A jewellery appraisal is a complete quantification and
qualification of an item of jewellery. This includes a description of the metal from which
an item is made, the way in which it is made, the shape it takes, and the content. This
description should be full of useful detail. The most important aspect of an appraisal
document is not the final value, it is the thorough description which enables another
professional to replace the item if it is lost or stolen. A photo is handy, but it is no
substitute for a good description. We have seen documents that have merely described an
item by the phrase "see photo attached".
This is not a professional appraisal!
The appraisal should clearly state any limiting conditions. This means, if the stones
(e.g.: diamonds) in an item (e.g.: ring) were examined while in the ring, and not before
they were set, the appraisal should say at some point "estimated due to
setting". If your appraisal was done under the less-than-ideal conditions of a bank
vault, your own home, or an appraisal clinic in a shopping mall, then it should clearly
state that fact on the document.
There is no substitute for the careful work that can be done in the controlled conditions
(e.g.: north daylight, in the northern hemisphere, for accurate diamond colour grading) of
a properly equipped appraisal lab, but if it is not possible to have them, then a third
party (e.g.: a replacer, your insurance agent, a potential purchaser) should be made aware
of these limits. The appraiser has a responsibility to you, the customer, to keep complete
Once an appraisal has been done it is not the end of the story. Precious metals and
precious stones are commodities, with prices that fluctuate. It is important that you have
regular updates (every three to five years) to keep your insurance coverage current, so
that you are not paying too little, or too much in premiums (see the Insurance page).
Why an Independent Lab?
An independent appraiser has no vested (personal or subjective) interest in the item
you own or are buying. The objective opinion you get as to the grading or replacement
value of an item by an independent appraiser is uncoloured by commercial concerns such as
buying or selling. The independent appraiser loses that objectivity when he or she also
sells. Beware of the appraiser who will offer to do better for you than the jeweller who
sold the item to you in the first place; or who will suggest another jeweller that you
might go to for a "better deal". Not only is this behaviour totally unethical,
this "appraiser" obviously has a serious vested interest, and his opinion of
grade can hardly be considered objective.
Your jeweller can usually provide you with documentation stating the replacement value
of items that you purchase there. That replacement value is not always the same as the
price you pay. There may be several reasons for this. The item is on sale. The jeweller
really wants to clear the inventory and gives you a great price. Sales have been a little
slow that week, and he wants to generate some revenue. An independent evaluation
(appraisal) is a third party confirmation of the trust and confidence you have placed in
When you hire the services of an appraiser you are seeking professional advice. You
must expect to pay a reasonable price for an expert opinion and evaluation. The
"appraiser" who whips you up a document in a matter of minutes..."here,
this is good enough for your insurance company" is doing you no service. Rest
assured, he will not be around if there is a problem either with the value or with the
description. The fee you pay covers not only the time it takes to prepare an appraisal in
which you can have confidence, but also the investment in the training, equipment and
other resources that are necessary to do the job well. In this, as in most cases, the
cheapest is not the best!