Answers to Readers' Questions
The best way to determine a sellerís 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 youíve just told me verbally
Sellers 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 instead of just saying, for example, "this is a beautiful stone with a great cut." Sellers should disclose and explain gem treatments in clear language rather than only with euphemisms such as "clarity enhanced."
Ask about the storeís return policy as well; itís a good sign when jewelers are willing to back up their merchandise in writing with full money-back guarantees. If youíre not buying the gems or jewelry locally, insist on this type of written guarantee and pay with a credit card.
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
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.
Click on appraisers to see a list of independent appraisers with gemological and appraisal credentials as well as links to appraisal organizations who can provide you with information about all of their appraisers on their websites.
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 donít 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.
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 ASA's ethics exam, meet the USPAP requirement for the GJ (gems & jewelry discipline) submit two appraisal reports for peer review, have a gemological diploma, pass ASAís GJ discipline exam, successfully complete ASAís GJ Principles of Valuation (POV) courses or the approved equivalency 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 ASA's ethics exam, meet the USPAP requirement for the GJ (gems & jewelry discipline), submit two appraisal reports for peer review, have a gemological diploma, be an accredited member of ASA, pass ASAís GJ discipline exam, successfully complete ASAís GJ Principles of Valuation (POV) courses or the approved equivalency, have a minimum of five years of full-time appraisal experience and a college degree or its approved equivalent.
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 level offered by the American Society of Appraisers. In order to achieve this level of distinction, one must already be an Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA), in addition to the requirements for the Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA) designation, candidates for the MGA also need to successfully complete the advanced class in gemology or jewelry connoisseurship (GJ209 series), successfully complete ASAís MGA practical exam (GJ210), and submit proof of Color Vision Testing along with proof of lab equipment.
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
I donít list such standards because there are no agreed-upon industry standards for fancy shapes. There are only individual sellers who provide guidelines, which are based on what they have available to sell you.
The best way to judge the cut of a fancy shape diamond is to look at the stone. If itís a good cut, it will display brilliance all across the stone face-up; it wonít have dark areas or a see-through effect. Neither will it have a thick girdle (edge) or a deep, bulky pavilion (bottom). See Chapter 6 of the Diamond Ring Buying Guide for photo examples of good and bad cuts and what to look for.
Itís important to learn to judge cut with the eye instead of just with numbers because most of the diamonds you buy will be mounted and wonít come with lab documents and proportion measurements (center stones excepted). Youíll have to look at the stones in semi-mounts, necklaces, bracelets and brooches to determine if theyíre well cut. It would make no sense to buy an "ideal-cut" diamond and then place it in a mounting with shallow or deep-cut small diamonds.
Gems bought overseas arenít necessarily less expensive than domestic purchases. Nonetheless, they do make great souvenirs and gifts. Theyíre lightweight and donít take up much space. Theyíre usually more appreciated than large, junky gifts. And if you buy gems near the source, you usually have a wider selection and greater range of qualities to choose from than at home. However there are also more opportunities for fraud and misrepresentation.
Some advantages of buying gems locally are convenience, service, ease of returns and greater recourse against fraud. If you're an astute buyer, you can find deals at home that are just as good as those overseas.
Before you spend a lot of money on gems abroad, first read the Gem & Jewelry Pocket Guide: A Travelerís Guide to Buying Diamonds, Colored Gems, Pearls, Gold and Platinum Jewelry. Then make sure the store offers a written 100% money-back guarantee and pay with a credit card that offers consumer protection.
If a diamond omits light when stimulated by UV lights or sunlight, itís fluorescent. When I worked in the diamond trade, I never once saw a dealer check the fluorescence of a diamond under a UV light to determine if he wanted to buy it or not. What matters to diamond connoisseurs is the overall brilliance, color, clarity, shape and transparency of the diamond and whether itís been cut to have unnecessary weight. Nowadays itís also important to know if the color and clarity are natural or the result of treatments.
Some people are propagating the notion that if a diamond has fluorescence, itís cloudy. This is false. First of all, practically all diamonds have some degree of fluorescence. Secondly, even diamonds that are strongly fluorescent can be highly transparent, and diamonds with negligible or no fluorescence can be cloudy. The best way to judge transparency is to simply look at the diamond. If itís cloudy or hazy, donít buy it unless thatís the effect youíre looking for. Diamonds with the highest transparency are the most valued
Diamond buying is already complicated; whatís the point of adding a factor that doesnít affect the a diamondís beauty? For further information on diamond fluorescence, consult the Diamond Ring Buying Guide, pages 49, 85, and 86.
Fluorescence can have a positive effect on some colored gemstones. The worldís most valuable rubies, for example, are noted for having a strong red fluorescence, which helps them have a highly saturated red color throughout.
Itís best to have antique jewelry appraised by a specialist in antique jewelry.
Antique appraisals must take into consideration that antique jewellery cannot be exactly replaced in todayís market. Therefore, it wouldnít be appropriate to base the value on the estimated costs to replace the item in newly manufactured condition (which is what jewelry stores usually do).
Value estimations for antique jewellery must be a reflection of the sum to replace the item of similar condition, motif, degree of workmanship, subject to the availability of a like article in the current marketplace. Occasionally an appraisal of antique jewellery is done to authenticate the item. Research for authentication includes provenance, attribution and identification.
Always ask if the appraiser is familiar with the item. A code of ethics states that appraisers shouldnít accept items they donít know about
Answer by Debra Sawatzky, GG, AA-CJI, ISA-CAPP, specialist in antique and period estate jewelryó68 Empire Ave, Toronto, Canada, phone: 416-362-9011.
One good way of cleaning gemstones is to spray them with a bit of Windex and wipe them with a soft lint-free cloth. The window cleaner evaporates fast without leaving water spots. A cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol is also effective.
Cool water and mild soap is usually safe for all gems. However, gems whose cracks have been masked with oil or other fillers should not be soaked in cleaning solutions because they may remove the fillers. Porous gems such as turquoise, opal, pearls, coral and lapis may also be damaged by cleaning solutions. Just clean them with a soft damp cloth.
Ultrasonics can be effective in cleaning very dirty stones, but should be avoided if stones are fragile or have fractures. The Gemstone Buying Guide gives cleaning and care tips for each of the major colored gem species as well as for many lesser known species such as benitoite, diopside, rhodonite etc.
A padded jewelry box with lots of compartments is a convenient way to organize your jewelry, but hide it well so burglars wonít find it easily. Cloth pouches and padded jewelry bags with compartments are also good for protecting jewelry and itís easier to conceal them or place them in safe deposit boxes. Separate jewelry and avoid jumbling it together because gems and metals can be easily scratched by each other.
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 than those from jewelers.
The value jewelers put on appraisals is typically the retail replacement value, which is used for insurance purposes. Estate buyers donít 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. (for more information on such labs see the Diamond Handbook and the Gem & Jewelry Pocket Guide by Renťe Newman).
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.
Links to the Newman Gem & Jewelry Series& Reviews
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