Articles / What You Need to Know About Appraisals

An appraisal is a legal document that certifies what a piece of jewelry (or other valuable article) is, and how much it's worth. You might want to have your jewelry appraised for any number of purposes, including the following:

- insurance (to determine replacement cost if the piece is stolen or destroyed); - estate planning or settlement (to ensure that each heir receives the dollar value he was intended to get);

- estate valuation for tax purposes;

- divorce settlement (to ensure equitable division of property);

- future sale of the piece;

- use of the piece as loan collateral;

- desire to know what you've got.

Remember to State the Purpose

The appraised value of the piece could vary dramatically, depending on the purpose of the appraisal. Therefore, it's essential that you tell the appraiser why you're engaging his or her services.

Know the Qualifications

It can be difficult to establish an appraiser's qualifications, since anyone can hang out a shingle as an appraiser. Determine whether the appraiser has credentials from a reputable association, such as the American Gem Society (AGS), American Society of Appraisers, Appraisers Association of America or International Society of Appraisers. The AGS designation is Certified Gemologist Appraiser.

Don't Settle

Don't settle for an off-the-cuff appraisal. Insist on documentation that includes a proper description of the jewelry, a history of the piece (if known) and a photograph of the item. Be sure the appraiser is not interested in buying the piece. (If he is, his valuation might not be accurate.) Also, stay away from any appraiser whose fee is a percentage of the appraised value.

Particularly if the appraisal is for insurance purposes, it should be as precise as possible. If the appraisal of a diamond, for instance, is "G to J color," the insurance company will only be required to provide a J-color diamond as a replacement.

David WeissDavid Weiss

Graduate Gemologist, GIA
Certified Appraiser