By  , Monday, March 02, 2009



The average consumer is often shocked to learn that only a small percentage of “independent appraisers” are unbiased and/or current on continuing education, grading systems, equipment and standards.  Since there are no requirements to be a jewelry appraiser, a vast number of so-called appraisers lack the knowledge, tools or independence to satisfy a well-educated consumer.


A commitment to “smart shopping” should not end after researching your seller.  If an appraisal is sought, you should appraise the appraiser with the same tenacity.


As a retailer we do not endorse any specific appraiser.  Nevertheless, we took time last year to interview several accredited and respected professionals whom we consider “role models;” well-known in several sectors of the trade.  We hope our questions and their diverse answers about appraisals will be helpful as a guideline for those who do their “smart shopping” globally.


David Atlas

David Atlas 

D. Atlas & Co. Inc 


Neil Beaty

Neil Beaty

American Gem Registry, Inc 


Patti Geolat

Patti Geolat

Geolat & Associates


Bill Lieberum

Bill "RocDoc" Lieberum 



Arthur Anton and Julie Nash

Arthur Anton & Julie Nash

Anton-Nash LLC 


Richard Sherwood

Richard Sherwood

Sarasota Gemological Lab


“Appraise the Appraiser” - Help for Consumers


1                    Basic Questions

2                    Diamond-Specific Questions

3                    Selecting an Appraiser

4                    Tough Stuff:  Valuation, Regulation & Accreditation

5                    Participating Appraiser Information



Appraise the Appraiser



I. Basic Questions


What is the #1 thing clients are seeking in an appraisal?


DA:     A legitimate helping hand and someone unbiased to trust.


NB:     For new purchase appraisals they want to know if they got what they thought they got. People are concerned that dealers are misrepresenting things, either deliberately or simply because they don’t know the information.  Another priority is securing appropriate documentation, which will cause their insurance policy to be as valuable as possible.  A poorly written appraisal can both raise the price of a policy and can increase the difficulty of an accurate replacement in the case of a loss.


PG:     Is it the stone that was advertised and did they pay the right price?


BL:      Peace of mind.  Comfort.  Making sure that everything is hunky-dory.


AN:     Insurance and assurance. They want to verify that they got what they were told by the seller. They also need insurance on the piece. Some are just plain curious.


RS:      Reassurance.  It’s like going to the doctor and getting a physical to be sure you’re healthy.  They want to be sure the diamond is what it says it is.  They want to be sure the vendor has not left anything unsaid.


What do clients consider the most important part of the appraisal?


DA:     The accuracy of the information supplied by the seller and the dollar value.  Is the diamond beautiful?


NB:     The education.  When people walk out the door they almost always say they learned more than they thought they would.  This is also my favorite part.  Many clients start out thinking that an appraisal is nothing more than the value conclusion and walk out really understanding and appreciating their purchase.


PG:     All of it.  Maybe that’s because I start off by asking them what we’re trying to accomplish.


BL:      All of it.


AN:     The focus is on the value we assign and how it compares to what they are paying for the item.  They also love to look in the microscope. We try very hard to convince them that the description of the item is very, very important due to the trend of item replacement versus payment by insurers.


RS:      The quality assessment (4 Cs) followed by the price.  They want to know that it is what they say it is - and if not, how does it compare.  They want to be sure they’re being told the truth.  The price is secondary to actually liking the service and establishing a trusting relationship with the seller.


What are the most frequently asked questions you get…


Before the appraisal?


DA:     How much do we charge?  How long do we take?


NB:     How much does an appraisal cost?  Why isn’t it free?  How long does it take? Can I watch?  Where are you?  What is my ring worth?


PG:     How soon can you see me?  How much does it cost?


BL:      How much does it cost?  What do I get?  What do you think of this diamond?


AN:     How much does it cost? What’s the process?  Do you have to un-mount the stone? Can I watch?


RS:      Can I watch?  If it’s mounted do you have to take it out?  How much does it cost?


During the appraisal?


DA:     Is it fully brilliant and pretty?  Is it graded properly?  What is it worth?


NB:     Clients often ask me my opinion of something the seller told them or of conflicting things they read on the Internet.  They want to know the various grades regarding the stone.  They want to know why my value conclusion or grading is different from what the expected.   They want to know how long I had to go to school to get all those certificates on the wall.


PG:     Is it the right stone?  Did I pay too much for it?


BL:      What do you personally think of the stone?


AN:     What is your personal opinion of the stone and the seller?  Sometimes a client will bring in 3 or 4 diamonds and say “pick one for me.”


RS:      What’s your opinion of the grading?  How does it look to you?  What’s the wholesale value?  That is not my place to answer:  Retail, discount retail and internet are the three valuations I provide.


After the appraisal?


DA:     How can we protect ourselves from anyone changing the diamond?  Who can we trust to set it? 


NB:     It depends on the nature of the appraisal.  I try to answer all questions during the course of the appraisal whenever possible. If there is something that requires follow-up we talk about how to approach the next step.


PG:     I try to discuss A-Z including insurance and care & maintenance.


BL:      There are questions about insurance and I try to help with that.


AN:     We cover so much that by the end we’re done.  We have bullet points and if there is something outside of those we’ll cover it.  We’ll show them how to examine the diamond and identify it under a microscope for identification and condition at drop-off. Rarely we will get a question via telephone after the fact-and usually it’s, “why did the value decrease?”  Answer: “It’s all market driven and everything fluctuates-Look at current metal prices, look at the early 1980’s diamond prices etc.


RS:      Who’s a good insurer?  If I disagree with a grade I’ll ask if the client likes the diamond (example J that should have been graded as a K).  If they do I’ll encourage the client to call the seller and report what I found and see if they’ll work with you on it.


Is there any subject that is difficult to communicate to the average person?  


DA:     Resale value, distress value, liquidation value.  What makes a diamond “used.”  Why a diamond is not worth “retail” to me.  Mostly very naïve questions from otherwise pretty smart individuals.


NB:     It’s hard to communicate that the same thing is worth a different amount to different people at different times, and that those differences matter.


PG:     It used to be “Are you going to appraise this for retail replacement or for insurance?”  The answer to that question, and why that question exists, could be a whole new article.


BL:      Valuation.


AN:     Value perception, especially when the word investment is used.  Markup is also hard to communicate. Everyone wants to make tons of money but they don’t seem to want anyone else to make a profit or understand that the world economy and everyone’ job depends on this principal.  The other is the oversimplification of the role of DeBeers in the market, which is a 20 page answer on our part.


RS:      Many people want to sell jewelry and wonder why it doesn’t resell well.  If I appraise something for $20K they want to know why they can’t turn around and get $20K out of it.  Another thing is when there are significant differences between subjective grades.


How do you address that subject when it comes up?


