Hartley Jewelers has decades of experience in appraising fine jewelry. Our professional and experienced staff hold relevant degrees from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and have been educated in the methodologies of jewelry and diamond appraisals. We provide appraisals on a daily basis and continuously keep our knowledge up-to-date through market research and education.
We are dedicated to building and maintaining our clients’ trust and are committed to upholding the highest ethical standards in the industry. From priceless heirlooms to one-of-a-kind pieces, Hartley Jewelers will help you protect your investment with accredited and accurate appraisals for your jewelry valuation and insurance needs. Read our informative Q&A about appraisals, and testimonials from our clients.
Appraisals and Gemology
Jewelry might require appraisal for a variety of reasons. The most common is for insurance. Insurance companies require formal appraisal reports for jewelry in order to “schedule” it, that is, add a rider to the policy that specifically covers the jewelry on an “all risk” basis. If your jewelry is not scheduled in this manner, it is likely that it is covered only against fire and theft (not breakage, mysterious loss or disappearance, or other perils) and is probably covered at a very low level under your homeowners’ policy. This level may be as low as $1,000, and might carry a deductible of $250 or $500 for which you are responsible.
Jewelry is also frequently appraised in order to determine estate tax liability as mandated by the Internal Revenue Service. Executors and attorneys frequently require such appraisals. Appraisals might also be required for the following functions:
- Charitable contribution
- Collateral loan
- Marital dissolution
- Conservatorship or guardianship
- Consumer resale
- Equitable distribution
- U.S. Customs issues
- Various legal matters
While this question begs several others and requires an elaborate answer in order to cover the subject thoroughly, there are certain basic signs to look for when qualifying an appraisal as “proper.”
First and foremost, you would never want to get an appraisal that values the cost of the appraisal on the “appraised value”.
Secondly, there is no such thing as a generic appraisal that serves all possible functions. It is common for a consumer to tell the appraiser, “I just want to know how much this is worth,” or, “It’s just for my own knowledge.” The professional appraiser will insist upon knowing specifically how the appraisal will be used. Does the client wish to insure the item? Is it being offered for sale? Are family members squabbling over an estate item? Is it being considered for purchase? Are there other possible uses for the appraisal?
The appraisal must state specifically what kind of value is reported (i.e., retail replacement value, fair market value, some form of liquidation value), and an assigned use (i.e., to secure insurance, to determine estate tax liability, to inform the seller as to selling price expectations). This helps to ensure that the appraisal is not misused, and that any third party that might rely on it knows why it was prepared.
Photographs are essential, particularly in an insurance situation where the appraisal report may very well serve as the sole evidence to be employed in the settlement of a loss claim.
The methodology used to determine value will vary depending upon the kind of value being sought (i.e., retail replacement value, fair market value, etc.) and the assigned use of the appraisal. Of critical importance is the fact that appraisers do not create value. Rather, the appraiser reports value, based upon reality in the marketplace.
Retail replacement value for insurance should be based upon typical or “modal” selling prices in the marketplace or at the market level appropriate to the specific item.
Fair market value, on the other hand, is a legal concept with its definition sometimes varying from one jurisdiction to another. The Internal Revenue Service has carefully defined fair market values for use in appraisals for Charitable Contributions, Estates, and other tax related functions. Some states defer to federal guidelines for fair market value, while others have adopted their own, albeit similar, definitions.
Accurate appraisals are dependent upon research conducted by the appraiser with regard to value. This does not mean necessarily that the appraiser must specifically research each item being appraised. This would create prohibitive fees because of the time involved. Research can be generally divided into two categories: Ongoing, and Specific.
Most of the items commonly submitted for appraisal, such as diamond engagement rings, tennis bracelets, stud earrings, and other conventional, “staple” items, can be dealt with through the appraiser’s ongoing research. By participating in the jewelry industry and appraisal profession, attending trade shows, subscribing to trade publications and price guides, talking with manufacturers and jewelers, and “shopping” in jewelry stores, appraisers can keep track of many kinds of jewelry, and typical selling prices.
