Jewelry appraisals: definition, cost and accuracy

how much is my jewelry worth

Quick answer: The best way to understand the value of your fine jewelry is with a GIA grading report. Online jewelry and diamond buyer Worthy.com provides each jewelry sell with a GIA lab report, for free. For gold jewelry, reputable online gold buyers like CashforGoldUSA offer a free appraisal or start with the CashforGoldUSA online calculator.

Of all the items you own in your lifetime, jewelry is often the most personal. Your prized pieces can represent a special occasion, a memory you cherish, or the love you have for another person.  

Unfortunately, sentimental value isn’t a factor when assessing how much your jewelry is worth. If you want to list jewelry or watch for sale, or you are doing estate or tax planning or getting an appraisal for insurance purposes, what you really need to know is how much money your ring, earrings, necklace, bracelet, watch or other item is worth.

That is why you need a jewelry appraisal or jewelry lab report.

What is a jewelry appraisal?

A jewelry appraisal is a statement of value that spells out the worth of your item. The person doing the appraisal — the appraiser — does a thorough inspection of your jewelry to determine the value.

Note, there is a big difference between an appraisal and a grading, also known as a lab report.

The internationally recognized laboratories at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or International Gemological Institute (IGI), will grade your diamond or other gemstone jewelry, determining the cut, color, clarity and exact size, as well as other attributes like name brand, and market value, to give you a certified lab report with detailed information about the metal, diamonds, and gemstones. The lab report will also include an estimate resale price.

An appraisal from a local jeweler, for example, may be useful in determining insurance replacement value, or helping you create an estate or tax plan, but is not useful in understanding exactly the quality, specifications and other attributes inherent to your item.

A jeweler or pawn shop, however, can easily weigh and measure your gold, silver or common gemstones stones for the purpose of scrap metal value.

How to appraise jewelry

A common concern among jewelry owners is how the jewelry appraisal actually works. You might wonder how to appraise jewelry yourself, but the process requires in-depth, scientific knowledge of gemstones and metals.

If you have an engagement ring or other diamond jewelry, and already have a lab report with specific details of the cut, color, clarity and carat of your jewelry, check out Worthy's list of recent sales to get an idea of the marketplace.

If you have gold or silver jewelry, CashforGoldUSA may be a better fit. If you know the weight of your item or coin, you can use their online calculator to get an estimate, since the value of precious metals like gold, platinum, and silver change every day.

As of this writing, 1-ounce of gold 24k was worth $1,507. A 1-ounce gold bar is about the size of a military dog tag, and 24mm (0.95 inches) x 42mm (1.65 inches 2mm (0.08 inches). Check the latest price of gold with CashforGoldUSA's gold calculator.

You can also use Worthy's online jewelry estimator, which will help you understand the value of your diamond ring, bracelet, earrings, gold, and watches.

How to appraise jewelry yourself

Before you head to a local jeweler near you, or send your jewelry into an online jewelry buyer or gold buyer, you can do a jewelry appraisal at home to better understand the value of your item:

  • Learn whether your diamond is real
  • Understand if the gold is real
  • Educate yourself about the jewelry market. For estate and antique jewelry, understand that there are four ways to value the piece: replacement price (how much it would cost to buy the same item, in the event your piece is lost, stolen or destroyed), estate value retail (what it would sell for in a store), estate value wholesale (the price you would receive from a wholesaler or at auction, and intrinsic value (the market price of the gold, platinum, diamond or gemstones).

How to tell if a diamond is real

A real diamond will not float, shatter under extreme temperatures, or hold the fog from your breath for more than a second or two.

How to tell if gold is real

A real gold item will have a purity marking on the back or inside. This stamp is typically either a carat number, such as 18K, or 12K, in the shape of a rectangle with the corners cut off, and with a number inside. Here is the meaning of those numbers:

999 = 24 karat, 99.9% gold
990 = 22 karat, 99% gold 
916 = 22 karat, 91.6% gold 
750 = 18 karat, 75% gold 
585 = 14 karat, 58.5% gold 
375 = 9 carat, 37.5% gold

You can also test your item by holding it to a flame — if it turns black it likely is not real gold. Also, real gold will not float, turn your skin green or black, and will not respond to a magnet.

Recent gold prices, as of Nov. 4, 2019: Price per 1 ounce of gold:

10K Troy ounce of gold is worth $629
14K Troy ounce of gold is worth $883
18K Troy ounce of gold is worth $1,132
24k Troy ounce of gold is worth $1,507

How much is a gram of gold worth?

As of this writing, a gram of pure, 24K gold was worth $48.49. To visualize, a 1-gram gold bar is 8mm (0.32 inches)x 15mm (0.59 inches) x 0.4mm (0.02 inches) — or smaller than a thumbtack.

10k gram of gold was worth $20.24
14k gram of gold was worth $28.39
18k gram of gold was worth $36.40
24K gold was worth $48.49.

