How to choose a jewelry appraiser
Buying a piece of jewelry to commemorate a special occasion is a simple process, but when it comes to acquiring or buying silver jewelry for investment purposes, especially if you’re looking into serious levels of investment, then it involves a bit more than paying a visit to your local jeweler. It is vital to have a professional appraiser look at the pieces you intend to buy and give you a professional assessment of its value for both investment and insurance purposes.
The truth be told, not everyone who wears, or who has worked with silver jewelry (not even for 30 years) is qualified to appraise it. High levels of education and relevant experience as well as thorough product knowledge are some of the qualifications that make for a professional jewelry appraiser.
There are different levels of jewelers in the industry and those levels are as follow:
Wannabe – This is a self-proclaimed appraiser who has no gemological training or education.
Bench Jeweler – A bench jeweler is an artisan or craftsman with manufacturing expertise and ability gained from educational institutions and apprenticeship.
Graduate Jeweler – A GJ has completed courses and examinations from the Gemological Institution and has the ability and expertise to manufacture and repair jewelry.
Stone Cutter (Lapidary Artist) – A lapidary artist is very talented at carving and sculpting gemstones.
Graduate Gemologist – The GG has taken courses and completed the prescribed courses, both practical and theoretical from the GIA.
Watchmaker (Horologist) – A watchmaker has received the appropriate training to create watch parts, and to repair and build watches. This is usually learned through apprenticeship.
Certified Watchmaker – As with a standard watchmaker, a CW can build and repair watches and watch parts, but the CW has completed the courses and examinations to pass a state certification exam on practical and theoretical horology.
Jewelry Wholesaler – This wholesaler sells jewelry to jewelry retailers.
Jewelry Retailer – The retailer sells jewelry to the public.
Sales Associate – Someone who works as a sales person in a jewelry store.
Please note that none of the above titles qualify a person as a professional appraiser.
A professional jeweler will send your jewelry for appraisal by a professional appraiser who has a degree and continuing education in appraising jewelry. Gemstone enhancements and synthesis are ever-changing and an appraiser needs to know exactly what is happening in the industry, as well as with changing guidelines, in order to thoroughly assess a piece.
Many ‘professional appraisers’ charge $25 (R175) for an appraisal (at the time this was written); however that is exactly the value that the consumer will get from this service. A competent appraiser will charge a higher rate to compensate for the time, effort and knowledge that go into a proper appraisal. The fee should be based on a ‘per assignment’ or per piece rate, or an hourly rate, but never on a percentage or per outcome basis as this could sway the accuracy of the appraisal.
Here are some of the reasons for a professional appraisal of your silver jewelry:
- You will save time, aggravation and effort in the event of an insurance claim when the piece was properly appraised.
- Claims may be denied due to misrepresentation of materials due to the fact that an unqualified appraiser did the appraisal.
- You will save money on your insurance premium if you have it properly appraised. Consumers pay on average 40% more per item due to incorrect appraisals done by unqualified appraisers.
- You want an accurate estimate of the value of the silver jewelry you intend to buy or have bought, both for investment and insurance purposes. It is never good to overpay for silver if you can get it for much cheaper, especially when it comes to silver jewelry, since silver jewelry is in the first place one of the least cost-effective forms of physical silver to invest in or own.
Is Your Appraiser Qualified?
A professional appraiser will not be offended if you ask whether he or she is qualified and ask to see the qualifications. However, this is the first of a range of questions that should be answered in order to ascertain whether the person is indeed qualified to appraise your silver jewelry.
The key is to find a specialist appraiser who is a member of a professional jewelry appraisal organization and who stays current with continuing education.
Feel free to ask the appraiser about the equipment that will be used in evaluating your silver jewelry. A microscope is not enough when it comes to appraising stones. Many unprofessional appraisers use CZ master stones. Instead, certified master sets should be used. These sets should contain a minimum of 5 diamonds. Additionally, access to a range of other equipment should be available to the appraiser and this includes a 10-60x microscope with a darkfield illuminator, diamond light, pen light, ultravoilet lights, GIA certified master sets, GIA gem sets, Gem Dialogue, a spectroscope, polariscope, refractometer and a range of other equipment.
A professional appraisal should contain a cover document that explains in detail the purpose and function of the appraisal. The client will be identified, as well as the intended users of the report. Dates of inspection and the dates of the value should also be noted, as well as the standards and approach of the appraiser and any other pertinent information.
An explanation of grading systems will also be included to explain what systems were used to grade pearls, colored gemstones and diamonds.
A professional profile will include the appraiser’s experience, education and professional achievements.
The body of the appraisal should contain item-specific information.
- The reverse of the appraisal contains supporting documents, pictures, lab work and other information that is not found elsewhere in the document.
- The item description in the body of the appraisal should contain a breakdown that describes the item in detail, noting the type of item and the gender of the wearer. The type of metal, manufacturing process, finishes, findings, and settings will be noted as well. Settings, measurements, shapes, weight, and engraving details are also important factors.
- Circa is the age of the item, which is important to its value. The condition will play a large part in the value too. If anything was added or taken away from the piece, that will be noted, along with the style number and manufacturer, if those details are known.
- Any trademarks, hallmarks and signatures that are found on the item will be noted, along with its provenance. For provenance, supporting documents will be required alternatively family lore will apply. Photographs with archived negative numbers will also be included.
Armed with all this information, you are now ready to find a professional appraiser to appraise your precious silver jewelry pieces and thus ensure that not only your insurance is in order, but that you’ve made or are going to make a good investment as far as price and value are of a concern. A new appraisal should be done every few years as the values of pieces are not fixed, but can and will change.