How Do You Know If You’ve Got a Great Jeweler or Not?

The best way to determine a jeweler/seller’s credibility is by becoming an informed buyer and by asking questions such as:

* How would you describe the quality of this (stone or jewelry piece)?

* Is this stone treated? Or what treatment(s) has this stone undergone?

* Which of these two stones is cut better and why?

* Will you put in writing what you’ve just told me verbally?

Jewelers should be willing to tell you both the positive and negative characteristics of a piece and they should be able to give you concrete information about quality features (“the clarity is VVS which is near flawless and color is F which is colorless”; or, “the diamond is very fluorescent which means it will look milky in sunlight equivalent light”) instead of just saying, for example, "this is a beautiful stone with a great cut." Jewelers should disclose and explain gem treatments in clear language (“this ruby has been heat treated to bring out its color”) rather than only with euphemisms such as "clarity enhanced."

Ask about the store’s return policy as well; it’s a good sign when jewelers are willing to back up their merchandise in writing with full money-back guarantees. If you’re not buying the gems or jewelry locally, insist on this type of written guarantee and pay with a credit card.

Jewelry Appraiser Qualifications

Good jewelry appraisers have:

  1. Formal training in gemology so they can accurately identify and describe gems and gem treatments. A gemological credential such as a GG, FGA, FGG, AG (CIG), FCGmA, FGAA or FGG is a minimum requirement.
  2. Trade experience
  3. Integrity
  4. Formal training in valuation theory, ethics, appraisal procedures and law, so they can write appraisals that give you proper legal protection and that are respected by insurance companies, courts and the Internal Revenue Service. Appraisal credentials such as AM, ASA, MGA, ISA, CAPP, CMA, CGA, RMVare awarded to appraisers who have attended appraisal courses, passed exams and met other appraisal qualifications.

Gemological diplomas and Their Corresponding Letters

GG, Graduate Gemologist. Awarded by the Gemological Institute of America

FGA, Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain

AG (CIG), Accredited Gemmologist. Awarded by the Canadian Institute of Gemmology

FCGmA, Fellow of the Canadian Gemmological Association

FGAA, Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Australia

FGG, Fellow of the German Gemmological Association

Although the gemologist diplomas listed above are important, they don’t in themselves qualify people to be appraisers. Appraisers must also be skilled in valuation theory; they must be familiar with gem prices, jewelry manufacturing costs, and the legal aspects of appraising. Appraisers must have trade experience, integrity, and the initiative to keep up with the market and new developments in valuation theory and gemology.

Significance of Appraisal Credentials

AA-CJI, Accredited Appraiser of the Canadian Jewellers Institute. Must have a gemologist diploma, a gem lab or access to a lab, 3 years Canadian trade experience, must complete an appraisal course and pass a written and practical exam.

AM, Accredited Member of the American Society of Appraisers. Must pass an ethics and appraisal exam, submit sample appraisals for peer review, and have two years of full-time appraisal experience and a college degree or equivalent.

ASA, Accredited Senior Appraiser of ASA ( the American Society of Appraisers). Must pass an ethics and appraisal exam, submit sample appraisals for peer review, be an accredited member of ASA and have a minimum of five years of full-time appraisal experience.

CAPP, Certified Appraiser of Personal Property. This is the highest award offered by the International Society of Appraisers. To receive it, one must attend their appraisal courses, pass the exams, and have a gemological diploma and trade experience.

CGA, Certified Gemologist Appraiser. This is awarded by the American Gem Society to certified gemologists that pass their written and practical appraisal exam. Trade experience is a prerequisite.

CMA, Certified Master Appraiser. This is the highest award offered by the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers. To receive it, one must have at least seven years of appraisal experience, take the NAJA appraisal studies course, pass a comprehensive theory and practical appraisal examination, and have a NAJA or AGA Certified Gem Laboratory.

CSM, Certified Senior Member of the (NAJA). Must have a graduate gemologist diploma, at least five years of trade and appraisal experience, at least 14 days of appraisal training and must pass an appraisal exam.

MGA, Master Gemologist Appraiser. This is the highest award offered by the American Society of Appraisers. To receive it, a person must complete the MGA course, pass the MGA tests and have a gemologist diploma, an accredited ASA gem lab, and at least 3 to 5 years appraisal experience.

ISA, International Society of Appraisers Accredited Member. Must pass an ethics and appraisal exam, submit sample appraisals for peer review, and have two years of full-time appraisal experience and a college degree or equivalent

Is There a Need for Written Appraisal on Estate Jewelry Prior to Selling It

No, you would be better off getting an identification report from an internationally recognized lab. Estate buyers make offers based on the weights, identities and quality descriptions of the components of a piece. Reports from independent labs are more trusted and are considered more objective than those from jewelers.

The value jewelers put on appraisals is typically the retail replacement value, which is used for insurance purposes. Estate buyers don’t pay full retail. They will make an offer based on the merits of the jewelry piece, which are best substantiated by purchase receipts and reports from internationally recognized labs such as the GIA, AGL, AGTA, SSEF, etc.

To get a good price for your piece, get several offers from knowledgeable estate dealers. In some cases, the auction market will be the most appropriate way to get the best price for your estate/antique jewelry.

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