Antique Jewelry Appraisal is Tricky, so Get WELL Informed!

Antique Jewelry Appraisal: Know Your Purpose

You found us, so you are likely investigating what it takes to get an antique jewelry appraisal done. So far, so good -- you are doing your homework! Before you jump too far into your antique jewelry appraisal, make sure you know what you are needing the appraisal for: For insurance purposes, looking to buy a piece and need value confirmation, or just curious about the value of a piece of jewelry you inherited? Your purpose should determine how much you spend for your antique jewelry appraisal and what resource you use to get the appraisal.

A near perfect piece - no repair or alteration and in great condition (Front)

Antique Jewelry Appraisal: If It's More than Curiosity

If your purpose is more than curiosity, start with someone you trust. You can begin with a generalist, but ask for a referral to a specialist if diamonds are involved. Contact the Appraisers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers or the International Society of Appraisers for a guide or references. 

Antique jewelry appraisal costs money, so anything more than a casual over-the-counter appraisal, could cost you a fair amount of money. Don't spend more than the "purpose" requires. Negotiate the price of the appraisal up-front. Any good antique jewelry appraiser should be able to provide this based on the amount of time it will take him to do the appraisal. "An antique jewelry appraiser should never charge you a percentage of the value of an appraised object". If he suggest it, find somebody else!  If your antique jewelry appraisal is being done for auction purposes, appraisers who are also auctioneers will often provide free appraisals if you agree to let him auction your piece.

Any Jewelry Appraisal: Get It in Writing

By now you know there are different reasons for appraisals. If your antique jewelry appraisal is for tax or insurance purposes, get it in writing. If it's for estate sales reasons, you'll need the appraisal in writing and will need to inform the appraiser it's for "replacement" value -- the replacement value of an jewelry (its retail value) is most often higher than its fair market value. 

The NO NOs

Don't expect a good antique jewelry appraisal if all you can do is provide pictures, e-mails and written descriptions. Appraisers need to see the jewelry. Although, aside from the real thing, photographs are the best; an appraiser CAN'T tell if the item is a fake.

Antique Jewelry Appraisal - Some More General Tips

If you are buying, the lowest price is not always the best value as diamonds and colored stones vary greatly in quality and price. A near perfect one caret diamond can cost $35,000+, while the same diamond in a "promo grade" can be as low as $500. And, if you are buying an expensive piece, let him know you need some time to have an antique jewelry appraisal done.

In general, your antique jewelry appraisal should be done by an independent Certified appraiser and NOT on the store staff. Try to find an appraiser that does not buy or sell.

Antique jewelry appraisal is similar to real estate, but it's condition, condition, condition," that counts in antique jewelry. Don't be fooled by the outward appearance -- examine the back of the piece. The back may tell the real story. Seams or different color golds may indicate an item has been altered or repaired.

Some References

An excellent book is: JEWELRY & GEMS, The Buying Guide by Matlins and Bonanno. It is published by Gemstone Press and available at most good bookstores.

While you're learning, be bold. Ask the appraiser questions: Has the piece been repaired? Why are there different colors on the back? Has the piece always been a ring? Does the piece have the original stones?