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Certified Jewelry Appraisers Have a Shiny Future

All that glitters may be gold for people who pursue a career in jewelry appraisals.

Organizations in Canada and the U.S. say there is a shortage of qualified appraisers. People with the experience and training required can pretty much write their own ticket.

"Graduate gemologists with appraisal training tend to be very much sought after," says Vicky Morrison. She is a spokesperson for the Gemological Institute of America. "It's a niche market."

These opportunities are being created largely by the push for tougher standards, say experts. There has been pressure to reform regulations. Some say only those with professional training should conduct appraisals.

Currently, most appraisals are handled by those in retailing. These are mainly people without specific appraisal training. They stand to gain if a piece is overvalued.

Claims Magazine, an insurance industry publication, explains how it works: "In an average retail setting, a jeweler will purchase a piece of jewelry, such as a diamond, from a merchant for a wholesale price of, say, $1,000. To make a sizeable profit on the sale, the jeweler highly inflates the appraisal value to $3,000 and lists that as the retail price.

Then, to give an incentive to interested customers, the jeweler will offer the diamond at the 'discounted' price of, say, $2,000. Once the sale is made, the jeweler comes out ahead, clearing a $1,000 profit."

"The jewelry trade is waking up to the fact that inflated appraisals will not be tolerated for long," says Catherine Sproule. She is the program director for the Canadian Jewelers Institute (CJI).

The CJI offers accredited appraiser programs to train professionals to appraise based on fair market value. "These appraisals will stand up against scrutiny from peers, and will not inflate value in any way because of the 'science' used in the appraisal process," says Sproule. "Accredited members of the CJI are re-certified every three years to ensure they are up to date on the latest appraisal techniques."

The CJI has three levels of membership when it comes to its appraiser program -- candidate, associate and accredited. Members apply based on their level of experience in the industry.

Members can progress through the levels by completing courses of study and training, along with acquiring experience in the field, says Sproule. "They finish with a jewelry guidelines exam that promotes them to the accredited level."

Brenda Gamba is director of research and information with the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America (MJSA). She says appraising is a highly skilled trade. To consistently give accurate appraisals, at least three to five years of buying, selling and grading gems or jewelry is required.

That must be followed with thorough instruction in appraisal theory, available through courses offered by the American Society of Appraisers.

A strong background in the jewelry industry is necessary because knowledge is perhaps the most important skill for an appraiser, says Morrison.

"You need tons and tons of qualifications to do this job. This is not an entry-level position. In order to quantify the value of jewelry, you need to know what the market demands. For example, if you're an appraiser of antique or period jewelry and you have some pieces from an estate you need to value, you have to know what is selling at auction."

Those who lack the recommended experience must take -- at the minimum -- diamond and colored stone courses such as those offered by the Gemological Institute of America. A knowledge of jewelry history and fabrication is also highly recommended by the MJSA.

Morrison points out that distance-education courses are available to people interested in training as appraisers.

Experts don't see appraisal opportunities as a passing trend. "The window will remain open for as long as there is a need and value placed on honest, fair appraisals for jewelry," says Sproule. "There are many trade members who have worked on this for over 10 years. In short, there are opportunities for years to come."


National Jeweler
Links to associations, news and resources related to the jewelry industry

Gemological Institute of America
Nonprofit educational resource for the gem and jewelry industry

Jewelers of America
Site dedicated to providing consumers with information and education about fine jewelry

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