Jewelry Appraisals for Insurance

AIGR, Inc. (American Institute of Gemological Research) is an independent gemological laboratory and jewelry appraisal firm.  All of our appraisers have Graduate Gemologist diplomas from GIA (Gemological Institute of America.)  AIGR is recognized by AGS (American Gem Society) as an ICGA (Independent Certified Gemologist Appraiser) firm.  We have performed tens of thousands of jewelry appraisals during our decades of serving the public.  We provide a very detailed report, including photographs.

Many insurance company files have thousands of appraisals with no pictures or where little or no testing was ever done, and where the underlying process for determining a value is invisible, often resulting in an inflated, rounded dollar amount.  These documents were produced by what became known as the PFA (Pluck From Air) method of appraising, and it’s still a big problem in the industry today.  Such appraisals can result in payment of inflated insurance premiums without enough description of the item to provide for replacement in like kind.

A couple of problems arise from these inadequate appraisals.  One problem is misidentification of gems, for example, identifying a cubic zirconia, moissanite, or now a synthetic diamond as a natural diamond.  Two years after receiving an incorrect appraisal, the customer unwittingly takes the “diamond” to be cleaned by a jeweler.  The jeweler happens to test the stone and informs the customer that he or she has a moissanite.  Now the customer thinks the unsuspecting jeweler cleaning or repairing the jewelry looks like the bad guy.  After all they had it appraised and it was a diamond then, right?  Wrong!!  It is important to have a graduate gemologist from GIA or FGA of Great Britain identify your jewelry and then make sure they belong to a professional organization such as AGS.  Although that does not make them infallible, it greatly improves your protection in this kind of situation.  Even if the jeweler has been in business for twenty years or more does not mean he is identifying your gem correctly.  This is a big reason why most jewelers do not do appraisals.  Others do not care and will take your money and hope your insurance company will accept it.

A second problem is that the typical three- to seven-line appraisals do not cover important factors such as cut quality grade which can make a 40% difference in diamond value alone.  Two stones of the same color, clarity, size and shape can have a huge difference in monetary valuation.  Many people take these inadequate appraisals to their insurance company and think they are amply covered.  When a loss occurs the first thing the insurance company does is pull out that piece of paper and see what they are legally bound to do, only to see a poorly documented description of a piece of jewelry that is widely open to interpretation.  Here is an example:

 “One lady’s 14 karat yellow gold round brilliant cut diamond ring VS1 clarity and white color.  Set into a four-prong solitaire mounting with two tapered baguette cut diamonds of good color and clarity.      $10,000.”

I can’t count how many times we have received these appraisals written in the 1950’s or 60’s from jewelry owners asking us for a current value after the ring is lost.  YOU ARE IN A POSITION TO LOSE BIG TIME!!  And to make things worse, that’s when you find out that the law says that the burden of proof is on you!  Most policies are written so that the insurance company has the right to rebuild or replace in like kind.  They just don’t have to write a check for the appraised amount.  Your insurance agent or company are all smiles at the inception of the policy, but the claims adjuster has a completely different prospective when it is time to settle your claim.  Please don’t get me wrong.  Most are trying to do business in a fair and honest manner in handling claims, and most of the claims adjusters are good reasonable people, but they have to answer to the company as to why they are paying you what they are paying you.  Look at it from their prospective.  If someone says you owe me $10,000 based on a three- to seven-line appraisal written by a clerk in a jewelry store you are going to want to see carefully what it states.     Most claims adjusters are going to read the appraisal and go by the facts.  They probably know that your ring that appraised for $10,000 that was actually purchased for $ 6,500 can be legitimately replaced for far less by an insurance company getting deep discounts from the jewelry industry, even at today’s prices.  When the insurance company tries to cooperate but has inadequate information on the appraisal, that will prevent a proper replacement.  The insurance adjuster may refer you to a jeweler they feel comfortable with, and they may be helpful in settling your claim, but they may have their hands tied by what the insurance company is willing to pay.  These are all things to think about and are not readily apparent on the surface.  It can get complicated in the end.  We at AIGR are trying to educate the public one client at a time to these pitfalls that they can easily avoid from the start.   We would love to help you avoid this scenario with a half hour to one-hour office visit where we will be happy to examine your diamond engagement ring or precious heirloom while you wait and watch.   Take care of this today and properly protect your jewelry investment.  You will be glad you did.

We consider ourselves at AIGR a consumer advocate group that has forty-five years of experience of writing appraisals for insurance companies, jewelers, the FBI, and other civil entities.  AIGR has been a professional witness in court handling disputes, and we bring extensive experience to the table with our huge amount of data and proven technology in dealing with watch appraisals, pearl appraisals, wedding ring appraisals as well as other various jewelry items.  

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