experienced professionals with the appropriate equipment.
Do not assume that the jeweler or vendor who sold you your piece is qualified or capable of conducting an accurate identification and appraisal. You may receive a sales receipt with gem identification information and the price of the item (and some insurers might accept such documentation), but this is NOT an appraisal. Price doesn’t equal value. (An unfortunate consumer purchased what he believed was a natural pink sapphire for $9,000 in 1999, only to learn in 2015 after a gemological lab appraisal for insurance purposes that the stone was synthetic and valued at $30). After you purchase any gem or jewelry item, get an appraisal from an independent certified gemologist or lab.
Never accept an appraisal from anyone who has an interest in buying your piece. That would be a clear conflict of interest for the appraiser.
Despite the obvious importance of gemological expertise for gemstone appraisals, there are currently no regulations governing who can conduct gem appraisals. Customers need to do their homework. Ask prospective appraisers for references and credentials. Find out what professional gemological or appraisal organizations they are members of.
How Often Should I Have My Gemstones and Jewelry Appraised?
It’s advisable to have appraisals done every three years. Factors that can affect the fair market value of your jewelry (such as the price of gems and metals) change over time. A current appraisal can ensure your coverage is adequate for replacing your piece and your premiums are fairly priced.