A professional appraisal provides a comprehensive picture of your precious jewelry or watches. Your appraiser's report can be used for a variety of functions such as determining cost of comparable replacements for insurance purposes, setting values for equitable distribution to heirs in the settling of an estate, or estimating prices for sale or liquidation.
A trained appraiser who has been accredited by the country's leading appraisers' professional associations follows a required sequence of steps in the appraisal process. The professional appraiser uses sophisticated technical equipment and tools for precision and accuracy in identifying and describing your items.
The Appraisal Process
- Clean, if necessary. Some jewelry needs to be carefully cleaned before proceeding to ensure that diamonds and gemstones show their true colors and to reveal any barely visible markings. Natural oils and hand lotions can cloud a gemstone; ultrasonic cleaning can restore a piece to like-new brilliance.
- Test for authenticity. Today, diamond-look-alike reproductions and synthetic colored stones manufactured in laboratories can fool jewelry buyers and even less experienced jewelers. Special electronic testers are used for diamonds and acid testing identifies the approximate type and carat weight of precious metals.
- Look for identifying marks. Some goldsmiths or manufacturers stamp their names or company names on jewelry, helpful clues in ascertaining value. More common is the use of carat identification, such as 14K for 14 carat white or yellow gold. A numbering system is also used sometimes: "925" for sterling silver, "585" for 14K gold, "750" for 18K gold, "Irid" or "Plat" for platinum.
- Photograph. A professional comprehensive appraisal report always includes one or more photographs of the pieces. These pictures do not need to be enlarged or actual size, but they need to be clear, well-lit, and in color.
- Weigh. Accurate weights are critical in determining value, particularly for jewelry or watches made with gold or platinum. Professional appraisers use electronic scales that measure in grams or pennyweights.
- Analyze manufacturing technique. Goldsmiths, jewelry designers, and manufacturers have a wide variety of methods in creating their pieces and a veteran appraiser can usually determine how a piece was made and if it will affect value.
- Measure gemstones. Using precision digital calipers, a professional appraiser can determine the measurements of a diamond or gemstone to 1/100th of a millimeter without removing a gemstone from its setting. The measurements of a gemstone, combined with its weight, color, cut, and clarity, are a primary determinant of value.
- Compute gemstone weight. To find the most accurate weight of a mounted diamond or gemstone, a jeweler must know the gemstone's weight before it was mounted in a ring or other piece of jewelry or remove it from the jewelry to find out. However, this is usually not practical or desired. Using calibrated formulas and a gemstone's precise measurements in millimeters, an appraiser can usually calculate the correct carat weight of a gemstone within approximately 5 percent.
- Analyze color. Part art and part science, the determination of a diamond or colored stone's color requires skill, experience, and comparison with recognized standards of color in the diamond and gemstone industry. Only the most qualified jewelry appraisers, who are trained in advanced diamond grading techniques, can provide the color determinations that will be widely accepted as accurate.
- Analyze clarity. Diamonds and gemstones, created millions of years ago from a combination of minerals, heat, and tremendous geological pressure, are a rare natural phenomenon – and are rarely perfect. Internal natural characteristics – such as inclusions or cracks, clouds, and colorations can affect the transparency or clarity of a stone.
- Describe the piece. Your appraisal should contain a detailed and accurate description of your piece of jewelry or watch, including such facts as the number of gemstones or links, the sizes and weights of the gemstones, marks, serial and model numbers of watches when visible, and all pertinent physical information.
- Research. Finding the facts and characteristics about the piece, the professional appraiser when doing an appraisal for insurance purposes consults reference sources in his or her library, online at reputable websites, assorted sales data, and when applicable, consultation with the Gemological Institute of America and other industry organizations, manufacturers, and jewelers who specialize in this type of jewelry.
- Calculate estimated values. Armed with the research results and the appraiser's own analysis of the piece after measuring, weighing, testing and other processes, the appraiser calculates the value for the piece to meet the purpose and function of the appraisal report.
- Compose document. The appraiser compiles the information into a concise report, including the current date and current gold price, which will be used to determine future escalation of value.
- Store document. Once an appraisal in completed, it can be easily updated in light of gold price fluctuations, trends, and client needs. Your professional appraiser will keep a digital copy of your appraisal document in a computer as well as a paper copy in a locked file cabinet for future updates.
- Sign and submit document to client. Clients may receive a signed copy of the jewelry or watch appraisal by mail, email, or fax for their records if they so desire. Past appraisals may be requested for a fee.
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