DA:     We discuss analogies such as fine dining, automobiles, houses, clothes luxury items.  We educate them in the way a free market functions.  Some end up understanding yet many just look like a deer in the headlights.  We want everyone to understand their purchase.  Most want to know and some grasp the issue.  Many just buy and never figure it out.


NB:     I provide examples.  For instance; the expected price you’d pay for a ring at a boutique in Aspen is different than what you’d sell it for at a pawn shop in Denver.


PG:     I turn the question back on them; I seek to understand what it they are asking.


BL:      On a case by case basis.


AN:     We say that if it’s sparkly and you like it; buy it.  But if you’re not in the jewelry business don’t expect to make money on jewelry or diamonds.  It takes connections, it takes marketing and most people don’t have either at their fingertips.  As for markup, people want things at wholesale. We have a standard speech about wholesale being buying in bulk and that if you can’t resell it at a profit - it’s not a wholesale value.  They may not believe us at the time, but a few brave souls have later called us to say that we were right - they didn’t make any money. We also often explain the overhead jewelers have: insurance, rent, dental and medical plans, staff education, interest, alarms, electricity for lights etc.  It’s not cheap to produce a comfortable and knowledgeable jewelry store.


RS:      I have a discussion about wholesale, resale and liquidation values.  As for significant grading differences, I had a person come in with a 1.09 G VS2 (graded by an appraiser who sold them the diamond).  It was actually 0.87 M SI2.  I had to very delicately and gingerly break it to them one step at a time.  That was a great time to use the SAS 2000 in order to show them objectively. 


Are your clients allowed to observe or participate in the appraisal process? 


DA:     Yes.


NB:     Yes. I think participation is important and I encourage it whenever possible.  Each session goes differently depending on consumer’s requirements and what they want to learn.  If the client is present this exchange is much more interactive and works better for both of us.


PG:     Yes.


BL:      I prefer it.


AN:     Yes, absolutely.  It’s encouraged.  Most of our appraisals are done with the client there. This builds trust in us, our knowledge, our process and most importantly-our ethics come through loud and clear.


RS:      Yes.  I prefer it.


What are the most important points you stress with clients observing your process? 


DA:     Openness and subjectivity in grading.  Evaluation is not a dark science, but entertaining and enlightening.  We give them a good show and make sure they understand their diamond.


NB:     I want to understand what the consumer wants to learn from their appraisal session so that I’m providing the right information for their purpose.  I wish to provide the truth in a way that’s useful to him or her.  Hopefully I accomplish this.


PG:     One of the most overlooked pieces of information in general is care & maintenance.  Very few people are told about how to care for a piece of finished jewelry.  Once we have finished assessing the piece and discussed insurance I ask if they have been told how to care for their jewelry.


BL:      All aspects of anything they want to know.  I like questions.  I spend considerable time commenting and answering questions even if they are not in-person.  I find it’s easy to chat about it because the answer to one question may lead to another question.


AN:     We focus on the condition and workmanship of the piece, particularly the diamond plot for identification and condition of the diamond. We want to make sure that the stones are secure and if they are not, we want the client to see and understand why and what needs to be done to correct the situation. We want to demystify everything.  We tell them; don’t be afraid to ask questions.  The cut junkies need more numbers attention, but it’s still the same.  An important question we ask the client is “are you happy with the piece?” Ultimately, the piece has to hit the client on an emotional or style level, if not all the D, IF and fabulous workmanship in the world won’t mean anything.


RS:      I stress all of the Cs and how they interrelate in the diamond.  The balancing act  of color, clarity, cut and their influence as far as price goes.  As long as any single factor is not askew it’s good.  In the old days it was 50% color, 30% clarity and 20% cut but that’s shifted.  Cut plays a much larger part now.


If the client is not present, what is different about your process? 


DA:     We cover all the bases.  We grade the diamond and create a separate appraisal. We transmit this all via .PDF and then consult with them on the phone or via email.  We understand their needs, or we believe we do.


NB:     I ask the client via phone or email the same set of questions about what their requirements are.  Otherwise it’s about the same although it’s a little less interactive.  The long distance process tends to take longer because of the shipping involved.  Most walk-in clients take about an hour, long-distance can take a week or so depending on my schedule. 


PG:     Nothing.  Whatever works for them is how we’ll communicate.  Some people are here.  Others drop off and pick up.  Others get the information via phone, mail etc.


BL:      They don’t get to see it with their own eyes.  I prefer to see the person and “teach” their eyes.  When they’re not there that’s not possible so it may take more time to communicate what they would normally see.  That’s why I don’t like charging by the hour.


AN:     We prefer direct contact, but if there are any questions afterward we will discuss them via notes or phone calls. If we don’t have direct contact, then we did the appraisal through a jeweler-and most of our jewelers are very good about answering questions or referring the clients directly to us. The appraisal itself is pretty comprehensive so a person has to be very very interested to want to go beyond it.


RS:      I prefer to communicate via email.  With the 5 page report pretty much all the questions are answered.  With that report very little follow-up is required.


Do you offer one type of appraisal and fee, or different levels?


DA:     Different fees for differing services.  Internet clients need a particular level for unseen diamonds and we offer them a one price fee approach which covers everything.  Most services in house are based on carat weight or time.


NB:     There are many different levels, which depend on the needs of the client.  The simplest is a new purchase documentation or a basic pre-loss insurance appraisal.  That gets you through a standard insurance replacement appraisal; full report, photographs, insurance replacement valuation, etc., all done while you wait and while you watch.  More elaborate services like estates, expert witnessing, appraising the value of charitable contributions, etc., are priced differently.  Mobile appraisal services are also available at client sites worldwide for an extra fee.


PG:     It’s a wide range of services.  For example, a lady this morning had an appraisal with me that was 13 years old.  She had the stone reset and just wanted to know if it was the same diamond.  The verification is minimal and it increases from there.  I can do just that or do any number of add-ons which the client can request; or I will make a suggestion if I note something that should be called to their attention.  My ARM designation is a big part of what I do; recommending appropriate coverage.  This includes walking someone’s house to perform such a recommendation on a large scale.  I find internet clients are obsessive about having the most information.


BL:      Fee structure is step-by-step.  For instance, if I look at something and it is obviously not what they were hoping in an immediate assessment it will be a no-charge or extremely small charge.  Once we find something worth the time we go forward.  We have fees by carat or by hour.  Some appraisals (not gemological evaluations) require the appraiser to have certain credentials, belong to organizations, etc. and those structures are different.


AN:     We charge a minimum fee per item. We can sort what they have and do IDs and determine if items are or are not worthy of appraisal at an hourly fee (this is only if they have literally tons of stuff). We don’t charge to peruse a few items if we are already on scene.


RS:      I have a “Comprehensive Diamond Analysis” or “Advanced Diamond Analysis.”  Both up to 2 carats for a flat fee.  More per carat after that.




