Appraisal Information

Mark Cartwright

Mark Cartwright

Friday, 21 September 2018 11:59

Appraisal Basics

An appraisal is a considered opinion of the identity, condition, relative quality and value of a specific item at a certain time within a specifically defined market for a specifically defined purpose that is developed by an independent, trained appraiser who is familiar with that type of item, after careful examination, authentication and value research in the appropriate market.

Appraisers have to discover the answers to the following:


The first step in any appraisal is identification.  The gemologist/appraiser has to test and authenticate the item to know exactly what he or she is dealing with.  Without the training and equipment to positively answer this question everything else will just be a guess.


Any damage or wear on an item is an important material fact and must be reported in every appraisal.  The type and extent of damage can have a significant impact on value or utility; or, it may not.  That will depend on the "intended use" of the report and if it's an appraisal, the appropriate market will influence the impact it has.  Only training and experience will allow the gemologist/appraiser to recognize the impact, if any, that damage or wear has on the value or functionality of an item.


Qualitative analysis, or "grading" is the process of determining the relative quality of an item compared to the entire universe of similar things.  In other words, compared to the finest known example, where does this one fit?  It's a form of "ranking" and is an essential part of every appraisal.  Only training and experience can allow an appraiser to accurately judge the quality of an item.  If the appraiser has never seen the finest; can they really know how the one they're examining compares?

Real or Fake 

Authentication is an essential part of every appraisal; especially if provenance or possible alteration could affect the value.  It's part of the identification process but takes things to another level of understanding.  Only specialized knowledge and experience can allow an appraiser to provide an opinion of authenticity.  For most jewelry and watches, only the original manufacturer can positively authenticate the piece.  Most appraisals are based on the "more likely than not" level of authentication and as such are always opinions rather than facts.

Intended Use

It's important to understand that things don't have "a value"; they can and do have many possible values.  Are you buying, selling, insuring, liquidating, gifting, funding a trust, filing bankruptcy, paying tax, settling a damage claim or bartering? Every appraisal has an "intended use".  The intended use will impact the appropriate market, type of value and approach to value that will be most likely to result in a credible value.  We'll discuss each of those things during our initial meeting.

Type of Value

If no one wants the item, there is no market and therefore no monetary value. For example, a finger-painting done by my daughter is priceless to me, but if no one would buy it, it has no market and therefore no monetary value.  For me it has vast sentimental value.  For some intended uses and types of reports you will get to choose among several possible types of value and we'll discuss which would best serve your needs.  For other intended uses a specific type of value is required.

Effective Date of Value 

Certain legal requirements may dictate that the value of an item must be determined as of a specific date. For example, for a non-cash charitable contribution, the date that ownership is transferred is the valuation effective date, not the date the appraisal was written.  Unless there's a specific legal requirement, you can choose an effective date in the past, present, or future. For example, in an insurance acquisition appraisal, either the date of inspection or the date the appraisal is written can be used.

For current prices or to discuss how we can best serve you, contact us or

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 22:43

Appraising the Appraiser

Your appraisal is only as good as the education, training and experience of the person who prepares it.

Experience that matters.

I've been involved with the retail jewelry industry since 1983 when I opened a jewelry store with my father after many years of cutting gemstones and making jewelry.  I understood that to provide accurate appraisals I needed to gain more knowledge and began what's become decades of formal training in appraising gems and jewelry. My advanced titles in the fields of gemology and appraising are your assurance that the appraisal I prepare for you will withstand the scrutiny of any court or insurance adjuster. I've earned the highest designations of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA), the American Gem Society (AGS), the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA), the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), and the International Society of Appraisers (ISA).  As part of the requirements for the ICGA title with the American Gem Society I also completed the three Jewelers Education Foundation Advanced Personal Property Appraiser courses and passed the comprehensive examination.  I chose to relinquish my Certified Appraiser of Personal Property designation and my membership in ISA in 2013 to focus my energies on the other organizations. All of my designations were earned through prescribed study and testing and all require re-certification on a regular basis except my GG diploma from GIA and APPA designation.

Continually Updated Expertise.

