Our retail store employs an independent gem lab for appraisals only.
Along with retail sales and repairs, we can also provide an
independent appraisal for customers. Is there a future in it? Well,
while we do a fair amount of appraisals, I’d be reluctant to rely on
it as primary income. The main advantage is having no inventory to
bother with. However, equipment is expensive, and a set of diamond
masterstones is required. Although CZ stones are accurate when
purchased, professional appraisers don’t like to rely on them, citing
that they may change color in time. You can’t simply buy a set of
masterstones, either. You have to assemble your own set and have them
graded and certified at a recognized gem lab, such as GIA.
If you really want to get into jewelry appraisal, GIA’s GG program
is a good start, but it isn’t enough by itself. Further education is
necessary. The American Society of Appraisers (ASA) has a great
Master Gemologist Appraiser program, but if you think GIA costs,
consider that you’ll be paying for a B.S. degree while you’re paying
for the M.G.A. diploma.
Since there is no legal requirement of credentials to appraise
jewelry here in the US, anybody can call themselves such, and that
shouldn’t be so. However, the basic GG training, coupled with some
good old-fashioned book learning can go a long way toward producing a
decent appraiser. One of the better books out there is titled Gems &
Jewelry Appraising: Techniques of Professional Practice by Anna M.
Miller, G.G., M.G.A., R.M.V. There are other books on the subject
that are just as good.
A GG diploma is great for learning the beginner’s skills for
identifying but it takes a lot of real-world experience
to master that. Jewelry appraising is a much further science that
requires not only the ability to identify and separate gemstones and
precious metals, but to value them for insurance replacement,
liquidation sale, divorce, etc. While most of our appraisals are for
insurance replacement and divorce, we also do estate liquidation as
well as appraisals for the FBI and DEA with property they’ve seized.
These are much more complicated that simply identifying the stones,
weighing the metal, estimating gem weight, looking up gem values in a
price guide and adding a percentage for retail value. Period jewelry
is common enough, as well as guild store pieces and even costume
jewelry can be quite valuable. Many times, the customer’s insurance
premium is a major consideration.
If you’re lucky, as I am, you may find an independent store with an
M.G.A. or a G.G. with a lot of appraisal experience who is willing
to train you. You’ll still need a good gemology diploma, but the
"meat and bones" of appraising can be learned from an experienced
expert. The rest comes with time.
James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL