Thursday, March 4, 2021

To Appraise or not to Appraise?



Richard Alan

You probably need a written appraisal.” Is my answer to questions when I am asked to put a value on a customer’s article(s) of jewelry.

Often while aimlessly wandering about the island or enjoying a day at the beach it is not unusual to have a ring or a watch thrust into my face with the question “What’s it worth?” I often have to generalize or tell them I can’t value it here because the beach isn’t exactly the proper place, I honestly don’t carry my jeweler’s loupe in my bathing suit.

So what exactly is an appraisal? An appraisal is an opinion as to the authenticity, quality, design, and value of a piece of jewelry. Since it is an opinion, backed and supported by training, equipment, and most importantly experience, it is important to understand that there can be honest variations between competent appraisers. Different people have different opinions. The reasons to appraise can be multiple, a new purchase, heavy gold jewelry purchased years ago is now worth as much as four times the original purchase price. Same goes for large important diamonds or gemstones.

A written professional appraisal is a required first step for getting insurance for your valuable baubles.

Most all insurance companies require detailed appraisals; years ago just a sales receipt or simple description of the articles from the owner would suffice. That was then.

Nowadays each piece of jewelry to be insured must be described in minute detail, down to karat, color of gold, diamond shape, weight, color and clarity. This includes a break down of all gemstones in the pieces.

I have seen written appraisals that state….

A ladies gold diamond ring…retail replacement value $3600.

Believe me that vague description won’t cut it with today’s insurance companies.

A fully detailed and updated appraisal benefits the insured in more ways than one, in cases of loss regardless of whether it was personal negligence or theft, you will be assured that the missing article will be replaced with a piece of jewelry of comparable value and quality.

I have often preached that outdated appraisals only benefit the insurance companies, because the insured will not get anywhere near the money it will cost to replace what has been lost. For example; let’s say you own a 1.50 carat high quality round E color white VS1 clarity diamond ring your husband purchased for $1200 in the early 1970’s. It turns up missing. At today’s price that diamond will cost close to $19,000 to replace….your out dated Insured value is only $1200.

Guess how much the insurance co. is cutting you a check for? Expect to kick in an additional eighteen grand or so out of your pocket to replace the same quality!

The real crime is you have been paying the insurance premium religiously for over 43 years and all you are getting is $1200????

Most importantly recovery of stolen pieces is made easier by detailed descriptions.

One of my customers located her “missing” jewelry in a Naples pawn shop. My thorough appraisal was the significant reason she was able to prove to and convince the police that the “pawned” articles had indeed belonged to her and the thief was later apprehended.

I have done appraisals for other reasons; family estate settlements, bankruptcy procedures, doubtful women recently engaged (Is this a real diamond?) or angry soon to be ex’s.

One of my favorite clients had the appraisal attached to her last will and testament informing each family member which piece of jewelry they would inherit in the event of her passing into the great beyond.

As with most things time is money and detailed appraisals take time and can cost up to hundreds of dollars especially if there are many pieces involved.

To answer the question insure or not to insure? That’s up to you, an extremely valuable diamond ring or watch…It would be unwise not to.

There are many insurance options that include deductible plans, if you own a home safe or have a safe deposit box that can be a plus.

In the event that you have inherited a piece of jewelry and have no idea of its value, get a verbal estimate and then make your decision.

My rule of thumb is if its value is less than $500 let it slide, it’s not the end of the world if it goes missing and insuring umpteen pieces of under $500 items is going to be expensive both to appraise and insure.

I personally take in only three articles at a time, by appointment. This involves a thorough cleaning and inspection prior to the appraisal process all while you are present and in a private room. It takes about an hour and you leave with the now appraised jewelry.

I ask the customer to please bring in any receipts or old appraisals. It’s funny how folks raise an eyebrow when I request these as if they want to ask “why? Aren’t you an appraiser, what do you need those for?” The reasons are numerous. First… I can tell if you got ripped off or not at the initial purchase price.

Second… Usually the proper weights and gem quality are reported on original documents, so I can either agree or disagree with what is stated. Also, and most importantly it is only a calculated guesstimate as to what a diamond or a gemstone actually weigh while set into a ring or pendant. Only way to be 100% sure of the exact weight is to remove and weigh the gem loose. (No appraiser I know will do that!)

Third… it saves me time, this is where my time is money thing kicks in. estimating stone sizes, color and clarity for numerous gems is time consuming, resulting in an expensive appraisal.

Also conflicting stone sizes or color grades etc. on the upgraded appraisal can confuse the insurance company and cause future settlement problems in case of loss.

Insurance companies love to drag the settlement process to excruciatingly long extents due to “grey area gaps” or missing information and even refuse full or any payment for poorly written appraisals.

Oh! And remember you cannot have jewelry appraised after the proverbial horse has left the barn, (lost or stolen) pieces must be physically presented to the appraiser. Bringing in old appraisals or receipts without also presenting the actual piece is like claiming you own the Hope Diamond, I guess you are letting the Smithsonian Institute borrow it, huh?



One response to “To Appraise or not to Appraise?”

  1. I like that you mentioned that an outdated appraisal is only beneficial for an insurance company. I’ve been thinking about having an industrial equipment appraisal on some of the things I’ve got around the workshop. Maybe it’s time I got an updated appraisal and see how that helps me.

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