It is essential for every gemologist to stay current with rapidly changing technologies for gemstone enhancement and lab grown diamond and gems, as well as discoveries of new gemstone sources and gem varieties.  As part of the requirements for my current designations I undertake extensive continuing education including remaining current with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) of The Appraisal Foundation which are updated every two years.  My Graduate Gemologist diploma from GIA and my APPA designation do not require continuing education; however, I attend classes and seminars regularly to remain current with the state of the industry. I regularly attend the important Trade shows and educational conferences sponsored by ASA, GIA, AGS, NAJA, AGA and AGTA.  These events provide me with up-to-date knowledge and training to better serve your needs. Continually changing Federal regulations and tax code as well as bi-annual changes to USPAP requirements may affect your ability to defend appraised values in Tax Court or other litigation circumstances.  I stay current so you can receive the best appraisal I can offer and information that will protect your interests.

Expert, Impartial Advice.

I don’t buy or sell gems or jewelry to the public so you can be assured that I will remain unbiased in my valuation and grading. I'm here to be your expert and I offer a variety of consultation services in addition to formal appraisal and grading reports. After our consultation, you’ll feel much more comfortable with your ability to recognize the many factors that contribute to quality, value and price.  See the Consultation Services section of the website for more details

Timely Reports.

Appraisals, gemological services and consulting is all I do. Your report is done quickly, accurately and on time.  Contact me and I will let you know my current lead time and if necessary we can make special arrangements to meet your deadlines.

AGS Accredited Gemological Laboratory

The Gem Lab, I.C.G.A. is one of very few Independent AGS Accredited Gem Labs in the world.  Our well equipped gem lab can test the identity and quality of your diamonds, colored gemstones, pearls, watches and other jewelry. If needed, advanced testing will be recommended and we can use our established accounts to make arrangements with the most appropriate laboratory for the necessary tests.  Sometimes advanced testing is necessary to positively identify lab grown diamonds or diamonds that have been altered using high pressure - high temperature (HTHP) processes.  Our screening techniques can separate diamonds that may require such testing.

Flexible Appointment Times.

I strongly encourage appointments because without one you may have a very long wait or I may not be in the office at all.  I prefer to set up appointments Monday - Friday; but, with sufficient advanced notice I can be available pretty much 24/7.  In fact, I can come to you. My portable gem lab allows me to bring any of our services to your location if desired. This can be especially useful for very large or very important estates that require extra security or any time when this level of convenience is worth paying the added expense.

For current prices or to discuss how we can best serve you please contact us or

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 21:38

"Free" Appraisals

Why a "Free" Appraisal Isn’t Worth Even That Much.

Could you hand your “free appraisal” to a total stranger and expect them to identify your jewelry in a crowded pawn shop showcase? How about in all of the showcases in all of the pawnshops in your area? If the answer is “not a chance”, then that’s exactly the likelihood of recovering your jewelry or of getting an accurate replacement from the insurance company.

• It's really important to understand that you are insuring an item; not a "value".  The document you provide to the Insurance Company that describe that item are your only legal protection and are the sole basis of any claim settlement. The more vague or incomplete the description is, the better it is for the Insurance Company.

• A common mistake that people make is to use the “free appraisal” provided by the seller to bind their insurance coverage. Or worse yet, they use the sales receipt. They rely on their Agent to tell them if the documentation is okay.  The Agent rarely has the expertise to recognize a good appraisal and will gladly accept minimal documentation. He’s working for the Insurance Company and he knows that providing adequate documentation is your responsibility. The Agent primarily cares about the “appraised value”: it directly impacts your premium and his commission. The description is there to protect you. Does it?

• Does the free appraisal accurately reflect what you paid or did the seller inflate the claimed value to show you what a “deal” you got?  Common sense would indicate that an appropriate replacement value is the amount for which they sold it to you.  Why would you want to pay higher premiums for a phony, inflated value when any claim will be settled based on the description?

