About Jewellery Appraisals
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 accessible records. 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 your jeweller.
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!