One of the many hats I wear during any given day as goldsmith/jeweler, is the job of an appraiser, which involves the act of evaluating jewelry, diamonds or precious gemstones. The appraisals can be for estate or insurance purposes or for the simple reason of needing to know. With most things in life, there is a time and a place to ask such questions or demand my services.
Sticking a ring laden hand in the face of your local jeweler while he is enjoying a late night candle lit dinner with his wife in their favorite island restaurant is not the time. Besides being dark, hence the candles, and the fact I’m trying to hide at a table in the far corner should be a hint. Ah, the wonders of alcohol. Awkwardly, I politely try to explain to the inebriated couple that I have no idea what their recent ring purchase in Bora Bora is worth? Have I mentioned at nearly sixty years old I’m near blind without my loupe or magnifiers on?
Why not make an appointment on Monday when I can actually see what I’m looking at? Their reply? Can’t you just give us a ball park figure? Ball park figure? For all I know, the Tahitian black pearl ring that has yet again been thrust in my face, could be a black jawbreaker glued to a cigar band! Sorry folks, I don’t have a clue. Please, if you don’t mind excusing us, we were celebrating our anniversary. Obviously disappointed by my nocturnal appraisal skills they finally got the hint and let us be. Andrea asked. “Who were those people?” I honestly had no idea.
I could go on, name the restaurant, I’m sure you get the picture. Point is, assessing the value of jewelry is not something you learn from calling a number on a matchbook. It takes years of training and hands on experience, and most jewelers charge for the service which involves time to measure, estimate stone size and quality, both during and after the appraisal.
I love these reality shows where treasures are found and they trot off to the “experts” for accurate appraisals. I never see fees exchanged for the service they rendered. You try hauling furniture purchased from some storage facility into a local furniture store to find out its value and see how you make out!
Sorry, I don’t do free appraisals, oral or written, when it was just recently purchased elsewhere, especially an Internet purchase. “It’s worth a little less than you paid,” I usually say. “Whoever sold it to you made some money, right?”
A simple rule of thumb, the best is expensive, and cheap is cheap, and almost always, if it is too good to be true, it’s too good to be true! Or it’s stolen!
Recently, a woman came in with a ring repair that required a new prong. It was a very large diamond, but not a very nice diamond. The color was…let’s just say dark. With my naked eyes, it lacked luster and had more inclusions than a smashed windshield, but as I wrote up the repair envelope she was boasting how fine a diamond it was. “Huh?” I asked her if she was talking about a different ring.
No, it was at that moment I realized what I have suspected for decades. This poor woman, like thousands of others, just did not realize how horrible the quality of her diamond was. You may say horrible is a strong, unprofessional way of describing her diamond. So, for those of you in the know, it was a 2.75 carat, off round N color with I 3 clarity …aka “horrible.”
The only thing going for this piece of carbon is its size. Now, this piece of rock salt can present some problems when the naive customer comes back to pick up the finished repair. First of all, the last time it had been cleaned properly, was sometime before the invention of color TV. The flaws are not as noticeable when the diamond is full of soap, food, suntan lotion, you name it.
When I’m finished with the repair, the ring will be polished like new and the diamond will not only be sterilized, but now the flaws will be more noticeable resulting in a customer who questions if this poor excuse for a diamond is her original diamond. This calls for pre-damage control.
Which reminds me of an experience twenty or so years ago…my integrity was questioned after another diamond ring prong repair. It involved a very, very large marquis diamond that, once again, had not been cleaned since Truman was president. When the ring was completed she refused to accept it as her ring. She told my boss, “It never looked that way.” I explained. “Of course it didn’t, it’s cleaned and polished now!”
The woman stormed out of the store, my boss tore into me. “What happened to her ring?” “Nothing, I boiled out the ring, replaced the missing prong and polished it like new, that’s it!” An hour later my boss got a call from the customer’s lawyer accusing us of theft. This was sheer nonsense. I grabbed the phone from my distraught employer, introduced myself as the goldsmith who performed the repair assuring him the diamond never left the setting during the repair process. He replied his client was adamant. “It’s not her diamond.” My next question was simple. “Was her diamond certified?”
It was, in fact. I instructed him to bring the diamond and the certified documents to a gemologist and that would prove me innocent of any wrong doing. The next afternoon the lawyer called and affirmed that it was the same diamond, A gemologist compared the measurements, color, and clarity and confirmed there was no doubt it was the same diamond…her diamond.
We never got an apology from “Mrs. Gottrocks” for the misunderstanding, nor did she pay for my services, hmm?
I call it a lesson learned.
So, this customer before me is about to learn the cold, hard truth about her “beautiful diamond.” Out came my microscope that magnified this gem on a flat screen for all to see, namely witnesses. After explaining the scratches and carbon spots are not on the screen but throughout her diamond we came to the understanding that after I perform the repair, the inclusions may become more noticeable when the ring is completed. “What you see now will remain after I am finished with the repair.”
What bothered me was the large amount of money that was paid for this ugly duckling. Its value was thousands of dollars less than she paid. Personally, I wouldn’t pay $500 for it. I’m ashamed that someone in the industry may have duped this woman but I don’t have all the facts. The husband may have filled the poor woman full of sunshine about the ring, bought the cheapest large diamond he could find and fibbed about its value and cost, or she is simply as near blind in the day as I am in the dark.
Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith at Island Plaza with over 40 years of bench and appraisal experience and welcomes your questions about All that Glitters 239.394.9275 firstname.lastname@example.org