Here is more information on how to sell gold jewelry and coins for the highest price >>

You can also take your jewelry to a local, reputable jeweler who can give you a written appraisal. But again, this is very different than a lab report from IGA or GIA.

Otherwise, use Worthy's online estimator:

jewelry appraisal

Keep in mind that how you get jewelry appraised can make a big impact on the sticker price of your pieces. If you have an item that includes diamonds, finding a certified appraiser who understands how to appraise diamond jewelry is your best chance at a clear value.

How old your piece of jewelry is can also impact what it’s worth, making estate jewelry appraisals a little tricky. While some of your heirlooms could become valuable showpieces with larger price tags, others go out of style and lose their value.

Sometimes a local jeweler can help with general inquiries about how much your valuables are worth. But to know how to get jewelry appraised and sold, partnering with a reputable online jewelry buyer like Worthy can help.

Worthy is an online resource that works exclusively with GIA and the IGA to have certified gemologist appraisers complete a free appraisal and lab report of your prized possessions. There are no other online jewelry sellers that offer this free service.

I sold a diamond engagement ring on Worthy, and here is my review >>

Other leading online jewelry and diamond buyers advertise that their appraisers are GIA certified, but that is very different than sending your item to the GIA or IGA laboratory, where it will be inspected and receive a full laboratory report — yours to keep free.

To get an idea of how much your item is worth, use Worthy's free, immediate online jewelry estimator >>

Are jewelry appraisals accurate?

Insurance appraisals may serve the purpose of buying coverage for your jewelry collection, but when selling your valuables, we recommend taking extra steps to get the most detailed report about the specifications of your item. This gives you the confidence that you are getting the highest price for your diamond, gold or other jewelry — as well as providing true value for whoever buys your jewelry.

As a general rule, update your appraisal every two to three years is a good idea, as the price of gold, platinum and silver fluctuate daily, and the market value for all jewelry ebbs and flows.

In the end, the market dictates how much your item is worth. With most online jewelry sites like eBay or Etsy, just 5% of jewelry posted is actually sold. Worthy is a live, online jewelry marketplace where hundreds of vetted buyers around the world bid on your item, based on the information from the lab report from GIA or IGA — so everyone involved in the process understands exactly the quality of the item up for sale — including you!

How do appraisal prices compare with actual selling prices?

You might not know the difference between a jewelry appraisal price and the selling price, and that’s okay.  However, a value given for insurance lists the retail replacement cost, which is very different from what you’d get in the resale market.

If you’re curious about the value, sometimes local jewelry appraisers give you an appraisal for free, which may serve as a general benchmark, but this won’t match what you’d earn if you list your trinkets for sale.

If selling your jewelry is the ultimate goal, consider Worthy.com — the largest online jewelry marketplace. Every item sold on Worthy.com is sent to the IGA or GIA where it receives a certified lab report from a certified gemologist — including an accurate resale price based on real-time market values.

Keep in mind that the sales price will be lower than the purchase price. Here is a good explanation for why that is:

How much does a jewelry appraisal cost?

The cost of a jewelry appraisal depends on several factors:

  1. The complexity and rarity of the jewelry. A solitaire engagement ring is easier to appraise than an elaborate brooch with a dozen rare stones.
  2. The qualifications of the appraiser may charge less than a lab report from the GIA, since the latter is recognized as the industry standard, and their laboratories are equipped with sophisticated grading equipment to ensure accurate grading. Plus, because GIA conducts huge volume of jewelry appraisals, their market resale estimates are extremely rare and based on thousands of recent sales.

If you are getting your jewelry appraised for insurance purposes from a local jeweler or appraiser, expect to pay a flat or hourly rate, based on $75 to $150 per hour. Some appraisers charge based on a percentage of the appraised value.

A GIA grading and lab report will cost about $200 for a simple diamond ring, and up.

How to appraise a ring

Like most jewelry, your engagement, wedding, diamond or other ring has both metal and gemstones in it. Typically, a jeweler or the GIA will evaluate the stone, and offer scrap metal prices for any gold or platinum setting.

Also, it is important to understand that typically, the large center stone is the only diamond in most engagement rings that counts towards the carat weight. Side stones are typically not worth more than a few hundred dollars, unless they are of high quality and of at least .3 carat each.

Here is how and why I sold my engagement ring after divorce, and what I did with the money.

How to appraise a diamond

Appraising a diamond is one of the most standardized, and scientific parts of the jewelry world. With the exception of very large or rare diamonds, a laboratory like GIA can create an objective grading report, based on these common criteria. A skilled appraiser or diamond buyer can also offer a quality estimate of the replacement value of your diamond.

4 C's of diamonds

The 4 C's are a well-recognized tool for measuring the quality and value of your diamond.

