Valuation of jewelry for a divorce settlement

My girlfriend Sharyn is a Family Law Attorney, and is writing an
article for the ABA. She has asked me to weigh in on evaluating
jewelry as part of a settlement agreement. This would primarily be, I
assume for jewelry acquired during the engagement and marriage.

How would you place a value on jewelry?

Initial cost?
Current replacement cost?
Wholesale cost?

What justification do you have for your valuation?

Rick Hamilton

Anyone who wants to share private or personal can e-mail
me privately.

Actual cash value.

Because its the only real value anything has, how much money will it
sell for? Liken it to the house.You might list a house for $500K but
if the market will only pay 400K, then its value is 400K.

In most case’s jewelry from one to the other is considered a "gift"
and therefore is the sole property of the recipient with no bearing
on property values.

Now if the jewels are obtained for the purpose of resale, or as an
asset, then they need to be appraised as a lot from a certified

Hi Rick,

Divorce statutes can vary from state to state and the appraiser
accepting this type of assignment must understand what laws apply for
the particular state and must request clear instruction from the
client’s attorney. In many cases though, jewelry and other personal
property that is being valued for divorce settlement is given what is
called a “Fair Market Value”. This has a very specific definition. As
defined by the U.S. Department of Treasury: “The fair market value is
the price at which the property would change hands between a willing
buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy
or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.” The
definition goes on but basically details that this is not a forced
sale and the property should be valued in an appropriate market for
what it is, the most common market where this item is sold. The
definition continues"…the fair market value of such an item of
property is the price at which the item or a comparable item would be
sold at retail." By “retail” they mean any market where goods change
hands and where the buyer is the ultimate consumer or end purchaser
of the goods. So depending on the age and condition of the jewelry,
the end user could be different. In most case the appraiser will be
researching comparable items, like kind and quality, sold in a retail
jewelry store or at auction. You may have a piece that is badly
damaged though and its only value is that of scrap. A scrap dealer is
your end user in that case rather than the general public. For fair
market value appraisals, researching comparable items in the
appropriate market is critical and will give the appraiser the most
credible valuation result. Jewelry appraisals are of course an
opinion of value. It is very important to seek out a well trained
professional who is also a member of an association like ASA or NAJA
as they have high standards for ethics and continuing education for
their members. Personal property appraisers are not currently
regulated like real estate appraisers. Just about anyone can call
them self a jewelry appraiser. Training as a graduate gemologist is
wonderful and necessary but it does not make one qualified to be an
appraiser and further study is required.

Your wife may want to look at some of the books on jewelry appraisal
written by Anna Miller. Or contact someone at ASA or NAJA for
further I hope this is helpful!

Carrie Nunes

I treat divorce appraisals pretty much like an estate appraisal,
from the respect that I believe the court is merely interested in
liquidation value for the purpose of division of property in a
divorce settlement. Normal procedure in appraisal take-in is to
clarify the customers understanding of the purposes for an appraisal.
Also, I usually include notation indicating the intent/purpose of the


I’m not a lawyer. However… I’ve done this before. I went by “fair
market” value. What the stuff would bring at auction.


Hi Rick;

There must be legal precedent for this question. As a jeweler, I
provide an appraisal ( current value) all materials, identifying
marks and photo with every piece. Obviously overkill for less
expensive pieces. Attorneys can use this as they add up the his/her

Who appraises a piece is very important. If it’s stock jewelry, any
certified appraiser could do it…a good jeweler could give ball
park. For “art jewelry” it’s pretty important to use someone well
versed in that field. Seems to me one would have to use the same
criterion for all valuables: home, car, jewelry and other major
purchases. Some, like most cars, appliances etc lose value off the
showroom floor. Jewelry, like fine cars, appreciates only with
either scarcity/cost of materials or reputation of maker. Seems like
a good for the goose/good for the gander agreement would have to be
reached before one starts assigning values.


In most case's jewelry from one to the other is considered a
"gift" and therefore is the sole property of the recipient with no
bearing on property values. 

This is what I would think also, but I am one of those radical
people who wonder why we pay taxes all our lives on what we earn,
only to be taxed again on what we managed to save when we die and
give it away.


Hi Rick or Carrie,

With respect to your article I must put my 2 cents worth in! and
thats a lot. When my then wife told me she wanted a divorce she had
already taken my assets ($495,000) and moved them to another bank in
"her lockbox".

As all the items were custom designs that I would make with profits,
and the legals said! “Declare your objects and thier value, pay local
tax, and income tax on all of it and report them stolen by your now
X-Wife” I did not win - she worked for the DA at that time. Her nice
big house up on the hill sure does look good!!!

Rick-- The excellent explanation by Carrie Nunes is correct. Fair
Market Value is the normal standard in most legal proceedings, and
the keys to determining FMV are condition, saleability, and
appropriate market. Your wife might also read Cos Altobelli’s book
“The Practical Guide to Jewelry Appraising”

Jim Sweaney, CGA
Mardon Jewelers

Why a piece of jewelry needs a valuation varies: Fair Market value
(what the piece might sell for in a jewelry store); Distress Sale
Value (any circumstance where one is forced to sell). I.e.: divorce,
but no matter what one thinks of one’s ‘ex’; it doesn’t effect the

Ultimately the true value is “auction value”; what someone is
willing to pay in the market place.

It is very simple, in most cases to value diamond jewelry because so
many diamonds are sold every day. The principle value to consider is
the value of the stone.

If it’s simply metal, check commodity prices.
The variables might be if a piece is designed by a well known
jeweler/ designer or if the stone is unusual. So, if there’s a stone
that’s the major component in the valuation.

The overriding principle is comparables.
An analogy would be real estate. if you’re selling a house you look
for a similar house that’s for sale; same number of rooms, baths,
acreage, location, etc. Then factor in variables.

Often I read “go to a GG”. A GG should be able to identify the stone
and the metal. But not always.

Example: a customer of mine took an 18KY ring with an opal from a
place called Mintabie. I cut the stone from rough that I had
purchased. The GG told my customer that the stone was not an opal or
that it was man-made. He/she could have said I don’t know. GG
training (my wife is a GG) trains one to ID stones; but putting a
price on the stone is another matter entirely.

The person who knows the value is one who sells many pieces of
similar jewelry or stones. I participate in many “art fairs” all
retail. A frequent question is “how much is my ring worth?”

Someone sees that I have some inlay opal jewelry and that person
bought an opal inlay ring on a cruise. I try to explain why it’s so
difficult to put a price on their ring. Their eyes roll; they don’t
want to hear that. “Just tell me the price!” I do tell the person if
they’re willing to pay for the appraisal they can leave the ring with
me and I will appraise it. More often than not the person wants to
know that they haven’t been “ripped off”

A Graduate Gemmologist has been trained to identify stones; not to
put a value on either a stone or a piece of jewelry. Not to say that
a GG doesn’t have enough ‘real world’ experience to place a value on
a stone or piece of jewelry. It’s just that that’s not what they are
trained to do.

HTH My caffeine level has seriously dropped.