However, faced with an unusual item such as a fine Art Deco diamond bracelet or an 1860’s Cartier brooch, the appraiser is likely to have to conduct specific research relating to that particular item. This research can be time consuming, and clients should be prepared for the fees that are a part of this process. In some cases, the professional appraiser may have to pay an expert in a particular field, for access to that expert’s knowledge. These fees must of course be passed along to the client or built into the charges for the appraisal.
In our store, we have insurance for all items left with us. We can assure you we use the utmost care and respect for your precious jewelry and it is stored in our vault at night and on weekends.
It is also advisable that you inquire of your own insurance company as to whether or not your jewelry is covered while in the control of a jeweler who does not have any insurance or is not adequately insured. It is better to be informed and know where you stand with regard to insurance before you act, rather than finding out after the unlikely but unfortunate events of an uninsured loss.
As noted in previous discussions of appraisals, “value” has many meanings. If you are interested in the jewelry’s monetary value to you when you wish to sell it, you have a number of options. Perhaps most obvious is your ability to simply solicit offers from several jewelers who are interested in purchasing previously owned jewelry (also known as “estate” jewelry).
If you have the time and the inclination, you can “shop” for jewelry similar to your own. In doing so be sure not to occupy too much of a salesperson’s time without first mentioning that you are not a potential buyer, but rather trying to determine the worth of your own jewelry. Many sales associates in jewelry stores are paid in part by commission, and this makes their time valuable and critical to their ability to make a living.
If the jewelry’s potential value is great enough to justify the expense of doing so, it is important that you consider having a qualified appraiser render a multi-market consumer resale appraisal. The multi-market resale appraisal examines several selling options such as cash sale to a jeweler, consignment sale, auction, or sale to a private consumer.
OUR CUSTOMERS TESTIMONIALS
“I cut my [Huey helicopter tail rotor] chain in 1969 in-country and made 3 bracelets, one of which I put on and it’s not been off my wrist since then. Well even a rotor chain doesn’t last forever and over the past dozen years or so, I started losing links as the pins wore down. I searched the internet for years trying to find a bracelet or a chain for sale so that I could get parts to fix mine. No such luck! I did just miss a bracelet that a vet was selling on e-bay but it had already been sold by the time I found it. I never gave up and a couple of months ago I searched for a “Cobra” rotor chain rather than the “Huey rotor chain” that I’d been searching for. I stumbled upon Ron’s story and Hartley Jewelers blog and I was amazed to find this small custom shop that had acquired a chain or two and were making bracelets for Nam vets. Now I didn’t need a bracelet, I would not want to give up the one I’ve had on my wrist since Nam. On the off chance that they might be able to help, I sent a request asking about any spare links they might have.
Travis got right back to me and asked for some more information about what I was looking for. After exchanging some more e-mail and some pictures, he referred me to their bench jeweler, Margit who said yes she had some left over links and could send them to me here in Tokyo for a modest price plus postage.
Their kind assistance didn’t end there. Margit told me what to have a bench jeweler do to add the spare links. Stainless steel, pear-shaped pins are not easy to work with. She told me how she worked with the pins and links when extending bracelets so armed with her knowledge, I will be able to properly repair my bracelet when I find a first class bench jeweler over here, probably in Thailand when I visit next month.
Thanks to these fine people, half a world away, I’ll be able to wear a fully repaired bracelet where I don’t have to worry about the links falling off. These people treated me like family and they understand how important this bracelet is. In the past, most places I’ve asked have looked at me like I was nuts when I showed them the bracelet on my wrist with 3 or 4 of the links half off and asked them if they could fix it.
Thank you Travis for understanding and taking the time to help with such a strange request and thank you Margit for going the extra mile and sending me instructions for the best way to repair my bracelet. My entire experience with you guys was uplifting.”
Ken Wheaton, Tokyo, Japan