• Did the seller try to protect himself by using broad ranges for size and quality? For example, if you submit a document that describes your diamond: “Approx. 1 carat, H-J color, SI clarity diamond”. Is a 0.89 ct. diamond “approx. 1 carat”?  Is it H color, I color of J color?  Is it SI-1 or SI-2 clarity? The price difference between a 1 carat H color, SI-1 clarity and a 0.89 ct J color SI-2 clarity is nearly double. Since you provided an appraisal that gives them a choice, which do you think the Insurance Company will use to replace your diamond? At the very least the description in your free appraisal should match the seller’s sales pitch. Only an independent, trained appraiser can verify the seller's claims and provide you with accurate values and descriptions that protect your interests.

• As a cautionary note, if you submit an appraisal to the insurance company in which either the grades or values are knowingly inflated or intentionally misleading in your favor the insurer may consider that to be fraud or conspiracy to commit fraud.  Remember, your policy is a legal contract.

• If your policy allows the option of cash instead of letting the Insurance Company “repair or replace”, then you should verify how the amount you receive is calculated.  In most policies the insurer is only obligated for their cost to repair or replace whatever is described in the documents you provided.  The Insurance Company may request bids from replacement companies based on the description in your free appraisal and you would get a check in the amount of the lowest bid!

• So you lose twice. You pay inflated premiums and you get a replacement that doesn’t match what you really had; or, you get a check for a fraction of what it will cost you to replace your jewelry.  All from using a "Free Appraisal".

So what is a Free Appraisal actually worth?  At best, next to nothing; at worst…???

How much is an independent, accurate, professional appraisal worth?  Everything!

For current prices or to discuss how we can best serve you contact us or

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 21:12

A Traveler’s Guide To Buying Jewelry

Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)
Your trip will provide you with memories that will last a lifetime. If you decide to purchase gems or jewelry as a more tangible reminder, there are some things you should keep in mind. When you leave the U.S., you leave behind the consumer protection laws and legal recourse that we all take for granted. For centuries throughout the world the basic rule of commerce has been that it is the buyers’ responsibility to know what they’re buying and how much it is worth; and so it is today. The intrinsic value of gems and jewelry crosses international borders, so be suspicious of any unbelievable deals and huge discounts; but, bargains do exist for the astute shopper. Make sure that you have and understand your return privileges through the cruise line or your credit card company.  If necessary, we can provide the independent appraisal that is usually required.  ALWAYS READ THE REFUND POLICY ON THE BACK OF THE RECEIPT BEFORE YOU PURCHASE. 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Your stay in port will be temporary. Any merchant you deal with doesn’t expect to ever see you again and they are not trying to build a long-term relationship like your jeweler back home. Returns or exchanges are unlikely or difficult at best. The cruise line, the on-ship "adviser", the store manager, and the sales person will all be paid a commission on your purchase so don’t expect unbiased, accurate answers to your questions. It’s your job to know if they're telling the truth about quality and value and to protect yourself.  If you know that you'll be shopping for gems or jewelry on your trip it might be wise to schedule a CONSULTATION with us to learn the realities you'll be facing.

A Gem & Jewelry Primer

Precious Metals
Gold, platinum and silver are considered the “precious metals”. All are too malleable in their pure state to function very well as jewelry; although, in some parts of the world they are used as pure or nearly pure metals.  In most parts of the world they are alloyed with other metals to give them strength and/or alter the color.  Since pure gold is "24 karat", the term karat when used with gold refers to how many 24ths pure gold is present in the alloy, by weight.  Sometimes the purity is expressed in 3 digit numbers representing decimals.  It might be 18K (18/24ths pure gold), sometimes stamped “750”, 14K or “585” or 10K or “416”. Platinum can be marked “PLAT” or “PT950 which indicates 95% purity, “PLAT 900”, or “10% Irid. Plat.” Silver can be “STERLING” also stamped “925”, or “900” silver (called “coin” silver). Without these fineness marks the jewelry may or may not be made of precious metals. Even if present, outside the U.S. there may be no legal assurance that they are accurate. The U.S. also requires that a “maker’s mark” to identify the manufacturer is stamped on precious metal jewelry along with the fineness mark.  Look for both stamps on the jewelry before you buy.

