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[Diamond Appraisal Guide] Certificates, Cost, Charts and More

With diamonds, the stakes are nearly always high.

Mistakes or oversights when you buy can be very costly. Lack of adequate insurance after you buy can also be costly.

Educating yourself about diamonds is therefore very important and that’s where we help.

If you’ve already familiarized yourself with the types of diamonds available, you may want to know the market value of your diamond.

You do this with a diamond appraisal.

Jewelry appraisal usually requires the professional skills of a gemstone expert. But what do they look for when appraising a diamond? What is the procedure? What does it tell you about your diamond? And what can you use the appraisal for?

The following diamond appraisal guide covers the key information you need to know from the start.

What is a diamond appraisal?

A diamond appraisal considers the quality and appearance of a diamond, with a view to determining its current monetary value. 

As well as its weight, shape, and general measurements, it takes into account the “4 Cs” of any diamond, namely:

  • Carat
  • Color
  • Clarity
  • Cut

Your appraisal will not go into great detail about these factors. 

Instead, the appraiser will use their observations of these characteristics to include an estimate of the value of the diamond, based on the current market value.

If the diamond is set into jewelry, an appraisal will also be able to consider the weight, purity, and styling of the ring or other piece of jewelry, before determining the value.

A full diamond appraisal is normally arranged through two main sources:

  1. The retailer
  2. An independent diamond appraiser

What happens during an appraisal?

Gemologists are usually in charge of performing diamond appraisals.

They follow a series of steps to create an appraisal document that can be used for a number of purposes, which are discussed later.

These steps usually include:

  • Cleaning the diamond until it is completely clear
  • Checking for imperfections and inclusions using a microscope
  • Checking for the serial number (which is engraved in the diamond and requires a 20x magnifying glass or microscope)
  • Determining the color, using a daylight lamp and a special white cardboard
  • Checking the carat weight of the diamond using very sensitive scales (when the diamond is set, a “leveridge” is used as a counterweight)
  • Assessing the quality of the cut of the diamond
  • Determining the amount of fluorescence (gas content)
  • Estimating the value of the diamond
  • Preparing the appraisal document

What information does a diamond appraisal include?

The following information may be included in a typical diamond appraisal:

  • Date
  • Certificate number
  • Name and address of the purchaser
  • Invoice number (proof of purchase)
  • Article number
  • Description of the diamond from the vendor
  • Weight of the diamond(s)
  • Color grade
  • Clarity grade (including a description of impurities and imperfections)
  • Cut: diamond shape and – if possible – the quality of that shape
  • Retail value
  • Name(s) of the appraiser(s)

Why do you need a diamond or jewelry appraisal?

As mentioned, mistakes with diamond jewelry can be very costly. 

A diamond appraisal is the best way to evaluate the true monetary value of a diamond and minimize the risks associated with owning it.

It provides an accurate indication of the quality, condition, and value of the diamond and/or piece of jewelry so that you can arrange the right level of insurance for your own peace of mind. 

Say you want to insure your diamond ring…

Firstly, your insurance company will almost certainly request an appraisal before insuring you.

Besides, you need to know how much to insure it for in case it gets lost or stolen.

Note that some insurers will insist on a re-appraisal of your diamond ring every couple of years because of the regular changes in the diamond market. 

Your appraisal will be based on the current value of your diamond ring – which can go up or down depending on the market.

This also means that the appraisal may value your ring at more or less than what you paid for it, even if that purchase was quite recent.

Make sure that you communicate the purpose of the appraisal when you order it as it may affect the estimated value of the jewelry.

Does every diamond have an appraisal?

Not every diamond or piece of diamond jewelry comes with an appraisal document. 

If you need an appraisal, you may need to request it or arrange it yourself through independent professionals.

Many retailers will provide a detailed diamond appraisal automatically when you buy a piece of diamond jewelry from them. This will usually be suitable for insurance purposes.

However, it is your prerogative to also get your diamond appraised independently. 

Professional diamond appraisers

When you order an independent diamond appraisal, it will usually be performed by skilled and certified professional gemologists.

They have access to the necessary testing equipment to accurately assess diamonds in sufficient detail to appraise them.

However, do your homework first as not everyone who appraises diamonds is suitably qualified.

Organizations like the Independent Certified Gemologist Appraisers and Certified Gemologist Appraisers of the American Gem Society are independent bodies that you can trust to arrange high-quality, professional appraisals.

