What exactly is an appraisal?
Basically, an appraisal is a piece of paper that verifies the facts about those rings you just paid a lot of money for. It's different from the diamond grading report you got from your jeweler. A diamond grading report will tell you everything you need to know about your diamond (like the exact size). But the jewelry appraisal assigns a value to your entire ring, so it takes the diamond (and other stones) as well as the metal into consideration.
Why get an appraisal?
Think of an appraisal as a souped-up receipt in case anything happens to your ring. You'll need it in order to get ring insurance or if you're adding a rider to cover your ring and bands on your homeowners insurance policy. It will also give you proof you can use to claim your ring if it's stolen and recovered by police.
Where do I get a jewelry appraisal?
A gemologist can verify facts about your ring, an appraiser can assign a value to your ring; a gemologist-appraiser can do both. Some jewelry stores have an appraiser on site that you can make an appointment with. If yours doesn't, The American Gem Society
can help you find one in your area. Choose a gemologist-appraiser whose credentials reflect expertise in both areas: formal education in gemology (a GG credential, for example, indicates a Graduate Gemologist diploma from the Gemological Institute of America) and specialized appraisal training. These credentials ensure that the appraiser has had formal training and adheres to certain professional and ethical standards.
When do I need to get one?
You can get your rings appraised as soon as you have them. We recommend getting it done as early as possible just in case something happens to your rings (and just think -- the earlier you get it done, the less you'll have to do in the weeks leading up to your wedding!).
How does it work?
Ideally, the diamond appraisal would be done in front of you to ensure that your stone is not switched and to protect the appraiser from charges thereof. But realistically, this is often not an option. Instead, ask for and make yourself familiar with a plot diagram (includes the stone's measurements and internal characteristics) and agree on a value before you hand over your sparkler (for insurance purposes while it is out of your hands; many appraisers have a take-in sheet for this purpose). When you pick up the ring, you can check the stone against the diagram to make sure it matches.
How much does it cost?
You should be expecting a fee for your appraisal. The fees, which should be conspicuously posted, are based on the expertise of the appraiser, the time required to do the evaluation and the complexity of the work. Avoid appraisers who offer extremely low rates or those who base their fee on a percentage of your ring's appraisal value or price. Hourly rates range from $50 to $150; ask about the minimum fee before you commit. Most jewelers will charge either a flat rate, or will charge by the piece or by the hour.