II. Diamond-Specific Questions


What is your position on examining pre-existing grading reports for diamonds you are appraising?


DA:     No problem.  We can do an objective job when we see them or do our own work first.  Whatever suits the client is okay.  We prefer to take less time and see existing reports, but it is not our call.


NB:     If the client wants me to grade blind that’s fine; it’s good fun and it helps build confidence but it doesn’t really have a big affect on the appraisal.  For most new purchases I do this as a matter of course. In customary insurance type work the lab documents are important to the replacement value of the property and for new purchases there are always questions about it so I always ask the customer to bring prior reports with them to the appraisal even if we don’t look at them until near the end.


PG:     If the client wants me to grade blind that’s fine, it’s not going to change the appraisal.


BL:      Whatever the client wants to do; it’s not going to change the appraisal.


AN:     It’s up to the client.  It’s not going to change our assessment.  We will adjust measurements and weight to match the report if it’s mounted and we are certain that the stone we are evaluating is the same as the stone in the report.


RS:      I’ll do whatever the client wants me to do; it’s not going to change the appraisal.


What do you discuss with your clients regarding the grading done at major laboratories?


DA:     I respect major labs.  I don’t say anything when I have nothing nice to say unless I must.  I prefer GIA and AGS paperwork to other labs for distant clients.


NB:     I don’t discuss whether I think a lab is good, bad or indifferent.  I do my own grading.  After I grade it I look at the lab report and if there are differences of significance I will point them out and discuss each and every one.


PG:     Certain labs have greater reputations than others.  While I don’t say I have the last word I explain that they’re paying me for my opinion.  If it’s a report from a lab that is flagrantly wrong I’ll be forthright in my opinion and recommend they could go to GIA or AGS for a second opinion.  If it’s from a strong lab and I think it’s a borderline stone but a fair call I will represent it that way.  I like to think of myself as being more consultative than arbitrary.  I want to be an advocate for the good transaction; to help the transaction happen and to leave the customer well-informed.  If there is a disagreement I will try to help both parties.  I am comfortable with AGS and GIA as arbitrators.


BL:      GIA is strong on clarity/color.  I don’t agree with GIA, IGI or EGL on cut.


AN:     We tell them that AGS and GIA set the standard.  If it’s an EGL report I may give pre-instruction about the likelihood of our grading differing from the report. With other labs, I definitely inform the client of this possibility.


RS:      The labs set the standard.  Someone has to be the “last word.”  I respect the AGS and GIA.


Do you have a practical tolerance in areas such as color, clarity and finish?  For example; is one grade between appraisers or appraiser and lab ok?


DA:     The tolerances when grading un-mounted diamonds are normally one grade in color or clarity.  I suppose a grade of polish or symmetry would also not be unreasonable.  So long as humans are doing the grading there will always be some cross-over gray zones near the edge of one grade into the next.  Some labs observe slightly different standards on top of this, too.


NB:     For most applications one grade is tolerable.  When there are differences I will discuss why it is different and what the repercussions are.  The client can determine if it’s relevant to their situation.


PG:     Correct.  One grade.  That’s the industry standard.


BL:      I’m looking for the diamond to be within a reasonable tolerance.  If I feel very strongly about a grade that translates to a lot of money I may recommend it go back to the lab for correction, but that would be a situation where it seems to clearly be elsewhere.  Case by case.


AN:     When it’s un-mounted within one grade is acceptable for color or clarity.  For mounted the color may be within two and with clarity the grade can’t be better than what I’m seeing mounted, but it could possibly be two grades worse. We assign value on the grade we see.


RS:      That’s right.  In my mind I divide each grade into 3 tiers and tell clients my opinion.  So it usually makes sense even if it’s a letter grade away.


What is your approach to establishing a clarity grade and how is it in-step with, or different from, the traditional GIA/AGS approach?


DA:     We use GIA methodology as we have learned from seeing GIA reports.  We do not use SI3 on any report.  We will grade clarity enhanced diamonds although we have been asked to grade very few.


NB:     In-step with GIA.


PG:     In-step with GIA.


BL:      In-step with GIA.


AN:     In-step with GIA.


RS:      In-step with GIA.


Do you assess whether a diamond is “eye-clean,” and if so what are your definitions?


DA:     I can assess such a stone, but never recommend that terminology.  It is even more subjective than standard grades for clarity. I have written extensively on how we define the term.  It is highly useful between dealers, but so badly misused by the general trade that it is not a safe term much of the time.


NB:     I do not.  If requested I explain that it depends on your eyes, the lighting, the distance and even what you had for breakfast.  There is a reason that this is not a standard judgment in diamond grading.  If the client isn’t present for the inspection or they otherwise ask I’ll discuss whether it’s eye-clean to me and in my lab.  As part of the ICGA requirements, I have regular eye exams just to be sure.


PG:     It’s not typically asked.


BL:      If they ask I’ll make the determination but I will describe it in every lighting condition and distance.  I’ll also ask if they’re nearsighted.


AN:     No, as this covers most of the clarity scale – in theory.


RS:      Eye-clean at a distance of 15 inches under normal office lighting.


How do you approach characteristics which may influence durability and how do you make the determination of ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’?


DA:     We examine all details and report all details.  We use “durability” as a basis for reporting problems.  A diamond may never break even if it is not perfectly durable.  I don’t think we have ever used “safe” or “unsafe” terminology.  If a diamond has inherent vice, we report it.  We plot any problematic characteristics.  However, we do not attempt to hurt retail sales carelessly.  So long as a consumer is made aware of issues, we are content.


NB:     The examination yields the determination.  Normally I analyze the stone through the microscope for girdle thickness variations, feathers, cleavages, design problems with the mounting, and then through cross-polarizers for stress.  I photograph the face up profile of the stone as well as the girdle inscriptions, the most distinctive and recognizable inclusion and any damage present.


PG:     I believe this is part of the appraiser’s responsibility and it’s a delicate discussion to have.  It is something that can aggravate a seller, because some of them don’t think it’s the appraiser’s role.  A feather heading straight for a corner, an open inclusion, etc. are things to look for.  An included crystal breaking the surface which you know is going to come out and become a cavity is another to look for.  Everyone will get told the same thing, but I may deliver it differently if someone is preparing to buy the stone and has not committed, as opposed to someone who is inheriting or already owns it.


BL:      Step by step.  Strain is an issue although some don’t assess it.  I learned this from George Kaplan.


AN:     With a background as jewelry setters we consider the pressure that will be applied in order to set the stone during our evaluation.  If the stone appears extremely “unsafe” to wear or mount, we put a notation to this effect in our comments.  We consider the setting choice as well and advise the client to have a conversation with the setter if appropriate.


