If your great aunt willed you a beautiful ring, have its monetary value appraised, said Patti Geolat, board chair of Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company.
People tend to believe the oral history as it has been passed down to them, and they do not get their jewelry checked out, said Geolat, owner of Dallas-based Geolat and Associates. Too often they may be holding on to a myth until it is too late.
Geolat, a certified gemologist with appraisal credentials and 20 years of experience, has seen this happen more than she'd like.
"Conversely, they may have an extremely valuable item and fail to protect it properly," she said. "It makes no sense not to have something appraised, especially when it comes to financial planning. Why take that risk?"
So how do you find an appraiser? Geolat offers the following advice.
Know why you are getting an item appraised. Is it for insurance purposes? Or are you the executor of an estate and need appraisal values to distribute assets according to a will? Appraisal methods for these two uses are different. Ask your appraiser if he or she has experience in the desired method.
Keep in mind that whatever the reason for the appraisal, jewelry appraisers to do not take sentimental value into consideration.
Credentials are not a guarantee. Though a credential from a recognized organization, such as the Gemological Institute of America, is a good starting point, it doesn't guarantee a reliable appraiser. Ask for a referral. Check to see if the appraiser is a member in good standing with an appraisal organization, such as the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers or the American Society of Appraisers.
Be aware of a conflict of interest. Use an appraiser who doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome of the appraisal. If you plan to sell an item, use someone other than the potential buyer to appraise the item.
Don't be tempted by online appraisal services. Geolat warns against using an online appraisal service. "I'm not a fan of online appraisal services," Geolat said. "How can you appraise something without seeing it in person?"
Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company is the only nationwide insurer that specializes in protecting jewelry businesses and individuals' personal jewelry.