Synthetic and Fake Gemstones
There have been fake gemstones sold as natural for thousands of years. They haven’t gone away; in fact, the technology has gotten much better. Synthetic gems differ from imitations ("fakes") by possessing the same gemological properties as the natural gem, making them much harder to detect. Many jewelers are fooled and many more never test the gemstones they sell. With that in mind, always ask directly if the stone is genuine and natural; never assume anything. Gems and jewelry are very, very rarely good “investments” for making money; but, they are often great emotional investments in love and beauty. Remember, it’s your job to know and always get everything the seller is claiming in writing on the receipt.

Popular Gems

Emerald: The finest are a vibrant, medium-dark, pure, to slightly bluish-green color with very few eye-visible inclusions.  Eye-visible inclusions in emerald are very common and are sometimes called “jardín” which is pronounced "har deen".  As one of the most treasured gems in the world, true bargains on fine emeralds are as rare as the stones themselves. Laboratory grown emeralds are VERY common and often difficult to detect since they can also have eye-visible inclusions. Nearly all emeralds have been “oiled”; meaning the surface-reaching fractures have been filled with something to improve the apparent clarity. Ask the seller how much oiling is present.  It usually isn't permanent and you'll need to use caution when wearing emeralds.

Tanzanite: The finest are vivid, deep shades of pure blue to violet-blue and free of eye-visible inclusions. They will often look bluer in sunlight and more violet under incandescent lights. Fine stones will be expensive, but the medium blue, lavender and pastel shades are much more common and inexpensive.  Don't be fooled into believing that tanzanite is a good financial investment.  It is very easily damaged so consider that fact if you decide to wear it as a ring. Very convincing imitations are fairly common and not easy to identify.

Alexandrite: The finest change from vivid, medium-dark green in in-direct daylight to vivid medium-dark red in candlelight. Brazilian stones are more bluish-green and purplish-red. Stones with weak, incomplete or muddy color change will have little value. Most natural alexandrite will have some minor eye-visible inclusions. Lab grown alexandrite can be difficult to detect and is very common. Imitations are also very common. Fine quality, inexpensive stones are not likely to be natural.  Fine quality natural alexandrite in sizes larger than 3 carats are very rare and very expensive.

Topaz: Fine “Imperial” topaz is very rare and expensive, paler shades are more common, much less expensive and called “precious topaz”. The finest are vivid, medium, golden orange with red or pink over-tones and are free of eye-visible inclusions. It looks very little like inexpensive Citrine, which is sometimes called “Brazilian topaz,” “smoky topaz” or “Madeira topaz”. Blue topaz is cheap because the blue color is created by irradiation. U.S. law requires testing for residual radioactivity before it’s sold; other countries may not require testing.

Aquamarine: Sometimes confused with blue topaz, except in fine qualities. The best are vivid, medium, slightly greenish blue and free of inclusions. They can be quite large, 20-carat stones aren't unusual.  Laboratory grown aquamarine is available; but not common.  It is often imitated by synthetic spinel, glass and blue topaz.

Diamond: The value of diamonds transcends borders. Finding a bargain on a diamond may mean that something is being misrepresented. Subtle variations in even one quality aspect of a diamond can mean huge differences in value.  Always insist on a grading report from either GIA Lab or AGS Lab because many of the other laboratories have very different standards that tend to favor the seller.  Always be sure the stone has a laser inscription of the report number (it will say so in the report) and that the report is less than 5 years old.  Laboratory grown diamonds are becoming much more common and can be much less expensive.  Be aware that as with any manufactured gemstone, lab grown diamonds are unlikely to have any long term value and since their recent introduction retail prices have been steadily falling.  There are also several difficult to detect treatments to improve the color or clarity of a diamond. In the U.S. disclosure of these alterations is required; that may not be the case in your port of call.  ALWAYS READ THE REFUND POLICY ON THE BACK OF THE RECEIPT BEFORE YOU PURCHASE. 

As you shop for sparkling treasures on your travels, the more you know, the better your chances of success; but the real treasures are the joyful memories.

For current prices or to discuss how we can best serve you Contact Us or

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 21:10

Insuring Your Jewelry

The sole basis for your insurance coverage and any claim you file is the appraisal. The jewelry is insured, not the dollar value. That means ONLY the description and specific quality as spelled out in your appraisal is considered in a claim; NOT the dollar value. In a claim, you may not be paid the appraised value, but your premium will be based on it.

