Insurance Appraisals

Shane Denney, FGA, GG

Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (1983)
Graduate Gemologist, Gemological Institute Of America (1982)


Jewelry Appraisals

You may bring in your jewelry for appraisal at any time.  You will normally be asked to leave it with us so our appraiser can thoroughly examine, describe and value your items.  If you leave fewer than ten items, your jewelry can normally be picked up within a few days.  Larger appraisals, of twenty or thirty items or more, will normally need to be left for three to four weeks.  Our appraisal charges< are based upon the amount of time involved; we will give you an estimate before we proceed.  Your appraisal document consists of a permanent file copy for you, with complete descriptions and photographs of all your jewelry, and a copy for your insurance company. We keep a duplicate copy in our files as well, along with any worksheets we have used.

“I just inherited a group of jewelry, and I don’t even know if it is worth appraising.”  This is very common; you have inherited your mother’s jewelry, and it very well could contain both fine jewelry items and costume jewelry.  Part of our normal service at the time of appraisal take-in is helping you sort through what you have and helping you determine what you need to leave for appraisal.  If you are in any doubt about the value of an item, bring it in!

Report Accuracy It is not unusual for there to be slight differences in weights, measurements, and subjective quality grades assigned by different qualified appraisers.  Where such differences exist the description page indicates the extent of reliance or reconciliation and that data which had been relied on for the value conclusion.

How is the Appraisal Fee Determined: Federal tax courts require appraisal fees to be based on an hourly rate. The time required to complete an appraisal is dependant on the intensity of work, number of markets requested, and the market research required. Old appraisals and receipts can reduce the cost of your appraisal significantly.

Keep your Original Appraisal: Keep your appraisal with other important documents and send copies to your insurance company or other interested parties.

New Purchases: Ask for a detailed written description when you purchase. The seller often has first-hand knowledge of the item enabling them to document the item more accurately.

Updates: Have your appraisal checked approximately every five years to keep from being over or under insured.

Metal Classification: A stamped marking on an item of jewelry is not proof of the metal quality. Anyone can obtain or make a stamp and use it on an item. Determination of metal content is based on the appraisers experience with similar items.

Sterling Silver – 925 = 92.5% Silver
19 karat gold = 800 = 80% Gold
18 karat gold = 750 = 75% Gold
14 karat gold = 585 = 58.5% Gold
10 karat gold = 41.66% Gold
PT950 = 95% Platinum 5% Cobalt
PD950 = 95% Palladium 5% Ruthenium
PT900 IRID 100 = 90% Platinum, 10% Iridium

The Makers Trademark: Federal law requires that all jewelry with a quality mark also display a registered trademark. When an item’s stamped trademark is familiar to the appraiser, and affects the value of the item, it will be noted in the report. Such notation is not proof of authenticity but rather a statement that it is the appraiser’s opinion of origin and that this information was taken into account in arriving at the value conclusion. Reliance on the manufacturer or craftsman’s trademark which accompanies the quality stamp is contingent on the known reliability of the maker’s quality stamping; the appraiser knowing or having reason to believe that the item in question can properly be attributed to that maker or craftsman, and the item shows no sign of serious or major alteration or repair since the time of its manufacture.

Metal Testing: When the appraisal states that a metal was tested, it indicates that an acid test was performed. The acid test involves scratching the item on a test stone and comparing the reaction of the scratch to the scratch of an alloy tipped test needle, or by observing reactions of the scratch such as effervescence or color change, when the scratch is exposed to an appropriate acid mixture. The obvious limitation of this test is that it tests only the immediate surface layer and is not an absolute assurance of the quality or content of the core of the item. For this reason heft, or specific gravity testing is also helpful but these have similar limitations. This test is considered a reliable indication of metal content since it is not practical to damage an item to identify it. Even this test will often be bypassed with items in new condition or which are fragile or of antique or period value, which may be endangered by this test.

Appraisal Definitions

The appraiser must know the purpose, and function of the appraisal, or the values will be invalid.

Sample Appraisal Purposes:

Retail Replacement Value: Retail replacement value is the mode of prices paid in the most common market for that item.  A full-retail value conclusion is often an integral part of a resale appraisal.  Sellers of items may need this value to insure them if left on consignment or pawned.

Estate Appraisal: An ambiguous term to which value cannot be attached without further qualifying the purpose and function of the appraisal (i.e. for federal estate tax, state probate, distribution to heirs, insurance, resale, etc.)

Federal Tax Appraisal: A report on fair market value as defined by the Internal Revenue Code and the U.S. Tax Court that should only be prepared by one specifically trained in tax appraisals.

Evaluation Report: A qualitative analysis or description of a piece, which may, or may not include a value conclusion.  Such reports lay the groundwork for disposal by explaining too owners just what they have and what might be done to improve its value.  In addition, evaluation reports can help prevent switching stones when items are consigned or pawned.

Liquidation: Refers to a consumer need and not a specific type of value since liquidation value depends on the time available to sell.

Resale Appraisal: A multi-market evaluation and valuation report written in narrative form.  Such reports outline the options available to sellers and indicate the values, which may be realized from these options.  The report may be restricted to specific time frame or provide for multiple time frames.  In addition, values may be stated as specific figures or ranges.  Given their depth of research and retail, plus the potential liability for negligence, resale appraisals should only be written by individuals trained in appraisal principles.

Protect Your Jewelry From Theft

Never leave your jewelry on a dresser, in a jewelry box, or on a counter.  Burglars will make a very thorough search of bedrooms looking for valuables.  Jewelry boxes and dresser drawers are the first places a thief will look for your valuables.  This search could extend to other places like refrigerators and kitchen cabinets.  Put your jewelry in a safe place, away from children and pets.  Don’t forget where you hide it.

Do not leave jewelry at home when you travel.  Store it in a safe deposit box or personal safe.  Discuss safes with your locksmith before you purchase, and be sure it is securely bolted or fastened in place.  If you take jewelry with you on a trip use the hotel’s security vault.  Do not pack jewelry in your luggage.

An appraisal is an important part of your Personal Property policy.  To protect your jewelry properly, have a qualified professional appraise your jewelry.  A professional appraisal provides a complete and detailed description of your jewelry.  In case of loss the appraisal will help to determine if the replacement is of like kind and quality.

Questions to Ask Your Insurer

  • What is the charge per thousand dollars for all risk?
  • Is there a deductible?
  • Do I have the option to increase the deductible to lower my premium?
  • What other types of insurance are available?
  • What are the premium reductions if the valuables are protected by a burglar alarm, home safe, or safety deposit box?
  • Am I limited to the appraised replacement cost if there is a sizable increase in value?
  • Am I covered if I am negligent?
  • Is the item covered if it is lost, stolen, or damaged while in another person’s possession?
  • What proof is needed to justify a claim?
  • If the insurance company provides the replacement, will I be allowed to verify proper replacement with an independent accredited appraiser before settling?
  • Does the company ever impose depreciation on personal property?

We Recommend ALL Risk insurance