RS:      I have a ‘threat level’ scale:  None, minor, moderate, significant, severe.  So if I spot a surface-breaking feather I point it out.  Talk about how many surfaces it breaks.  Look at it in the polaris-scope.  Make a determination.  If there is one surface break and small strain it could be minor.  With three breaks and lots of strain it is significant.  In all cases I will assess it via pricing.  It may be possible to compensate with setting and insurance.  The recommendations will be appropriate to the threat level.


Are there any unique angles to clarity assessment you would like to share?


DA:     We use standard methods including occasional immersion techniques.


NB:     I try to provide clients with a photograph of the most recognizable inclusion for the purpose of identifying the stone, and teach them to look for it.


PG:     I don’t think so.  My approach is standard.


BL:      About strain, or distorted crystal growth:  If you have red strain in the center of the stone it can actually cause more dispersion which can improve it.  But if it runs parallel with the grain it can be a problem.  The most dangerous colors of strain are green and purple on the edge of the stone, like the girdle.


AN:     We wet grade clarity.  They do this at the GIA lab too; use soapy water and a soft paint brush.  This helps when showing a client inclusions under magnification too.  Dirt and dust float in the water and the client sees this and doesn’t mistake dust for inclusions.


RS:      The wedge technique, along with brush and soapy water that allows you to see into the diamond better, especially with VVS clarities.


What is your approach to establishing a color grade and how is it in-step with, or different from, the traditional GIA/AGS approach?


DA:     We use GIA methodology and make every effort to grade as the Gem Trade Lab would grade a diamond of a given weight.  They do not grade per their course, but alter the grading for size and shape.  We attempt to copy what the lab does.


NB:     In-step with GIA.


PG:     In-step with GIA.


BL:      In-step with GIA.


AN:     In-step with GIA.  We use diamond master stones, not CZ’s and not stones with grading reports. Diamond Master Stones are graded specifically for color comparison so we use them. Our professional affiliations require their use as well.


RS:      In-step with GIA.


Do you assess “face-up” color appearance in D-Z colors? 


DA:     We take this into account especially with fancy shapes in the lighter colors.  With all shapes, face-up color is important beyond Q color to Z and beyond.


NB:     On mounted stones yes, to some extent, because we have to.  On un-mounted stones, no I don’t because color is graded from the side.


PG:     Sure.  I assess everything.  I will comment on face-up color in fancy shapes that entrap body color, for instance, but it doesn’t change the grade.  I had an interesting experience with a client who insisted on insuring an I color as an F because the jeweler told her “face up it’s an F.”  While there may be legitimacy to that it’s simply not the way our trade currently assesses a diamond.


BL:      I educate clients about it and may make a comment on it, but don’t make a grade based that way because it’s not the way it’s conventionally done.


AN:     On mounted stones if necessary.  Fancy shapes as well.


RS:      I’ve been thinking of assigning 2 color grades; face down and face up.  Or even adding a grade for fluorescence filtered out and in.  I use the comments section to describe the fluorescence aspect right now (“improves ½ a grade with fluorescence”).


Are there any unique angles to your color assessment you would like to share?


DA:     We attempt to mimic the grading of GIA-GTL.  We do not believe that GIA teaches the same in their course work.


NB:     No.  I use a color-calibrated light in the entire room as well as a specific color grading light over my desk.  I have 10 GIA and AGS graded masters and I do it by the book.


PG:     My approach is in-step with the strong labs.


BL:      I use a colorimeter too, but my assessment trumps the colorimeter.  It’s a backup for verification.


AN:     No.


RS:      I use the SAS 2000 as well, which can quantify the placement within a grade and indicates the diamond’s appearance without fluorescence.


Describe your position on UV light and color grading.


DA:     We grade color as we see it with daylight equivalent tubes.  We grade the strength of UV visibility and effect with master stones we put together many years ago.  I believe color grade is done with standard lighting which has some UV component.  We use the same light for all diamonds.


NB:     I chose Verilux for my laboratory lights.  These same bulbs are in the GIA color box.  Then I bought a white Formica desktop so that I have a near-perfect color grading environment at all times, which is important for the customer in my office.  I have a Lexan UV filter to separately grade in the absence of UV in the environment but the current standard for GIA color grading includes a UV component.


PG:     We all know a stone can have a different color appearance if it fluoresces.  If there is a discrepancy in the near-colorless range and the stone fluoresces we will have a conversation about it.  It’s all on a case by case basis.


BL:      When I color grade I use Lexan to remove the UV.  I do not use GIA lighting which has some UV.  I use the Solux at 4700K, LEDs at 5800K and microscope overhead under magnification.


AN:     We use the Verilux bulbs.


RS:      I feel the color grade should be what it is with UV filtered out, then I place a note in comments if it improves with UV.


How do you determine the presence and strength of fluorescence?


DA:     Long wave UV and master stones.


NB:     I use long wave and short wave ultraviolet light in a sealed box.


PG:     I use the GIA light box and grade under long wave and short wave UV.


BL:      UV light cabinet with short wave and long wave.


AN:     We check under UV light.


RS:      The SAS 2000 will tell you, but I do it under UV with comparison stones.


How often have you come across “overblues” or diamonds with such strong fluorescence that the inside of the diamond was milky or oily?


DA:     We have seen them, but really few come in for grading.  They are not the kind of diamonds dealers want to disclose.


NB:     Rarely, bordering on an obscure anomaly.  Far more people worry about this than actually encounter it.


PG:     It doesn’t happen very often.


BL:      Rarely.


AN:     In older jewelry we tend to see more.


RS:      In 28 years I’ve run across less than 20.


Are there any unique angles to fluorescence you would like to share?


DA:     I wear a strongly UV fluorescent diamond as I think it is super for a man’s ring.  Some colors improve a bit with bluish fluorescence.


NB:     I did an appraisal on a unique piece that was all about fluorescence; 70 diamonds or so of different colors and shapes.  In normal lighting everything was white or a little off white but under UV it lit up to every color of the rainbow.   I rather like fluorescence in moderation.


PG:     I was surprised to find out the GIA determines it from 2”.  That seems extremely close.  I grade using their light box but from father away so my standards are tighter.


BL:      It’s important to make sure, on an unknown stone, that the fluorescence is what it’s advertised as.  In rare cases I’ve seen stones labeled with blue fluorescence that were actually body color.


AN:     If a stone is in the tinted range of the scale, say J or lower, fluorescence can make it seem to face up a better color.


RS:      Stones that have greenish-yellow fluorescence (yucky looking) always also have clouds in them – they are associated somehow.  Yellow fluorescence can help diamonds of the same color but it’s the kiss of death in a white diamond.


How do you approach the measuring of a diamond’s proportions, and which proportions do you provide?


Round Brilliants:


DA:     Diameter mm, depth mm, table mm, table %, total depth %, crown height & angle, pavilion depth & angle, girdle min-max, culet size.


