What could be better than free appraisals?
Free appraisals aren’t free. You just aren’t being told how they’re being paid.
How about qualified for starters? Appraisals are a completely unregulated business. Obviously, this includes free appraisals. Anyone who wants to can call themselves an appraiser and say whatever they want. There are NO required qualifications to write ‘appraisals’. There is no license available in any state. GIA, the college that most gemologists in the US graduated from, doesn’t teach so much as a single class in appraising, much less offer a diploma in it. Qualifications don’t make an appraiser right, of course, any more than a license makes a doctor good, but it’s a good place to start.
How about unbiased? As with the above, anyone who wants to can say anything they want. “I’ll give you $500” is not an appraisal, it’s a bid. “I saw one of those that was asking $10,000”. You can ASK. That’s not the same as getting it. Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price is $20,000. Wow! So? It’s not a second opinion if it comes from the same source as the first. It’s not independent if it comes from a source that’s WORKING for the first.
Knowledgeable. It takes a lot of training and practice to render useful appraisals. It’s not just gemology. It’s knowing how things are put together. It’s knowing what damage can be easily repaired and what’s going to be a problem. It’s knowing genuine from counterfeit products and even parts. The vast majority of appraisers have no qualifications of any kind, not even a GIA-GG, which isn’t even an appraisal credential.
Equipped and current. Putting together a modern appraisal lab is shockingly expensive, and shockingly few appraisers do it. None of the free ones do. New treatments, new synthetics, new techniques. All of this takes money, and money doesn’t come from free services. Tools aren’t free. Ask the free appraisal author if they’re using diamond color masters. Ask them if they can screen for synthetics. Ask if they know how to cut grade a diamond and understands the difference between excellent and ideal.
Under oath. All of the major appraisal organizations have a code of ethics. They all require a minimum level of training, they all require a certain amount of equipment, and most require continuing education. If they treat the clients badly or unethically, they get kicked out of the club. If the report says “the appraiser assumes no responsibility for the contents of this document” then it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.
An appraisal, including free appraisals, has two basic parts. First, there’s a description. That can include stone identification, grades, photographs, counts, measurements, manufacturers, age, and other details that answer the question of what it is and what are the properties that make it valuable. The second is a market evaluation. That’s a description of a particular marketplace and an estimate of how your item(s) will fit into it. Is the question how much gold is in it or how much the original designer would charge to replicate the piece? Are you asking how much you can sell it for or how much to expect it to cost to restore it to pristine condition? Yes, it matters.
Then there’s that report. The appraisal, including the free appraisals, is mostly the inspection and research part of the job but people see the term as synonymous with the report. Does it answer the question? Does it even say what the question was? Even the right answer to the wrong question is doing you no favors.