Many of our clients who are not within driving distance of our office in Richmond, Virginia have their diamond shipped to them so they can examine it before they purchase. We encourage them to do what ever they need to do to feel comfortable about their purchase decision including taking the diamond to an independent appraiser for another opinion.
Diamond shoppers have become more sophisticated and knowledgeable in recent years but this has been offset by a more complex diamond market with a variety of certification sources, diamond enhancement treatments and much debate over what constitutes great cut. As a result, the services of an independent appraiser have become increasingly important in helping diamond shoppers avoid an expensive mistake.
Diamond Source of Virginia is compiling a directory of independent appraiser from the recommendation provide by our clients and from reliable industry sources. If you are seeking an independent appraiser near you, see if we have one identified for you.
Based on years of experience and hundreds of conversations with our clients who have used appraisers, we offer the following observations and suggestions.
Why Do I Need An Independent Appraiser?
There are several reasons why you might want to use the services of an independent appraiser. One of the primary reasons is that you would like a professional opinion before making such an important purchase. If you have not had formal training in diamond grading and do not examine diamonds every day, an appraiser can provide valuable advice as to the quality and value of the diamond you are considering to purchase.
To accurately examine a diamond requires special tools that are usually only available with a professional who works with diamonds. These include a microscope with 10x and 30x power magnification, a diamond scale that can measure weights to the hundredth of a carat, color grading stones that are authenticated by the GIA, an ultraviolet light to assess fluorescence, a digital millimeter gauge that is accurate to the hundredth of a millimeter, and detectors that measure the electrical conductivity of the stone to determine if it is a diamond, Moissanite or some other diamond stimulant.
Getting an insurance appraisal is wise financial protection and it is much easier to get an accurate insurance appraisal if the loose diamond is inspected before it is set in the ring. They can weight, measure and examine the diamond under a microscope much easier when the diamond is loose. Since insurance companies only accept an appraisal for an item of jewelry, not a loose diamond, the appraiser needs to see the finished item. A good insurance appraiser includes photos of the jewelry item. If you are taking a diamond to an appraiser for a pre-purchase inspection, tell the appraiser you want an opinion now and a full appraisal later after the diamond has been set. Hopefully that will be less expensive than getting two full appraisals.
Can I Just Go To A Jewelry Store?
If you are looking for a qualified, un-biased opinion of a diamond, taking it to a jewelry store is going to be a very frustrating experience. First of all, most jewelry store employees are not trained in diamond grading. Rather they are trained to be tag readers who are told what to say in order to sell the merchandise in the display case. Most jewelry stores do not have the specialty tools necessary to accurately examine a diamond. We are amazed how many stores opt to use a $5 brass millimeter gauge that is not accurate and then wonder why their measurements vary from those on the certification.
Most jewelry stores do not even have a diamond microscope. They rely on a loupe that requires some practice to use effectively. The result is that you will not get the opportunity to see the magnified diamond with your own eyes.
The biggest problem with taking a diamond into a jewelry store is the conflict of interest. It is similar to taking a Lexus to a Cadillac dealership and asking what they think of the product. The owner of a jewelry store has everything to gain and nothing to lose by saying negative things about diamonds brought into their store. We hear stores every day about jewelry store owners telling our clients things like:
- "Maybe this is not a real diamond." It either is or is not a diamond and the owner of a jewelry store should know how to make the determination.
- "The diamond looks like it could crack due to a feather." If that were the case, they could not sell 99% of the diamonds in their store.
- "I can get you better diamond for less." If so, why are the prices in the display cases double that of the diamond you brought in?
- "I think the color looks like an H even though the GIA said it was a D." It is amazing how they can just look at a diamond with their naked eye and determine the color grade when the GIA use master grading stones and trained graders.
- "The measurements do not seem to be close so it might not be the diamond that matches that certification." If they are not using a digital millimeter gauge or are not measuring the right parts of the diamond they can make a diamond seem to have the wrong measurements.
- "The 57% table on that round diamond seems too small for that big diamond." If they do not recognize the value of an ideal cut diamond, it is because they do not know any better or do not have an ideal cut diamond in their store.
Where Do I Find An Independent Appraiser?
Often the best way to find an appraiser in your vicinity is to check the Yellow Pages for Appraiser - Jewelry. Another good source is a jewelry repair shop. They often have a qualified appraiser on their staff and if they do not, they know who the best appraiser in the area is. Since the repair shop does not specialize in diamonds, they often will be less biased than a jewelry store.
The Diamond Source of Virginia has compiled a nationwide directory of jewelry appraisers based on the feedback we have received from your clients. While we generally have had no personal dealings with these independent appraisers, our clients recommended them when asked for knowledgeable and helpful appraisers.
What Appraised Value Should I Expect?
Asking what is the correct appraised value is like asking what the best religion is; the answer depends on who you ask and why you ask. There are objectives in asking for an appraised value and each will produce a different answer.
Insurance companies require an appraisal and an "estimated retail replacement value" in order to establish the limit of your insurance policy coverage and the amount of your premiums. Because the fine print in most insurance policies permits the insurance company to pay a claim with the value of an "in kind" replacement, do not expect to get a check for the appraised value if it is too high. Insurance companies come to low cost providers like Diamond Source of Virginia and get the price of what we would sell a comparable item and then offer that as settlement for your claim. If you bought at a high end jewelry store and paid double our price and then got an inflated appraised value higher than that, you will be paying premiums for a coverage level you will not be able to collect on.
If you are buying a diamond you might request an appraised value to help you determine if you are getting a good deal. This is a hard question for many appraisers to answer in today's world where the prices for diamonds in high-end jewelry stores can be over double that of our prices. The diamonds are the same, it is the "buying experience" that is different. Some astute appraisers give clients a range of prices by saying the retail price can vary from X dollars to Y dollars. They set the Y dollar amount high enough so that the traditional jewelry store falls within that range. Good or bad, this range can vary depending on what you tell your appraiser about where you are buying the diamond. If you tell them you are buying it from a low cost supplier like Diamond Source of Virginia, the range is lower and narrower. If you tell them you are buying it from a high end store, the range will be higher and broader. If you are looking for a more un-biased value, do not tell your appraiser where you are shopping or what you paid for it. Do not let that influence what value they set. We have had appraisers tell our clients that the retail value is a value considerably below what we pay for a diamond. Since we know that no retailer could sell that diamond for that price, we can only conclude that the appraiser was reacting to a comment that our client found us online. Keep in mind the appraiser is not held responsible for finding a diamond at that price; they are just getting paid for their opinion.
If you are selling a diamond you might request an appraised value to help you determine where to set your asking price. With today's competitive market place, customers have many choices and if you need to sell your diamond, you must make the price not only competitive, but attractive. If you ask an appraiser what you think you can sell a diamond for, you will get a very different answer than if you ask what the "retail" price range is.
There are no standards for how appraiser set the appraised value. There are formulas and guide books published as tools for setting value but even these are not used the same way by every appraiser. We have had clients go to three different appraisers and get three widely different values even though they all agreed on the carat weight, color and clarity. When the top value is double the bottom value, it only demonstrates that the answer to the question "what appraised value should I expect" is one that depends on who you ask.