You can find a fuller list of independent diamond appraisers here on the IGA website.

Most professionals from such associations have diplomas in gemology and advanced training in jewelry and diamond appraisals specifically. 

They are generally not associated with the sale of diamonds, so you can trust that you will receive a fair and accurate appraisal of your jewelry.

Diamond appraisals vs diamond certificates

When a professional and independent diamond appraisal is complete, you will receive a diamond appraisal document.

This document will contain all the information necessary about the quality and value of your jewelry for insurance purposes from a trusted and reliable source.

Though it is sometimes called a “diamond appraisal certificate”, this is quite misleading.

A diamond certificate usually refers to something other than an appraisal. It’s important to be aware of the differences.

You already know what a diamond appraisal covers and roughly how it’s put together. So, what is a diamond certificate?

Diamond certificates

A diamond certificate is more detailed than an appraisal; and, unlike appraisals, every diamond should have one.

The information it contains is compiled only by a diamond laboratory that specializes in the inspection of loose diamonds and gemstones.  

A certificate contains far more intricate information than a simple appraisal – for instance, a consideration of the internal quality of the diamond as well as the external appearance.

Highly specialized instruments are used by technicians in order to magnify the diamond so that its physical nuances can be observed.

They will grade and list all the key scientific information and key characteristics of the diamond (the four Cs) as well as any imperfections observed. Specialists will test and assess each characteristic.

The information in the certificate will remain valid as long as the diamond itself because a diamond doesn’t change its characteristics unless it is damaged. 

As there is no estimation of the value in a diamond certificate, it is not dependent on market conditions.

The laboratories used to test the diamonds and produce these certificates are usually independent of jewelers. The certificate services provided by IGI and GIA are good examples.

Beware of diamond certificates issued directly by jewelers or diamond salespeople as, most times, they will not independently and professionally assess the diamonds.

Instead, the certificate will come from the retailer’s own agents and therefore the grading conclusions cannot be trusted.

Note that buying a diamond that has an appraisal but no certificate could be asking for trouble. You may end up paying too much because of the lack of accurate and independent grading.

Note also that only polished diamonds are either certified or appraised – not rough diamonds.

Diamond or jewelry appraisal cost

A diamond/jewelry appraisal for insurance purposes should cost the same as for any other purpose.

As already pointed out, an accurate, thorough appraisal is generally required for any worthwhile insurance (after all, what’s the point of insurance that doesn’t cover the cost of reimbursing lost jewelry?)

So, the cost of a diamond appraisal is one that you’ll have to meet if you want to get your jewelry insured properly.

Fortunately, it doesn’t cost the earth. And it doesn’t cost more for more valuable diamonds as you’re essentially paying only for a professional appraiser’s time. You should pay by the hour or a flat fee.

If the appraiser wants to charge a percentage of the value of the diamond, it may be best to walk away as there may be a temptation for the value to be artificially driven up.

Hourly rates should vary from around $50 to $150 depending on the level of experience of the appraiser and the complexity of the piece of jewelry.

Can you use an online diamond appraisal calculator?

Since the explosion of online jewelry sites, there are now more online diamond appraisal calculators than ever.

With these, you usually select your diamond shape and the carat weight of your diamond, and provide details on the color and clarity and then hit GO for an instant estimate of value.

These can be a fun way to arrive at a very rough idea of the value of your diamond. 

However, online diamond appraisal calculators are notoriously inaccurate and they should never replace a thorough, professional, and independent assessment.

Summary of the benefits of a diamond appraisal

A diamond appraisal is usually undertaken to establish the approximate value of the diamond or piece of jewelry that it is set in.

There are several benefits associated with getting a diamond appraisal:

  • It helps you secure the right level of insurance
  • It provides you with valuable information about the appearance and quality of your diamond/jewelry
  • It can prevent you from selling your jewelry for a lower price than necessary
  • During the examination of a piece of jewelry, appraisers may find loose diamonds or other gemstones that you can fix before they fall off and you lose them

How do arrange a diamond appraisal?

The most important aspect of arranging a diamond appraisal is selecting a reputable organization to carry out the appraisal. 

The insurance company will insist on this.

An appraisal may be issued for free when you buy a diamond with a retailer - but only with some retailers. 

You may need to research the types of organizations mentioned above, choose one yourself, pay the fee, and await your appraisal.

Need a diamond appraisal?

With the above guide, you should be clearer about what a diamond appraisal can and can’t do and how to go about organizing one.

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