Will Estavillo raised some important points: an appraisal is a legal
document, so are you willing to back it up in court? Also,
appraisals are required for different reasons: for insurance, for
tax purposes, or for someone wanting to sell a piece of jewelry.
These are not all exactly the same.
In my store, I am often asked to supply an appraisal for a piece
that I made, for insurance purposes. I need to state, in detail,
exactly what the piece is, and its replacement value in my store.
The last three words are important. It says that I am willing to
replace this item for the amount stated. This is not some inflated
value that makes the customer think that they got a great deal. It
is not what the piece would be sold for at another store. It is
replacement value for my work in my store.
I am also asked to write appraisals for items made by other
designers. If I know the designer, I can simply contact them to
determine the replacement value. If it is a catalog item, and I know
where I can get a replacement, it is easy to determine the value. If
it is a piece that I can create (without violating someone's
copyright), using my tools, materials, and experience, I can give a
value that I would be willing to receive to replace this item. If
there are stones that I can identify, and I can determine their
replacement value, I feel comfortable writing an appraisal.
If someone bring in items that I am not familiar with, or antique
pieces that I do not know the true value of, or items containing
gemstones that I am not 100% sure that I can identify or replace, I
DON'T DO THE APPRAISAL. I send it to a qualified appraiser. This is
a legal document, not just a wild guess. Stick to what you know, and
leave the rest to someone you trust who can stand behind their
I have seen a lot of poor appraisals written, and you may get away
with it for a long time. Remember, it only takes one poor appraisal
that goes to court to ruin you. It is not worth the risk. The
courts, and the insurance companies, seem to really like to go after
jewelers...they think we're all crooks. They are the ones you're
really writing the appraisal for, not the friendly person who is
standing across the counter.