NB:     I use a Sarin scanner.  I use ASET in conjunction with DiamCalc to establish measurements for mounted pieces.


PG:     The labs are really the numbers of authority and those who are obsessive about all the measurements usually have a lab report.  For my market there is not much call to revisit those numbers individually.


BL:      I use a Sarin scanner and provide wire frames of crown and pavilion.


AN:     We manually measure since we are mobile and 95% of what we see is mounted.  We provide table, CA, PD, girdle, depth and culet.


RS:      I use my OGI scanner if loose, double checked on DiamCalc to make sure it makes sense.  I provide all proportions and deviations.  On mounted stones I use direct measurement in tandem with DiamCalc.


Fancy Shapes:


DA:     Length, width, depth.  Table %, crown height, pavilion depth, culet size, unusual outline comments.


NB:     Same as rounds.


PG:     Same as rounds.


BL:      I use the Sarin on these as well.  There are problems with some aspects of the wire frames.  Generally the angles are correct so I give the client what info I feel is valid.


AN:     We provide manual measurements on fancies as well.


RS:      I use my OGI if loose.  I use the Sarasota Gem Lab cut grade classification from Poor to Excellent.  I will use AGS grading for princess cuts.  If mounted I do direct measurement with DiamCalc analysis.


How do you approach assessment of cut quality?


Round Brilliants:


DA:     ImaGem-DFS and/or the AGA Cut Class.  I use ideal-scope sometimes as well.


NB:     Normally I use the GIA grading scale and methodology.  As an AGS titleholder I can and occasionally do also use the AGS standards.


PG:     I use the traditional GIA method.  I talk about cut in terms the consumer can understand; off makes show themselves.  For me, the point is to communicate and not to pontificate. The client wants to know if they are getting a good quality gem at a good quality price. 


BL:      I follow AGS and use their Proprietary Grading Software, my eyes and several other tools.


AN:     We use direct measurement and the traditional AGS grading system.  Being mobile precludes use of measuring devices like Sarin.


RS:      GIA as the default.  AGS for ideal cuts.


Fancy Shapes:


DA:     ImaGem-DFS for rounded makes, princess and marquise or the AGA Cut Class.  I also use ASET sometimes.


NB:     I do not assign a score but do discuss the attributes of brilliance, dispersion & scintillation with the client.  If it is a documented AGS0 princess I will refer to it as same.


PG:     Same as with round brilliants.


BL:      I use to use my eyes.  Now I use AGS PGS, but look at it and see if I agree.


AN:     Direct measurement of angles.  We note if the pavilion depth is excessive and describe the outer shape, symmetry is especially important in fancies.  We talk about performance qualities too.


RS:      Sarasota Gem Lab cut grade classification and now AGS for Princess.


Is the “Hearts & Arrows” level of cut precision part of your appraisal? 


DA:     If requested we use it.


NB:     Yes, if the diamond is sold as “Hearts & Arrows” or if I think it is an important part of the description.  If it doesn’t apply I don’t mention this unless the client brings it up.  I photograph both when it’s appropriate and possible.


PG:     No.


BL:      Yes.  I even use optical symmetry assessment in fancies, face-up, as a matter of interest.


AN:     We use the H&A viewer to check cut precision, if the stone is sold as H&A.


RS:      It is for diamonds sold as “Hearts & Arrows.”


Do you have criteria in use to determine the quality or “grade” of H&A?


DA:     We attempt to use Brian Gavin’s material on this subject.


NB:     Yes, although the final grade is a Yes/No determination to me.  I think ‘near H&A’ is a slippery slope that erodes the whole value of it.


PG:     No.


BL:      I use my own reasonable judgment.


AN:     If the stone doesn’t grade excellent on all cutting criteria the point is mute.


RS:      I use Brian Gavin’s standards.


What is your approach to establishing finish grades and how is it in-step with, or different from, the traditional GIA/AGS approach? 


DA:     Finish is the combination of Polish and Symmetry.  We examine diamonds for these features and use the old AGS guidelines for assessing quality.


NB:     In most cases I use the GIA approach but if my client is an AGS-entity I use their standards.


PG:     In-step with GIA.


BL:      I follow AGS grading, since I use their Proprietary Grading Software (PGS).


AN:     We maintain AGS standards for finish.


RS:      In-step with GIA/AGS.  The entire stone being downgraded for VG or EX (instead of ideal) is odd with regard to AGS.  Dave Atlas’ system is a good one in that regard.  For the record, GIA EX finish is on par with AGS Ideal finish, in my opinion.




III. Selecting an Appraiser


What is an “independent appraiser?” 


DA:     A valuer who does not offer merchandise to his clients, but only offers advice which any fair examination would show to be unbiased.  An independent does not recommend sources but does often give general buying advice.


NB:     There is no such thing.  We in this business have relationships with one another, whether it’s vendors with each other, vendors with appraisers, labs-vendors-appraisers, etc.  Since we interact with each other none of us is truly independent.  I’ve stopped calling myself independent for this reason even though I’m far more independent than all but a couple in the country. I describe myself as a “professional” appraiser.  The fundamental requirement for objectivity is someone who is not a participant in the transaction at hand.  The next tier is someone who is not involved and who is not a competitor, supplier or customer of anyone in the transaction at hand. The next tier is someone who is not a participant in the jewelry industry at all.  I just don’t think anyone is “above it all,” because if they were they are not involved enough in the trade to know what they need to know.


PG:     Someone that has no vested interest in the transaction.


BL:      Someone who does not sell diamonds and jewelry and does not work for dealers.  I do the reasonable person test:  What would a person not being involved with the situation think of the position of the “independent appraiser” relative to the parties involved?


AN:     You don’t buy or sell jewelry.  You don’t care who they bought it from and you don’t care what they are doing with it; anything illegal being the exception.


RS:      An appraiser who does not buy or sell and is not connected with the principals involved in the transaction and is in a neutral position with the freedom to point out any positives or negatives.  An “independent” appraiser needs to be fair to both parties involved no matter who hires him.  No matter who pays the fee his conclusions should be the same.


What tools do you think any independent appraiser, even one doing simple verification, should be equipped with?


DA:     Microscope, loupe, master diamonds, UV source, daylight source, tweezers, Drucker’s GUIDE, Rapaport subscription or access to Rap price sheets, GG or Graduate Diamonds, GIA diploma.


NB:     It depends on the client requirements.  A client with a shoebox full of stuff from grandma who is wondering if it’s trash or treasure requires a different set of equipment and skills than the educated customer wanting to compare two very closely matched diamonds in order to make a shopping decision.  The most important tools are appraisal and gemological training followed by a gemological microscope and a good camera.  Diamond master stones and a standard viewing environment are a good start for most assignments involving diamonds but there’s really no end to what might be useful under the right circumstances. For some jobs, no equipment at all is required while others require a whole lab full of equipment. I guess the most important thing is good common sense in evaluating the parameters of the assignment.


