Author Archive

Valuing Gemstones

lab-appraisal-kimI wonder if people understand how I come up with appraisal values. I do more than guess at them. Most appraisers do. We should have a clear understanding of gemology, the science of first identifying, then grading gemstones. 

Every gemstone has a set of value factors. The most commonly known set of value factors is the diamond’s 4 C’s. These are cut, clarity, color and carat weight. Almost anyone who has ever purchased a fine diamond is familiar with them. Jewelry appraisers live and breathe these value factors. As one factor decreases, so does the value of the diamond.

Colored stones have some of the same value factors. Appraisers consider clarity, cut, carat weight and color, just as in diamonds. However, with colored stones there are also other factors including phenomena, like a cat’s eye or color change or adularescence.

Appraising colored stone jewelry is more nuanced than appraising diamonds. Consider color for a moment. An emerald is not just green. It may be yellowish green, which would reduce the value. Or it may be bluish green, which would increase the value. If the emerald is too light or too dark, the appraiser reduces the value. If the emerald has gray in it, that too reduces the value of the emerald.

Clarity grades in colored stones are different for each colored stone. For example, sapphires are expected to be eye clean. The appraiser should reduce the value for a sapphire with visible inclusions. On the other hand, the emerald is expected to have some visible inclusions. Moonstone is expected to be translucent. Lapis is expected to be solid. The appraiser should know how to grade for clarity in each of the different colored stones.

Quality of the cut is more important for diamonds than colored stones. Diamonds are cut for maximum brilliance these days. Colored stones are still often cut to maximize carat weight. There are exceptions. Some stone cutters create exceptionally beautiful gemstones by cutting for maximum color, clarity, liveliness and luster. Again, it is the job of the jewelry appraiser to recognize these exceptional gems and value them appropriately.

Pearls have their own value factors. These are size, shape, color, luster, surface quality, nacre quality and for a strand, we add matching. It makes sense that these value factors are so different from the others discussed above because pearls are an organic gemstone. I took a separate class at the GIA to learn how to grade pearls. I’m very happy I did because I appraise pearls frequently.

This is a short explanation about how the appraiser considers value factors when writing jewelry appraisals. If you have any specific questions, give me a call. I enjoy being the jewelry expert!!

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Jewelry Investments

jewelry investment necklaceHave you ever bought a piece of jewelry thinking that it was a good investment? I have! The price of jewelry does tend to go up with time, but that’s new jewelry. Once you’ve purchased an item, it’s used jewelry. You can call it vintage or pre-owned, but still, there are few buyers for used jewelry. Think about how many times you’ve gone out shopping for used jewelry. I’ve never said to my best friend, “come on Tish, let’s go look at other people’s old jewelry. It’ll be so much fun!”But for most of us, if we did buy something pre-owned, we’d expect a great bargain.

Think of it like buying a car. You’ve heard about the value of the car dropping $1000 just for driving it off the parking lot. Sadly, jewelry is like that too.

Now if you buy a Rolls Royce or a Bentley, that’s different. Cars like that will hold value, usually. So it is with jewelry. If you must invest in jewelry, find something that is unique, desirable and extremely rare and of the highest quality available. Think one of a kind necklace from Van Cleef and Arpels. Or choose a 15 carat diamond with high color and high clarity. These types of items will always be so rare that there will be a market for them.

You can use this information to your advantage! Used jewelry can be purchased for a song! Always wanted a diamond tennis bracelet? Look for it on the secondary market; e-bay, Craig’s list or consignment stores. Or go to an auction and let the gorgeous piece find you. Many jewelry stores have sections for vintage and antique jewelry. But there may not be super huge  bargains there.

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OMG! They Switched My Diamond!

diamond rabbit photoThis doesn’t look like my diamond! When this thought first jumps into your head, you get that queasy feeling like when you can’t find your credit card. Your stomach drops into your knees, your heart rises to fill your throat, and you think, “My life as I know it is over.”

This is a bad feeling. Chances are you just picked up your ring, (which was only going to get sized) from the jewelry store that afternoon. As you wear the ring, you notice that the diamond seems different. Maybe the familiar black spot is gone. Maybe it seems a little smaller, or just not as white. You don’t want to think these bad things about your jeweler. But then you are convinced. This is not your diamond!

What can be done? Who can you call? This is when many people discover that independent jewelry appraisers exist, and maybe they’re a good thing. But I diverge….

Women like to take care of these problems as soon as possible. This is when I get the jewelry emergency phone call, usually on a Saturday evening. The appointment is set up for 7 am Monday morning.

Arriving a few minutes early, the grieving diamond owner shows me her diamond ring, which is normally accompanied by an old appraisal. I am to look at the diamond and see if it matches the old appraisal. I look at the diamond under my microscope. I probably clean it, then look again. I compare it to diamonds I have for color grading. I measure the stone. Then I examine the old appraisal. I look under the microscope once again. I give the news. The diamond matches the old appraisal (within a grade here or there).

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The History of the Diamond Engagement Ring

kim-diamondSometimes rituals are so entrenched in a culture that people hardly question where the traditions come from. This is not the case with the diamond engagement ring. Many people think it is a custom imposed upon us by DeBeers, the giant diamond monopoly. This powerful empire devised a marketing scheme that was so compelling, it bent our minds into believing that the diamond engagement ring is the only possible way for two people in love to begin a life together. There may be some truth in that. But I believe the custom is much more complex.