So, isn’t a great appraisal worth paying for?

Know Your Coverage: You should thoroughly understand the limits of your policy and what coverage options are available to you; always ask see the specific language in your policy that addresses your concerns. You can use these questions as a starting point.


Questions for Your Insurance Agent


1. Is a current appraisal the best way to assure full coverage? Define “current”.

2. Should I update my appraisal regularly?

3. If the appraiser’s an expert, such as an Master Gemologist Appraiser ®, will my claim & replacement value be more readily accepted?

4. If there’s a loss, do I have the option of a cash payout of the full appraised value?

5. If you pay less than the appraised value, how is the amount you pay determined?

6. Will you explain an “agreed value” policy? How does the premium differ?

7. What’s the difference between scheduled and unscheduled coverage?

8. Please explain “replacement value” and “actual cash value”; which is my policy?

9. Is my coverage “all risk” or are there any specific exclusions such as mysterious disappearance or     negligence?

10. How is damage or partial loss handled?

11. Do I get to choose whether something is repaired or replaced and by whom?

12. What is the “sets and pairs” clause? Will an additional amount be paid for matching a missing part       of a set or pair even if it isn’t specified in the appraisal?

13. Is my jewelry covered in someone else’s possession or if I’m out of the country?

14. May I go to whomever I choose for replacement or do you decide?

15. If I must use the company’s source, are they local and if so, who is it?

16. If replacement is through the insurance company’s source, may I verify adequate replacement by       an appraiser of my choice? Who pays for that appraisal?

17. If the value of my jewelry increases, is a settlement limited by the appraised value? Does an       “inflation guard” apply?

18. Is depreciation ever imposed? If so, to which items & how is it computed?

19. How are irreplaceable or “antique” items handled? How will I be compensated?

20. What kinds of property or damage aren’t covered? For instance, is damage to a watch crystal       covered?

21. Is loss of the watch due to water damage caused by a broken crystal covered?

22. Will specific precautions lower my premium, such as a security system?

23. What proof is needed to file a claim?

24. Will a claim affect my continued coverage or my premium rate?

25. What is the rate per $1000 and do all insurers charge the same rate?

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 21:04

Selling Your Jewelry

A Stroll Down Reality Lane

First, let me be clear that what follows includes generalizations and my personal opinions. Without examining your specific item of jewelry and conducting the appropriate research it would be impossible for me or anyone else to provide an accurate value, value range or credible sales advice. Generalizations are intended to give “general” guidance and advice and as always, there are exceptions for which they will not apply. Some examples of those “exceptions” include: “Signed” pieces by famous or collectable designers / jewelers, antique or “period” jewelry that is in excellent or pristine condition or items with “significant” gems or diamonds. For that type of jewelry you should consult a qualified independent appraiser for unbiased advice and a private consultation before you sell.

The purpose of this information isn’t to discourage you or to belittle what may be a legitimate need to convert your tangible assets into cash. My hope is that by introducing some reality into the situation you can approach the sale of your jewelry items with a clearer vision of what constitutes a “fair” offer. Unrealistic expectations can only cause more emotional trauma in what may be an already painful financial situation. I hope you will explore other areas of this website dealing with selling your jewelry, and especially the concepts of “forced liquidation”, “orderly liquidation” and “market value”. As always, you can contact us.

Here’s the short version:

1) Jewelry (gemstones, diamonds, etc) is NOT an investment and unless something unthinkable happens or you hold onto it for decades (long enough for inflation to make a difference) you’re unlikely to recoup your original purchase price.
2) No one in the jewelry trade, at any level, will ever pay you more than a fraction of their wholesale cost for a comparable new item.
3) With few exceptions (pawn shop, second-hand or “estate” jeweler), everyone in the jewelry trade will consider your used jewelry as “scrap” or basically raw materials that they will have to invest time & money into before it can become saleable as new jewelry. As such, they will offer a percentage of their wholesale cost for the materials. It will likely be a reasonable offer, given the reality of their expenses.
4) Used jewelry has limited appeal in the market; especially wedding & engagement rings. Think about it, how many couples in love are in the market for someone else’s rings from a failed relationship? A fair percentage of the retail price of jewelry is based on the “sentimental” value of the buying experience.
5) Unless you’re selling something so amazing and fabulous that the marketplace is eagerly searching for it, you can assume it will take weeks, months or even years to find a private buyer. Most jewelers feel fortunate if they can turn their inventory in a year; and they advertise heavily and have lots of “traffic”. You’re searching for one person looking for the exact style, design, quality and condition of your single item of used inventory and who agrees with your price and has the cash to buy it. (you don’t take VISA, do you?)
6) You didn’t pay wholesale. No one in the jewelry industry is going to sell something to you for less than they could sell it to someone else. It makes absolutely no sense for a legitimate wholesale vendor to take money out of his own pocket and they won’t do it. Any sales pitch to the contrary is likely to be capable of organically fertilizing a large corn field.