PG:     Gemological Microscope.  Master stones, actual diamonds, and not in increments either.  Refractometer, Computer.  The standard list.


BL:      Gemological Microscope.  Polariscope.  Master color diamonds, not CZs.  Non-contact device for proportions.  Brilliancescope viewer.


AN:     A GG, metal arts training (JTC, Paris, GIA), appraisal training (ASA, NAJA, AGS), gemological microscope with Polaroid lenses, diamond masters-not CZs, refractometer, Polariscope, calibrated proportion measurement tools, a scale and something to test the karatage of metal.


RS:      Gemological Microscope.  Refractometer, polariscope, chelsea filter (colored).  UV light.  At some point they need a master stone set (CZs ok to start but discolor).  It would be nice to have levels depending on what equipment you have:  Level I appraiser, Level 2 appraiser, etc.


What is your advice to consumers for selecting an appraiser?


DA:     Go with recommended professionals.  Find out what they offer, what they charge and how long it will take.


NB:     Appraise the appraiser.  The burden is on the appraiser to convince you that his or her opinion has merit.  The default should be that it does not.  Interview them and check their credentials.  Ask for recommendations from friends and associates.  Be as clear as possible about why you are seeking an appraisal and what you hope to learn from the process.


PG:     Confirm independence.  Look at qualifications.  Look at experience in the product you have to get appraised and the type of product that you need.


BL:      Appraise the appraiser.  What’s his education in both gemology and ISA or ASA coursework?


AN:     Ask if they have appraisal training.  A GG is not appraisal training.  There are four legs on the stool; gemology, manufacturing and evaluation principals are three legs.  The fourth leg is being current with USPAP and legal code.  Pick the person who best answers your questions. It’s pretty unlikely that they will be the cheapest.


RS:      Appraise the appraiser is a good idea.  Find out degrees he holds, organizations he belongs to, experience he has and make a few calls to find out if he’s well thought of in the jewelry community.


What different advice, if any, to consumers who have done a lot of internet research?


DA:     No amount of research changes what the appraiser should be advising the client.  The client should let the appraiser do a complete job.  If any discrepancies are to be discovered it only comes from a complete set of facts.


NB:     Discuss in advance with your appraiser what it is you expect of them.  Internet shoppers usually have a lot more concerns than storefront shoppers and some of the questions will require specialized equipment and techniques to answer thoroughly.  Few appraisers have Sarin equipment and fewer still have the software to analyze the data.  In a lot of cases this isn’t necessary but for clients where this is part of the expectation it’s important to check and make sure that they will be able to do what you want.  Another example is that some dealers require as part of their return policy that the appraiser have specific credentials and some are pretty unusual.  If the purpose of the appraisal is to make a shopping decision and one of these policies is likely to apply if you are unhappy with the results, make sure the appraiser has the required credentials before you set the appointment.


PG:     No different.


BL:      No different.  The problem is that most appraisers will not give 50% of the information this type of consumer will go in expecting; or they will fluff it over somehow.


AN:     Ask if they have the equipment we described, particularly measuring devices.


RS:      I would add to the above to check out the level of equipment he carries.




IV. Tough Stuff: Valuation, Regulation & Accreditation


How do you treat “valuation” of gemstones and jewelry (replacement value, insurance value, etc.)? 


DA:     We do what the client needs.  If the purchase is confirmation of value, we make an attempt to provide current value in the correct market where the diamond was purchased.


NB:     I discuss valuation methodology with every client before the assignment even begins. The first thing is to define the product and the value characteristics.  The second thing is to define the market.  The third thing is to research the pricing in that particular market.  What you get is a snapshot in time; the value of that product in that market on that date.  It’s not the same for every job and can even be different for the same item as it relates to a different marketplace. 


PG:     There are different types of valuations.  Value does not exist in a void.  Value is always in-context.  For insurance we are talking about replacement value in retail situations in which that jewelry would be traded.  I calculate it that way.


BL:      Delicately.  It’s a case by case evaluation and approach.  It varies with how it’s going to be used and considered.  I want to give the most accurate information, correctly.  We could talk for a year about fair market value for instance.  There is not one market or one value and any valuation will change with time and circumstances.  I visit with clients about all the ramifications on a case by case basis.


AN:     It depends on what the appraisal is for.  Speaking in terms of insurance, replacement value is the only way to go and our professional affiliations require this. An item should NEVER have and “insurance value” that is higher than a replacement value. (“Insurance value” tells me that there isn’t any formal appraisal training involved.) Why pay premiums on a dollar figure that is higher than an item actually costs to replace? The value also must be addressed in the most common market.  For high end diamonds, we find that most comparable sales are coming through retail stores right now. So we value high end diamonds at a higher price than they may have been purchased on the internet.  Why?  Because the most common market is still the street, not the internet.  This will likely change in time and insurance company premiums will likely change to match.


RS:      The value I put on is RETAIL replacement value (average retail value for this major metropolitan area FL which will be adequate for insurance coverage – done at a conservative B&M retail price)  Appraised at the price level at which the vast level of diamonds are sold; independent, free standing, professionally run jewelers – not mall jewelers.  On a separate info sheet I do indicate my 3-tiered analysis; my estimates of prices in high retail, discount retail and expected internet pricing.


What is your position on appraisals with a declared value done by jewelers for products they are selling?


DA:     It’s okay with me.  A merchant is well within their rights to set a “retail price” on the merchandise they offer for sale.  They may choose to discount it.  If they are fraudulent there are legal remedies.  Appraisers are not legal authorities and independent appraisers are not merchants.  We call them as we see them.  Other must be free to act as they see fit.  The market and the courts will generally respond to problems.


NB:     If the value conclusion is different than the transaction price without clear justification I think they are at best useless and possibly fraudulent.  If the declared value is the transaction price and the other information presented is correct I have no problem with it, since what the jeweler is fundamentally doing is providing a detailed sales receipt. This can, in fact, be very useful but it avoids confusion for jewelers to title this document something other than “appraisal.”


PG:     First of all these are not “appraisals” but if they are billed with full transparency and declaration of any discrepancy between selling price and declared value it’s fine.


BL:      It’s not ethical and it’s not an appraisal legally, since that must be done by a disinterested party.  The most it can be is a “price quote to replace it in my store.”


AN:     If it’s their actual selling price it’s not an issue.  If it’s more than the selling price and they can explain it logically (ie; in stock for two years, dropping a line etc.) that’s ok too. If the value is more than they would ever sell it for, they are really just giving money to insurance companies in the form of premium overpayment.  Wouldn’t it be nice if people put that overpayment into jewelry instead?