Cut

Cut is simply the way the cutter cut the diamond, and the skill and precision of the cutter's work. The more precise the cut, the more beautiful the diamond is to look at.

Color

Gem-quality diamonds come in colors ranging from completely colorless (the rarest of diamonds), to shades of yellow (also called “canary diamonds) and brown (“cognac diamonds”). “Fancy” diamonds that are naturally blue, red, and pink are graded on their own, separate scale, and tend to be very rare and expensive.

Clarity

4 Cs diamond clarity

Diamonds usually have internal flaws called inclusions, or external characteristics known as blemishes. Diamonds without inclusions or blemishes are rare; however, most characteristics can only be seen with magnification.

Carat

The carat is the diamond’s physical weight measured in metric carats. Carat weight is the most objective grade of the 4Cs.

How to appraise antique or estate jewelry

Antique and estate jewelry can be a little trickier, especially if the gemstones are of an older cut, such as an old mine cut diamond that is less popular than modern cuts, the condition of the item, and the style, which may affect the retail value.

There are ways to value antique or estate jewelry:

  1. Intrinsic value if your antique jewelry. What is the market rate for the weight of the scrap gold, silver and platinum, plus the market rate for any loose gemstones in the piece?
  2. Estate jewelry retail value. How much could this item sell for in a consignment, antique or jewelry store?
  3. Wholesale jewelry value. How much could you sell the item for to a wholesaler or retailer, who would then apply their markup when they put the estate jewelry to market?
  4. Replacement value. An appraisal for estate planning or insurance purposes seeks to set a value on antique jewelry that would help you replace the item were it lost or stolen.

How to sell your estate or antique jewelry for the highest price

How to appraise Tiffany jewelry

Tiffany jewelry is known for its simple, elegant styles and high-quality materials and diamonds. For this reason, Tiffany jewelry tends to maintain a high resale value, especially if the engagement ring or other jewelry is in good condition, and a style that is currently in demand.

Tiffany & Co. does not offer appraisals, but a reputable auction house will appraise a Tiffany item, or auction site like Worthy will provide a GIA lab report on your Tiffany jewelry.

Learn more about how to sell a piece of Tiffany jewelry or engagement ring you no longer want.

How much does a jewelry appraisal cost?

Often, a local jeweler or pawn shop near you will provide an appraisal for free, especially if you are a regular customer. Keep in mind that an appraisal is often inflated above what you might pay for the same item at a jewelry store, but can be useful for insurance or tax purposes. Some jewelers will charge you an hourly or flat rate of on average $50 to $150 per hour, or a percentage of the appraised value.

For a certified laboratory report from an independent association like the Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, a one-carat diamond ring will cost an average of $200, with prices varying on the size, rarity and other factors of the jewelry.

Where to get jewelry appraised for free

Most local, reputable jewelers will give you an appraisal for free. Check the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers for a recommendation. Yelp reviews can also be helpful.

For lower-end items such as gold chains and rings, and smaller jewelry, a local pawn shop can weigh your items and offer a price that may shock you — pawn shop prices reflect around 13% to the dollar of original price paid.

CashforGoldUSA is a reputable online gold, diamond and jewelry buyback site that stands above the rest, with a B+ Better Business Bureau review and Fox News recommendation for offering 3 times the buyback price of other leading jewelry sites.

Reliable online diamond and jewelry buyers and marketplaces like Worthy include an appraisal with a lab grading report absolutely free.

Also, because Worthy has an online auction that advertises a certificate from the IGA or GIA, potential buyers know your gold and gemstones are authentic, increasing the transparency for everyone involved, and really setting the company apart from its competitors.

How much is my jewelry worth?

You might guess that solid gold and silver jewelry is worth more than costume trinkets. Yet, many jewelry owners still wind up wondering, “Is my costume jewelry worth anything?” Some vintage costume pieces have gold plating, but is gold plated jewelry worth anything?

Typically, the answer is no. Some name-brand vintage costume jewelry may have retail value at a specialty resale shop, but you may be better off donating unused plastic and costume items to a local charity, and enjoying a tax deduction.

Check out some recent Worthy sales to get an idea of the marketplace for diamond, gemstone, gold and name brand engagement rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and fine watches.

You can always send plated and lower-end items to CashforGoldUSA. If yours is an item they do not buy, they will return your jewelry for free, at no charge to you.

It’s difficult to get an answer to these questions without an appraisal. If your goal is having a general idea of your jewelry’s value, consider working with Worthy to get an estimate and then lab report from a gemologist.

At the same time, always remember the golden rule of resale: Your stuff is only worth the amount someone else is willing to pay.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't sell if you don't make a lot of money. In this post, I write about all the emotional value of selling engagement jewelry, as well as all the life-changing ways women have invested profits from jewelry sales.

After all, if you're not enjoying it, it is lost money.

Sell jewelry to Worthy or sell your gold to CashforGold

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.

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