Here’s the longer version:

MYTH: Jewelry (gemstones, diamonds, watches, etc) is an investment.
TRUTH: Jewelry is a depreciable asset... much like a car, boat, furniture and clothing.
That means as soon as you purchase a piece of jewelry, it loses a substantial amount of its “value”. It doesn’t matter if you wear an engagement ring for 10 years or 10 days; it is USED jewelry. In general, the longer it is worn, the greater the loss in value; primarily because 2 very important value considerations for used jewelry are “condition” and “style”. In order for any commodity to be considered an “investment” there needs to be reasonable certainty that it will appreciate in value beyond the rate of inflation and there needs to be a readily accessible & active market for buying & selling directly to other “investors”. Jewelry (gemstones, diamonds, etc) meets neither of those criteria. Only the very finest and rarest examples of jewelry (gemstones, diamonds, etc) have the slightest potential to appreciate in value in the long term; commercial grade material is now, has been and will continue to be readily available and cheap. As an antique dealer friend of mine once told me: “If it was cheap piece of junk in 1890, it is now just a very old piece of cheap junk.” It applies especially to jewelry.

MYTH: I have an appraisal for $5000; that means I should be able to sell it for $2500.
TRUTH: Chances are, your appraisal is meaningless (and probably has been from the beginning). If your “appraisal” was provided by the jeweler who sold the item to “help you get insurance” then you need to understand several things. If the “appraised value” isn’t the same as the selling price then it was worthless from the beginning. If the purpose of the “appraisal” was to help you insure the item, then it is a statement of the price to replace the item with a brand new item in that specific store... your USED jewelry is NOT for sale in that store and is NOT new. In exactly the same way that there is no relationship between the MSRP sticker price of a brand new car on the Dealer’s showroom floor and the value of your used car sitting in your driveway. THERE IS NO DIRECT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PRICE OF NEW JEWELRY AND THE VALUE OF USED JEWELRY. That means, no matter how much we’ve heard “people” say it, the reality is, it is impossible to determine the value of a used piece of jewelry based on an “insurance” appraisal. My job would be so much easier if it was possible to apply some magic formula to arrive at a meaningful value when starting with a grossly inflated “appraisal” by an untrained jewelry salesman... In fact, it is impossible even when starting from a professionally done and accurate insurance appraisal... there’s no direct relationship to the values.

MYTH: I showed it to a jeweler who said it was worth about $5000; so I should be able to sell it for $2500.
TRUTH: Such “off the cuff” valuations are worth less than you paid the jeweler... oh, that’s right, it cost you nothing! And that’s pretty much what you got; or less. Without actually evaluating the item (cut, color, clarity, carat weight of stones, metal quality, quality of workmanship, maker’s mark, etc) and then conducting actual market research (is the style currently desirable in the market, is the maker sought after, what market is appropriate, how long you’re going to spend trying to sell it, who is your target buyer, current gold, silver, platinum markets, auction activity, prices offered by resale retailers, prices paid by resale retailers, etc) IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT A MEANINGFUL VALUE on used jewelry. Chances are, the jeweler was tossing out a vague opinion of the “retail price of a similar new item” based on zero facts that would make that opinion worth believing. He was probably hoping to make you feel good about him by stroking your ego (or at least not insult you with an actual offer to buy) so you might come back sometime to purchase from him.