RS:      I see nothing wrong with a jeweler issuing a “statement of verification” with necessary information and a value for insuring the jewelry, as long as they declare their interest in the transaction:  Make it clear they are the selling vendor, or at least don’t say “independent.”


What is your position on appraisals with a declared value done by major grading labs?


DA:     Primarily bogus, feel-good reports.  Naïve victims don’t seem to care a whole lot about it and it hurts no one else.  If the phony values didn’t increase sales the labs would not have clients asking for this work.  I don’t do them and have no animosity about others who do.  When they get marched off to jail, I will watch them go.  So far, no one is going to jail.  That says a great deal about the situation.


NB:     It’s the same as the prior question.  None of the labs that I would describe as ‘major grading labs’ offer this service but there are some large firms that offer both lab and appraisal services and I’m going to assume this is what you mean.  If it’s got a value statement then it’s not a lab report, it’s an appraisal and it should be held to the standard of any other appraisal for independence, market selection and for accurately applying that market.  I don’t recall ever seeing a ‘lab’ prepared appraisal that meets this standard and a report that doesn’t is more likely to be deceptive than useful.


PG:     The problem comes when the lab has a relationship with the store selling the diamonds they’ve given prices for.  They are not then disinterested.  These are tools the retailer uses to sell the merchandise.  They are in the store with a “to whom it may concern” statement in the front which clearly indicates it’s for the purpose of completing a sale.


BL:      They are not independent when they work for the seller.  They should be disinterested and in some of these cases they are not.


AN:     To begin with they don’t take into account the region, often don’t factor cut in, etc.  If it’s used as a sales tool to fool consumers into thinking they’re getting something of greater value it’s not appropriate.


RS:      I think they should do one or the other.


Do you think grading standards (color, clarity, etc.) should be regulated?


DA:     Sure, but who is going to be in charge?  I’d like to volunteer, but no one would have me.  Who would anyone like to put in charge?  I sure don’t want the state or the feds doing it for us.  GIA has done okay with grading.  They need to get with the modern world or they will miss the boat.  Right now, there is no best choice.


NB:     Actually, I don’t think it’s even possible.  The existing standards are good they’re just unused.  I think USPAP are well written and a well thought out set of standards for appraising yet 99% of jewelry appraisers don’t use it.  I think the GIA grading rules are well known and mostly pretty good for describing diamonds but the catalog of abuses is near endless.  As different things become important to customers, like ‘hearts and arrows’ have been recently for diamonds or ‘untreated’ has become for sapphires and certain other gems, new standards become necessary to grade them but when the attributes that make for value change the appraisers need to change with them. 


PG:     We already have standards.  Unfortunately, you can’t legislate morality.


BL:      Yes.


AN:     We have the GIA system-we should use it. The problem is too many people grading diamonds with little training or just a home study course as a background.


RS:      Yes, and it should arise from the industry.


Should there be accreditation required to perform independent appraisals?  If so, what should it be? 


DA:     Accreditation is nice, but experience, knowledge and integrity are the true components of importance.  Senior Membership in NAJA, CAPP-ISA, Senior Member (MGA®)-ASA, Graduate Gemologist GIA and FGA Diplomate are among the better credentials.


NB:     Yes.  I think personal property appraisers should be tested and licensed very much in the same way that real estate appraisers are - and have been since the savings and loan debacle back in the 1980’s.  Additional training for specialty areas like jewelry should be required as part of the licensure and the education programs should be regulated by The Appraisal Foundation, the same people who regulate training for real estate appraisers.


PG:     Yes and no.  If you are going to hold yourself out as an appraiser you should not be without credentials.  On the other hand there are jewelers in small towns, family owned and operated stores, who want to do something helpful for their customers.  We shouldn’t make it impossible for them.  Practically speaking, most major cities would not support somebody unaccredited because there would not be enough business for them.  For example, if someone un-credentialed sets up shop in Dallas and tries to earn a living there are enough of us who are credentialed that the person could not be competitive.  I don’t think we’ll see licensing of personal property appraisers.  Why?  Because insurance companies hold the key and they are going to opposite direction.  The bottom line is that most appraisals are used to secure insurance and the fact is that until insurance companies begin rejecting appraisals from unlicensed appraisers nothing will change.


BL:      Yes.  At least a GG (GIA).  Preferably CGA (AGS) or FGA.  I find it shocking that in Florida hairdressers and waitresses must be licensed but gemologist-appraisers don’t have to be.


AN:     Yes, everyone needs a gemological diploma, metal arts training and bench training for this job (JTC is a great source:  Valuation training should be mandatory. Performing and charging for valuations with no valuation training is idiocy.  In an ideal world this would include a competent gemological qualification like a GG (earned in residence) as well as extensive training such as ASA, ICGA, NAJA etc.  We write to ASA standards because they require the most and are the strictest in our view.  We think licensing is important, but the potential downfall is that government bodies are not known for being the brightest tools in the shed and the license process could likely be so easy to get that it would be meaningless - or worse; dangerous.  In an even more ideal world we’d have peer review and continuing education for appraisers with testing that’s not simply multiple-choice.  At the top level, to be comprehensive, an appraiser needs to know historical periods, designers, regions of the world, imitations, etc.  They need to know this not just for appraisals but also to realize when a piece should go to someone who is specialized.


RS:      The most deplorable thing in the appraisal industry is that absolutely anyone who wants to can hang up a shingle and do it.  To me that is incredulous.  Doctors have to take a uniform test to be licensed.  There should be that requirement, continuing education and continuing re-certification required.  Over and beyond that there should be a gemologist’s diploma and 5-10 years active involvement in the industry in a practical level.


What credentials or formal training have been of greatest benefit to you?


DA:     GG (GIA), Master Gemologist Appraiser program of ASA and NAJA Appraiser conferences.


NB:     I think the ASA educational program is great.  The AGS ICGA is a very useful credential and I believe NAJA is very useful as well for both education and networking.


PG:     All of them, for different reasons.  Some are more helpful for marketing myself.  Others were deeper in scope, like my FGA.


BL:      All of them.  Even in the worst course you take there’s something to learn from it.


AN:     GG, GJ, ASA and Julie’s art history background.


RS:      The GG is excellent.  I am working towards my FGA (British gemological association).  The GG is likened to a college course whereas the FGA is like grad work.  The AGS courses are attractive as well; they seem very in-depth and professional.



What do you think is the strongest historical or recent development in the trade that has helped appraisers?


DA:     The Internet has fostered distant customers for my firm and for many others.  The hundreds of thousands of visitors to my website is an unprecedented method for gaining a very large market.  I get customers from all over the world today that would never have found me back in the 1980’s.


NB:     The creation and evolution of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) as a fallout from the abuses of the real estate appraisal business in the 1980’s has done more to make appraising a profession than anything else in the last century.


PG:     The advent of the internet has actually given appraisers a boost.


BL:      The internet. 


