Our many years in the jewelry business have taught us a lot, and one of the most important lessons is that simplicity is always best. Many friends and customers have expressed confusion when trying to differentiate between jewelry appraisals and certifications. The terms seem often to be used interchangeably which of course, adds to the problem. We’d like here to explain what both certifications and appraisals are used for, in the simplest terms possible to help clear up any murkiness.
Jewelers have been doing jewelry appraisals for probably as long as they have been selling jewelry (and as long as insurance agents have been selling policies!). Certifications on the other hand, seem really to have come into vogue in the past decade or so. It is all too easy for an average person to miss the differences between these documents, resulting in confusion and often disappointment.
Jewelry Certifications vs. Jewelry Appraisals
Perhaps the biggest difference between an appraisal and a certification (or “cert”) is that an appraisal asserts a monetary value on a piece or pieces of jewelry, while a certification does not. Secondly, while appraisals and certifications both deal with quality, an appraisal is ultimately a subjective valuation of an entire piece of jewelry. However, a certification is a stringent verification of a single gemstone conducted in a gem lab by a certified technical gemologist, pertaining only to the gem’s individual aspects and quality. A certification does not determine a market value.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the uses for both types of documents are quite different and yet interrelated. To illustrate, a certification is something you might want to see before you buy a loose diamond for an engagement ring. It is not generally worthwhile to get certifications for stones that are too small or are otherwise of a less valuable nature. A gem certification should come from one of two internationally recognized gem labs: GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or EGL (European Gemological Laboratory). That said, we recommend GIA certifications, as they tend to adhere to far more strict and consistent standards, making a GIA certification conducive for use as a buyer’s aid. Essentially, certifications work the same way they do at a car dealership. We have all heard the term “certified pre-owned.” Well, a gem certification does the same thing: it is a document verifying that the stone you are looking at is exactly what your jeweler says it is. It can be viewed as an added buyer protection and is very helpful in choosing between diamonds of different qualities. Additionally, it can be used to aid the subsequent appraiser’s assessment when you have mounted your stone in a piece of jewelry.
The purpose of an appraisal is quite different. Rather than buyer protection, its use is property protection. After you make your purchase, you may want to insure your piece of jewelry against loss or theft. A jewelry appraisal is an assessment of an entire piece of jewelry’s current market value for replacement, performed by a qualified jewelry professional. If you have a stone certification, this will help reduce the level of subjectivity involved in appraising your piece, as your appraiser will have concrete confirmation of the gemstone’s aspects and quality that may be difficult to determine once a stone has been placed in an item of jewelry.
Finally, it is unlikely you will ever get a second certification for a stone, but you will most certainly need to update your appraisal every few years or so, as your insurer’s guidelines will dictate.
There you have the basic distinctions between certifications and appraisals. We sincerely hope this clears up any perplexity, but feel free to call us or come in person if you have any questions!