Step By Step Process for Buying and Appraising Jewelry
Before the purchase
- Research—If you have an idea of the type of jewelry you are looking for, you will find an enormous amount of information available on the internet or at the local library, regarding quality, origin and style. Research the retail outlet as well; it’s reputation, and policies on returns, servicing, etc.
- Comparison Shopping—Most salespeople in fine jewelry stores are well trained about the jewelry they sell and how to present it in its best light. To avoid buyer’s remorse, it is best to shop around and compare, but remember to compare apples with apples. There are many elements of quality that affect the price.
Making a purchase
- Inspect the item carefully—Jewelry is an emotionally motivated purchase and it is easy to see the piece through rose-colored glasses. Look for markings stamped on the metal that are appropriate to the item, and for unique characteristics in the gemstone or diamond. Be sure to ask the salesperson to verify that what you are seeing is natural and not damage sustained in the manufacturing process.
- Understand the item’s origins—In our technologically advancing society, it is ever more important to ask questions about the origin of the gemstones and the level of treatment they have received. For example, are the beautiful pearls you are considering natural, cultured saltwater, Chinese freshwater or South Sea? Have they been irradiated or dyed? Has the diamond been fracture filled or in any way enhanced? Is the process permanent? Does it require special care?
- Know the Return Policy—Get it in writing on the sales receipt along with a complete description of the newly purchased jewelry item, including the answers to questions pertaining to origin and treatment, quality, size, etc.
- Get a Diamond or Gemstone “Certification”—Many significant diamonds and gemstones are accompanied by independent laboratory reports, often referred to as “certificates.” Gemstone and diamond identification, grading and origin verification require scientific processes, and involve subjective conclusions. Therefore, an independent laboratory report, prepared by an industry respected laboratory, i.e. GIA, EGL, AGS, performed while the diamond or gemstone is out of its mounting, is imperative on any major purchase. These reports consist of quality analysis only and do not (or should not) include value information. A laboratory report is not the same as an appraisal. You should receive the original laboratory report (certificate) with your item, or very shortly thereafter.
After the Purchase
Many people get jewelry appraised to document and verify the quality and value of the piece. Appraisals are used for insurance purposes, for estate planning, dispute resolution, etc. Be sure to tell the appraiser what the appraisal will be used for as the intended purpose dictates the type of value used in the appraisal.
- Choose an independent and well qualified appraiser—A qualified appraiser is an accredited member of a nationally recognized appraisal organization such as the American Society of Appraisers, as well as a Graduate Gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. These organizations require re-certification and continuing education to maintain accreditation. It is important to review the appraiser’s credentials to ensure that they are still active.
- Get jewelry appraised quickly—Getting jewelry appraised while the item can still be returned under the store’s return policy is a great way to insure that the piece is as it was represented. Many reputable jewelers will allow potential buyers to have the jewelry item appraised by a qualified appraiser as a condition of the sale.
- Provide pertinent information —By providing the appraiser with all known information about the jewelry you wish to have appraised, including special documentation and certificates, laboratory reports, and receipts, you will be sure to receive a complete and accurate appraisal report.
If there is a problem with a jewelry purchase, there are a few options. First, try to resolve the issue with the jewelry store. In most cases, a reasonable settlement can be reached by negotiation. If that doesn’t work, contact the local Better Business Bureau. Consumers can also try the Jewelers Vigilance Committee Alternative Dispute Resolution Service which was set up to assist consumers in settling disputes with members of the jewelry industry.
ASA is an international organization of appraisal professionals and others dedicated to the education, development, and growth of the appraisal profession. ASA is the oldest and only major organization representing all disciplines of appraisal specialists, originating in 1936, and incorporating in 1952. ASA’s headquarters is in the metropolitan Washington, DC., area. Visit the ASA website at www.appraisers.org