Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Yet, More Questions…




Richard Alan

The most common question I am asked as a jeweler is “how much is it worth?”

Sometimes, the answer is cut and dry. For instance, a mass produced, Italian-made 14-karat gold rope neck chain can be weighed and calculated at the current gold market price. Let’s say it weighs 20 grams; the retail price could be between $1,500 and $2,000. That’s kind of a ball park figure because it all depends on when and where you purchased the item. If the chain was purchased ten or so years ago, the purchased price would have been around a third of that. So, compared to buying it today, back then it was a sweet deal.

Now, jewelry containing diamonds and precious gems is a different story altogether. The pieces have to be analyzed and broken down to current market prices. Take, for example, a six carat platinum and diamond tennis bracelet. What’s it worth? Looking at it on a lady’s wrist and coming up with a price is like looking at a house on Marco Island from a satellite photo and estimating its cost!

This is where the experience of a qualified jewelry appraiser is required. It is going to cost you money for his or her time and experience; an appraiser knows the difference between junk, good, better and best quality jewelry. The advantage I have over other jewelers is I design and create jewelry. I build tennis bracelets from scratch regularly so I can easily come up with a figure. First is the cost of the platinum bracelet, then the cost of fifty .12 point round diamonds of fine quality. Next, add the labor to set all of the diamonds in the bracelet, polish it and finish it. Then, simply add the average profit factor and I have a very accurate cost of that article.

The weight and craftsmanship of the platinum bracelet plus the quality of the diamonds are important factors in estimating the price. A six carat tennis bracelet can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000. The $10,000 price tag would contain diamonds of questionable or lower quality.

Sadly, the tennis bracelets I have seen come in my door as of late are of deplorable quality in construction, diamond color and clarity. And people are paying good money for them!

It constantly puts me in an awkward situation because folks want to know the value of the “deal” they got while on vacation. Sorry, but if you don’t want to hear the cold hard facts about the purchase you probably shouldn’t ask me. As an appraiser, I have to call it as it is or compromise being a professional. I’ve seen folks spend $20,000 for a really bad quality diamond that I would only appraise for $6,000. It’s tough to look someone in the eye and tell them their “Deal of the Century” isn’t worth a hill of beans.

That’s why I charge a certain fee at a sit-down appraisal. Analyzing a half a dozen pieces of jewelry for insurance purposes can take hours; lots of times I find pieces have been overestimated, resulting in higher insurance premiums. It makes no sense to insure a ring for $10,000 when it can be replaced today for $7,000.

During many verbal appraisals I have the uncanny ability to turn smiling faces into frowns. To avoid such a scene, I sometimes will say, “it’s pretty and what a nice memento of your trip,” and leave the subject of its horrendous quality to some other jeweler. Telling the truth, I often end up being “the bad guy.” Hey now, I’m not the one who sold you that dog of a bracelet while you were shopping inebriated in St. Martin.

What’s it worth? I see movie stars and celebrities spending millions on a single engagement ring when I know darn well the ring in my store would normally be $200,000! If they are rich and naïve or dumb enough to pay that kind of crazy money on a four carat diamond ring, all the power to the jeweler who made that sale! Several years’ salary and a new Porsche on one sale!

How long should a watch battery last? Might as well ask me how long does love last? Every brand watch has its own kind of movement inside. Obviously, that watch you bought at the flea market for two bucks is worth less than the cost of installing a new battery. It’s a cheap watch; it contains a cheap Chinese movement and you are on your own on that one. Six months to a year if you are lucky – that’s if the strap or hands don’t fall of first.

The best watches are Swiss made. My Tag Heuer goes three to four years without a battery change; some Seiko’s and Pulsars can last for a couple of years. Most Japanese made watches seem to need replacing once a year. A watch with bells and whistles such as lighted dials and multi-dials, or a watch with a malfunction (water or dust intrusion) can drain a battery. Most Timex’s use special lithium batteries that have more voltage to accommodate lighted dial functions. If your battery drains in a few months, see a watchmaker.

More questions answered next time…


Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith with over 40 years of “on the bench experience” and is owner of The Harbor Goldsmith. He welcomes your questions about All That Glitters. 239-394-9275 or harbor

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