Although a professional appraisal may be needed for insurance purposes, you can get a pretty good idea of your jewelry’s value with these self-appraisal techniques.
Are you wondering what your jewelry is worth? It is generally a good idea to be able to estimate the value of your jewelry. If you are looking for a more official declaration of value, such as for insurance purposes, you might need to invest in a professional appraisal. However, if you are just curious, if you want to resell a piece and want to know how much it is worth, or if you are shopping for an insurance policy and need to be able to estimate a total value for all of your jewelry, it helps to be able to do a self-appraisal.
If you’re going to try to appraise your jewelry yourself, however, you really need to invest in what’s called a loupe, a folding, pocket-size magnifying glass used for looking at jewelry. Loupes come in different magnifying strengths, but generally three lenses are better than one, and a magnification power of about 10X will ensure that you see your jewelry with enough detail to get a good idea of the quality.
Before trying to appraise your jewelry, practice with your loupe so that you learn how to get the clearest view through the lens and get better at noticing details. You might also pay a visit to your jeweler and ask some questions to get him or her to point out flaws and other things to look for through the loupe. Of course, buying a loupe and asking a few questions of a real jeweler won’t make you an expert, but it will help you to make a reasonably informed assessment of the value of your jewelry.
Here are a few things to look for when estimating how much your jewelry is worth.
It’s time to pull out your loupe: Gold should typically be marked if it is at least 10 karat, but gold markings can be small and hard to read with the naked eye. Gold is typically marked with a number, followed by a k (for karat). The higher the number (14k, 18k, etc.), the higher the percentage of gold, with 24k being pure gold. However, markings should not always be entirely relied on if you are trying to get an accurate estimate of the value of your gold jewelry. You can buy special tests that use nitric acid to identify and test the purity of your gold, or you may be able to take your gold into a jewelry store or a pawn shop and have them test it for you, usually for a small fee.
Like gold, silver is typically marked. For instance, sterling silver is usually marked 925 (which stands for 92.5 percent silver) or STERLING. Other silver jewelry stamps include 800 and 900, which are typically German or European silver, and 950, which is Mexican silver. Some silver jewelry, such as Native American jewelry, is often not marked at all. Like with gold, you can use an acid test to help you identify or confirm the silver content, but a quick home test can help you tell if a piece is really silver or not: Place a drop of French’s mustard on the silver and heat it (carefully!) with a cigarette lighter, or by placing the piece in the sun for a couple of days. The mustard will cause real silver to tarnish. Don’t worry, though — the tarnish can be easily cleaned away with silver cleaner or vinegar.
An appraisal of diamond jewelry depends upon four things: the cut of the stone, the clarity (whether there are imperfections), the weight (or carat), and the color (few diamonds are perfectly clear). In order to see any imperfections that affect the value of your diamonds, you will need to examine the stone using your loupe. For instance, through the loupe you may be able to see cracks, chips, or larger blemishes that are invisible to the naked eye. You should also look at the setting to determine if the prongs hold the stone securely in place.
Any time you are trying to estimate the value of something you own, be sure to look at what similar items are selling for. This is especially useful if you are want to know how much money you will get if you sell the jewelry, or if you are trying to estimate how much it will cost you to replace it. eBay and other sites that sell secondhand jewelry are always good places to check — save any auctions or listings of pieces comparable to yours. In addition, you might want to browse brick-and-mortar secondhand jewelry stores and pawnshops in your area. Be sure to talk to the jewelers in these stores, and ask questions about how they determine the price of their pieces.
Finally, be sure to document your jewelry thoroughly with photographs. Take photos from every angle, and take notes on any flaws or special features, whether or not they show up well in the pictures. A good quality digital camera will allow you to take lots of pictures in the hopes of getting a few really good ones. Also, digital files can be backed up offsite, so that you still have your records in case something happens to your property.