These are some of the most commonly-asked questions about the purchase and appraisal of fine jewellery. Each link will open in a new window
Antique appraisals take into consideration that antique jewellery cannot be replaced in today’s market. Therefore, the value based on estimated costs to replace the item in a newly manufactured condition would not be appropriate. The value estimations for antique jewellery must be a reflection of the sum to replace an item of similar condition, motif and degree of workmanship, subject to the availability of a like article in the current marketplace.
Always ask if the appraiser is familiar with the item. A code of ethics states that appraisers do not accept items that they do not know about.
1. What is your appraisal background?
2. Do you have experience with antique jewellery appraising?
3. Are you a member of a recognized appraisal association? Such as International Society of Appraisers (ISA) or American Society of Appraisers (ASA), National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA) credentials and current Unified Standards of Professional Appraising Practice (USPAP).
4. How do you charge? The prices are based by the item or by the hour not by a charge of the percentage of the appraised value.
As many older pieces are traceable through descriptions if lost or stolen, look for a detailed description with dents and repairs included — these are identifiable marks. Other ways to identify jewellery are:
Weight of gemstones and measurements
Hallmarks, manufacturers marks, description of workmanship
Manufacturing method. Please make a note that if the piece is circa dated 1810 that manufacturers did not do casting in that period so if you are replacing a lost or stolen item it should be of the manufacturing technique of the original piece. For example, if you owned an authentic Monet, you would not want to replace it with a mass produced copy.
Chains and mounts are described by their quality, design, workmanship and any stampings on them
Secondary stones are listed and identified with weights and measurements.
1.) Look at the entire piece of jewellery
2.) Examine any gemstones for the following:
a.) Cut: is it correct for the period?
b.) Type: is it correct for the period?
c.) Wear: Abrasion on facet junctions—if old, there may be a good possibility that there is wear on top of cabochons
Nacre missing from tops of pearls
Carved stone or shell—quality—check the nose
d.) Synthetic vs. natural gemstones—check when they were developed
e.) How are they mounted- bezel prong adhesive- check technology if it was developed
f.) Quality of Setting job
g.) Type of adhesive- no crazy glue in 1860
h.) Enhancements (dye in coral, emerald, opticon etc)
3.) Examine mounting for:
a.) Karatage of Metal- 9,10,12,14,18,19 karat or platinum
b.) Karat- is it correct for the period?
c.) Karat stamping—makers marks
4.) Type of manufacturing- is it correct for the period
Quality of Manufacture
Handmade vs. machine made- is it correct for the period
b. Die Struck
d. Hand fabricated
5.) Findings– how attached
6.) Clasps– are they correct for the period
7.) Hand Engraved
8.) Pierced vs. die struck
9.) Mille grain
10.) Fit of components parts
11.) Back or interior of piece
e. Quality of Application)
13.) Any type of Repair or Restoration
a. Type of solder—hard or soft
b. Type of joint, if sized
c. Match of colour
d. Platinum repaired with platinum not yellow gold rhodium plated
e. Shape and type of prongs
f. Modification to original design
When two items are joined together
15.) Touch—is it sharp on any edges?
At a Respected Dealer
Able to return and exchange (probably cannot get money back)
Getting advice for free
Locating the perfect item you want
Making a good long term investment
You may be paying over the odds as they have overheads to cover
The choice may not be so large
Pieces may be restored
This is a tempting alternative but you have to know what to look for
How to spot a reproduction, repair, and marriage.
Is the estimated price fair?
Will it be a good investment?
How much will any restoration cost in addition?
Competing against other dealers/ private buyers
Additional buyers premium on the cost
Being on a time line with only hours to make a decision
Getting stuck with a mistake
At a Private Sale
From friends or people you know in the trade. This is good as long as you know what you are buying. Keep your friends
At House Sales, Yard Sales, and Car Boot Sales
These are good for costume jewellery, particularly for those with an eye
Great bargains. No returns
At Antique Markets and Local Fairs
Fun places to try and pick up a bargain but you need to know your price range and only buy what you like. No returns
Web Based Purchases
For some purchasing on line can be daunting. Simple rules should be followed for each on line purchase.
Have another person present when opening the package. This is to make sure the item is inside. Take to an appraiser to verify
the item is the item purchased. Always know the return policy of the company.
All jewellery bought at the retail level rather than auction is routinely marked up to include the retailer’s profit, the insurance, the reputation of the establishment, the advertising and the cost of doing business. Going into a jeweler’s and selecting a jewel and taking it home is a luxury that one pays for. The willingness to pay the markup allows for the pleasure of dealing with top jewelers, being able to buy their individual designs, and benefiting from the knowledge that they stand behind the wares and quality. Most importantly there is the ability to buy exactly what you want, when you want it, especially when it is intended for a gift.
Prices at auction can vary from retail by as high as 50 – 60% to as low as 25% of retail. You will also pay a percentage over the hammer to the house ( buyer’s premium) plus taxes. Buying at auction may take several auctions to find what you want. Plus do your homework on what the item sells for at retail. Recently , I have seen basic diamond rings sell for more than what retail store would sell it for.
Did you know in every country there are guidelines for selling gemstones and jewellery that the industry and the government provide as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. You can contact them. The department to contact in Canada is the Jewellers’ Vigilance Committee of the Canada . There are also other organizations which provide information such as the Gemological Institute of America , International Association of Appraisers and the Canadian Jewellers Association.
Remember that a receipt is a form of consumer protection. For older jewellery, always get all the information the sales person has stated on the receipt. If the sales person is reluctant to put it in writing then you should question why.
In every period they made real jewellery (high end), and it was then copied for the middle classes and copied again for the lower class citizens. Today reproduction jewellery has the same philosophy. Therefore, if you are limited to a price point on the lower end of the scale look for a costume piece made in the time period. Same look, same style, same age.
If you really limited to a lower price point than look for a modern reproduction costume piece made with the same design features as the era you like. Same look, same style-no age.
Sometimes life just doesn’t go the way you plan and all you can do is laugh or cry or shake your head.
This is where I will share stories, yours and mine, for we are together on this journey.
I went shopping in New York several years ago with a girlfriend. I found a ruby and diamond ring that I loved. So I pulled out the credit card and asked what was the best price. I made up my mind beforehand that US$7,500.00 US would be reasonable.
The ticket was US$10,000.00 (a lot of money for me) and we began to negotiate.
When the price got to be US$4,500.00 I began to wonder:
What did I miss when I examined the ring? Was it the grading of the diamonds?
Were the rubies real?
Was it really an Art Deco ring as stated by the sales person or a reproduction?
Was the company in financial difficulty?
The price went down again and I did not purchase — When is a deal really a deal?
A piece came to me with a historical background from a family but without a picture or written acknowledgment from the historical date. There is difference between hearsay and provenance. Provenance adds monetary value as it is written proof that the piece of jewellery is an authentic antique or period piece. Hearsay is family folklore and adds sentimental value only. Disappointing for the family.