AN:     The internet, computers, USPAP and networking of the appraisal community.


RS:      The internet.  Because of the nature of sight-unseen sales, it’s made appraisers.



If you could change one thing about “appraising” in a global sense what would it be?


DA:     No more acceptance of higher than necessary values to foster sales based on fiction.


NB:     Improved consumer awareness of what they can and cannot expect from an appraisal.  Consumers have an impression that any given object has a value and object ‘value’, especially with regard to jewelry is a form of bank account.  That is specifically contrary to the truth, but there are often consumer expectations that lead both appraisers and jewelers astray.  That causes trouble with consumers who aren’t prepared to accept the truth and appraisers who aren’t willing to deliver it.  It’s a lot easier to just say what makes people happy than to stick to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


PG:     Definition of the word appraisal.  If you talk real estate it has a very distinct meaning.  It’s not so distinct in this field.  The public doesn’t make a distinction in the word “appraisal,” and there is one between the paper provided by an independent entity and the paper you may receive from the store.  I wish there was a better distinction between these services.


BL:      Licensing.  Appraisers should be licensed professionals.  They should be held accountable for what they do, like doctors.


AN:     Unqualified people would quit doing it.


RS:      Inflated appraisals and “feel good” appraisals.  There should be some standard.  Rapaport has helped because it’s not the “word of God” but it gives a point of reference.  We need the same kind of structure set up for markups.  Like nomenclature within labs.  I hope it’s right around the corner - remember in the old days we didn’t even have grading reports.




V. Participating Appraiser Information



David Atlas

Neil Beaty

Patti Geolat

Bill Lieberum

Arthur Anton, Julie Nash

Richard Sherwood


What is your background and how long have you been an appraiser?  


DA:     I’m a third generation jeweler and have been appraising since the early 1970’s.  I am a GG(GIA), Past Sr. Mbr, ASA, Past Member ISA, and currently Sr Mbr, NAJA.  Past International Chair of ASA Gems & Jlry Committee, and currently Assoc. Director NAJA and Ethics Committee Chair.  I am President of D. Atlas & Co., Inc.  Partner in Diamond and Gem Laboratories of America, USA-INDIA  Partner in International Hallmark & Assay, INDIA.


NB:     I was trained as an accountant and in college I discovered that I was a better jewelry designer than bean counter.  I put myself through college making and selling jewelry and, in the end found that I didn’t want to be an accountant after all.  I did custom manufacturing and appraisal work as one of the biggest trade shops in Denver for decades.  I sold the shop in 2002 and went independent as an appraiser.  It’s a very different experience and I must say I love it even though it was a cut in pay. I’ve been appraising since ‘96 and I’ve been doing it full time since ’02. I have a GG from GIA, appraisal training from ASA, ISA, Master Valuer, UC Irvine and I’ve been awarded every title from AGS available to appraisers including the ICGA.


PG:     I began in sales in 1975.  I became an independent appraiser in 1983.  I currently have my GG, FGA, CAP, ASA and ARM.


BL:      I started in 1979 polishing rings and working for a colored stone dealer.  Opened store in 1980 and was appraising.  I began as an independent in 1992.


AN:     Arthur is a 3rd generation jeweler from Chicago.  He’s been appraising with Anton Nash since 1998.  He worked in a family store from age 16.  He has a GJ, GG and is an ICGA. He instructed manufacturing & gemology at GIA, taught design for GIA at the NY campus and is a senior member of NAJA.  Julie has been doing full time appraising for 10 years.  She was making jewelry in 1987. Gemology and antique jewelry are her strengths.  She has a GJ, GG and is a Master Gemologist Appraiser with ASA and is a CG with AGS. Both have written numerous articles on gems and jewelry in AJM Journal, Professional Jeweler and JCK. They are co-authors of the book, “Working With Gemstones-A Bench Jewelers Guide. They are co-owners of the Jewelry Training Center in Colorado Springs, which is a school for developing new talent in the jewelry industry and honing the skills of veteran jewelers, gemologists and sales professionals


RS:      I have 28 years total in the business, 23 of which I have been appraising.  I was in retail sales at a local high end firm, eventually becoming manager of their premier multi-million dollar store.  After 7 years working for this firm I opened and ran my own stone for 13 years before going into full-time independent appraising the past 8 years.


What geographic area do you serve? 


DA:     Southeastern PA, South NJ, MD, DE.  Nationally via the Internet and the mail.


NB:     Mostly the USA and Canada as well as some European and Asian clients.


PG:     The USA.


BL:      Before the internet it was Pennsylvania.  My credentials got me witness work.  The internet coincided with my independent practice.  Now I serve the US, UK, Canada, Aus, Italy.


AN:     The Colorado Springs metropolitan area, but we have people who fly in from around the country.


RS:      Tampa Bay then the State of Florida then the nation then 27 different countries.  This is due to internet exposure and colored stone expertise.


Who are your clients?  


DA:     Mostly retail jewelry stores.  Secondarily, consumers and diamond dealers.


NB:     Individual consumers, government entities, attorneys, accountants, and estate managers.


PG:     Consumers, government agencies, estates, banks, lawyers, insurance companies, claims adjusters, underwriters and courts of law in criminal cases.


BL:      Consumers and others via Attorneys, Law Enforcement Agencies and Private Detectives.


AN:     Consumers, attorneys, trust departments and jewelry stores.


RS:      50-60% insurance local for private individuals, 25% internet private, 20-25% banks/attorneys (estate)


How much of your business comes from the internet?


DA:     25%


NB:     30-50%


PG:     Not much yet.  What I get comes from Pricescope, ASA, etc.  I hope to get more.


BL:      70%


AN:     15%, particularly the out of state business.


RS:      25%


How much of your business is repeat business?


DA:     90%


NB:     About a third.


PG:     Some clients for over 20 years.  The majority is private consumers.


BL:      That’s a tough question.


AN:     10-15%


RS:      30% private.  The pros are steady.


How much of your business is referral-based?


DA:     99%


NB:     All of it.


PG:     Virtually all.


BL:      40%


AN:     80%


RS:      All of it.


How much do you advertise?


DA:     It used to be actively in the Yellow pages and direct mail.  Did little advertising in the past couple of years.


NB:     The sign outside my shop and my own website.  I have a brochure that I give to insurance agents that, hopefully, they show to their clients when they’re asked about appraisals.  I’ve published quite a few things online that folks seem to find useful.  I have lots of customers who refer me to their friends, coworkers and relatives.


PG:     Nowhere.


BL:      Nowhere.


AN:     Nowhere except the yellow pages, our website and the ASA, AGS and NAJA websites. We do as much public speaking and trade writing as possible to promote ourselves.


RS:      Nowhere.  The key is to just do as excellent a job as you can and your work will prove itself.  I did an experiment and stopped all advertising.  My business increased.


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