MYTH: I want to sell my jewelry, I have to have an appraisal.
TRUTH: Maybe. In most cases, you really need “offers to buy” more than you need an appraisal. We offer a variety of services besides appraisals that can be much more useful for the seller of used jewelry and not as costly. My usual rule of thumb is if the item is very old, very valuable or very unique you may need an appraisal and the authentication / quality analysis and detail that goes with it. If you plan to sell the item to a private party and it is sufficiently valuable to be able to add the cost of the appraisal back into the price, an appraisal may add enough perceived “value” to close the sale. In most other cases, there are other services that work better.

MYTH: I bought it on the internet (or cable TV) for $2500 wholesale; I should be able to sell it for $5000.
TRUTH: You paid retail. Maybe it was a lower retail than in a brick & mortar jewelry store, maybe not; either way, it was still a retail transaction. Ask yourself this question: Could my “customer” buy it from the same place and at the same price that I bought it? Yes, they can. So, why would someone pay you more than they need to? They wouldn’t. No matter how convincingly you were lied to, the fact remains that it was a lie designed to separate you from your money. Chances are anyone in the jewelry trade could buy the same item for less than you paid and have 30 – 90 days to pay for it... they aren’t likely to be interested in buying yours; especially for more than they would pay elsewhere.

MYTH: Jewelers mark-up everything 100% to 300%; if I ask half-price, the jeweler should be willing to pay me that much.
TRUTH: There is no “standard” markup in the jewelry industry. Most of the time, the more something cost a jeweler, the lower his percentage markup (and many don’t even price based on a straight percentage markup). In every market area, the level of competition, the training and services offered by the jewelry store, its status in the community, its overhead and other costs of doing business will determine the amount of gross profit necessary for that specific store to stay in business. You will probably never know the actual markup that any specific jeweler adds to his cost; you can, however, be absolutely positive of the following: No jeweler will ever pay you the same amount for your used jewelry that he can pay for a new one from his wholesale supplier. He can order only what he needs, when he actually needs it, pay only if it sells and get 90 day payment terms; so why would a jeweler want to own it, why buy it from you, for cash, without a known customer? He doesn’t unless there’s a financial incentive to do so... namely a price that is a fraction of wholesale for the materials.

So what can you do?
First, take it to a jeweler and have him tighten stones, clean & polish it to “like new” condition; no matter how you sell, first appearances are important for getting you the best offer. Obviously, if you have an antique or collectable item, only deal with jewelers who know their stuff; and they may advise you that polishing away the patina will lower the value... even if they don’t advise you of that fact, it may be true so use caution.

Second, take a deep breath and try to remove any emotional attachments from what is a purely business transaction.  Most of us feel a sentimental attachment to the jewelry we or a loved one has owned; the buyer of your jewelry has absolutely no such feeling and is thinking only in dollars and cents.  It is important that you adopt the same attitude and try to see things from their perspective while trying to further your own financial interests.  Try not to be insulted by an initial offer to buy; make a counter offer and try to come to an agreement that you and the buyer can live with; remember, it’s strictly business and not personal.

Third, forget about your old insurance appraisals or sales receipts; they are meaningless in this situation.  On the other hand, if you have any third party diamond grading reports (GIA, EGL, IGI, etc) that describe the center diamond bring them with you.  An impartial quality assessment of the most valuable part of the jewelry will increase the comfort level of the buyer and help you get the most money for your jewelry.  In fact, a Grading Report is one of those non-appraisal “services” that we offer and recommend to people wanting to sell their jewelry.

Finally, when your emotions have settled down, don’t be put-off about buying or owning jewelry in the future.  Of all of the depreciable assets you might own (furniture, clothing, boats, automobiles, etc), jewelry still retains more of its original price than any other.  The intrinsic value of precious metals and gems endures; the difference in monetary worth is largely a matter of markets.  The item was probably purchased in the market with the highest price and at the end of the manufacturing & marketing chain but when liquidated it is most often sold in the market for used raw materials... but at least those raw materials still retain some value through time and across international borders.

For current prices or to discuss how we can best serve you

American Gem Society
Gemological Institute of America Inc.
American Society of Appraisers
National Association of Jewelry Appraisers
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