The earliest record of a diamond engagement ring being given is a letter dated July 30, 1477. On that date, Dr. Wilhelm Moroltinger wrote a letter to Archduke (later Emperor) Maximilian, just before his betrothal to Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold. In that letter he states, “At the betrothal your Grace must have a ring set with a diamond and also a gold ring. Moreover, in the morning your Grace must bestow upon the bride some costly jewels.”

I am certain that DeBeers did not exist in 1477. Therefore, the giant company held no sway over those people. The wealthy of that time devised the notion of a diamond engagement ring because of the beauty of the diamond itself.

Let’s examine more recent diamond engagement ring history. Before 1870, diamonds were found scattered throughout the world, but mostly in Brazil and India. In 1870, diamonds were discovered in South Africa and the quantities were like nothing before. The early diamond rush included thousands of diggers and thousands of connected plots of land. As the plots got deeper and became more dangerous or unprofitable, individual lots were sold off. Several people vied for control of the diamond rich land by buying up these lots. Finally, in 1880, Cecil Rhodes triumphed and established the DeBeers Mining Company in South Africa.

Now there was a large supply of diamonds. Happily, diamond engagement rings became commonplace at the start of the new century here in the United States and in many parts of Europe.

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A blessing that we found her

My friend needed to have 31 pieces of jewelry appraised. Some other appraisers required removal of the diamonds from the settings. Some appraisers required her to leave her diamonds, other precious stones and gold with them for up to a week. Piracci was extremely quick and professional. She used a high powered microscope, an electrical device, a powerful camera and a microscale to determine the value of the stones and metals. She had many books and charts. She explained the standards that she used. She was friendly and pleasant. She was able to go through a lot of work, a lot of pieces of jewelry in a very short period of time. She could quickly tell what pieces were authentic and what pieces were fraudulent. Her documentation was crystal clear. She permitted us to watch and wait as she did her work. I feel that it was a blessing that we found her at this time. I would highly recommend her to do jewelry appraisal work for anyone without reservation.
— Ted Pitts

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Honest, straightforward, thorough assessment

Kim Piracci, independent jewelry appraiser, completed 3 detailed appraisals for my homeowners insurance. I greatly admired Kim’s thorough assessment of my pieces. I was comfortable in her lab while she examined a large collection of pieces that I wanted to have appraised for insurance and personal reasons. She took the time to answer all of my questions, in words that I could understand. Additionally, I greatly appreciated Kim not “upselling” me. I brought her several family heirlooms, that turned out to have much greater sentimental value than financial worth. When Kim discouraged me from completing appraisals on those pieces, I was grateful that she was honest and straightforward. I highly recommend Kim Piracci for all of your jewelry appraisal needs.
— Danielle C

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I would highly recommend Kim

My daughter was referred to Kim Piracci by a local jewelry designer when she wanted to know the value of a diamond ring that she wished to sell.  I went with her to Kim’s place of business in Chapel Hill.  Kim was friendly, yet professional and unhurried.  In a matter of days she called my daughter to tell her that the appraisal was complete and that we could come by and pick it up with the ring.

Because of our satisfaction with Kim’s services, I took several other pieces of jewelry to her for appraisals.  Kim was very honest about a few pieces which I had thought were more valuable than they actually were.  In so doing, I was able to reduce my insurance premiums on  the items.

I would highly recommend Kim to anyone who wants a fair and accurate appraisal on his/her jewelry, either for insurance purposes, or just for information and peace of mind.  I feel that her fees are quite fair and that she is responsive and pleasant to work with.
— Beki Stirman

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A very detailed appraisal

Recently when I went to get an insurance policy for my wife’s jewelry I could not find the appraisals. I went to Kim for an appraisal of a diamond engagement ring and a diamond bracelet. She was friendly and efficient, handing me the appraisals two days later. I didn’t realize how great Kim Piracci was until the next month when I found the old appraisals. There was no comparison. The old appraisal basically documented that I owned the jewelry with a brief description and value estimate. Kim’s appraisal had the type of detail (including a mapped image of all aspects of the stones) that would allow me to identify and claim it anywhere should it ever become missing, and it gave supporting information to back the appraised value. Thanks Kim! Now that I know just how good a job you do I’ll make sure all my friends get it done the right way the first time through.
— Chris Helmstetter

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Thank you for your help

Thank you for your help in the appraisal and sale of jewelry from my parents’ estate. Despite my lack of knowledge concerning jewelry, you were very patient and your answers to my questions were very helpful. Everything was done within the time frames you predicted and sold for amounts in line with your estimates. I am a very satisfied customer, and only regret that I am unlikely to be a repeat customer now that the estate has been settled.
— Seth Forman from Toto, Guam

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Professional and so informative

Needing an updated appraisal on two pieces of jewelry for insurance purposes, I remembered an article about Kim in a local newspaper-thank goodness! She was professional and so informative. She made me better understand the complex world of gemology. Kim created a reassuring environment with a minimal waiting time for my appraisals. I have and will continue to recommend Kim for any gemology needs.
Cindy Ryan

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