Episode 194 Part 2: Jewelry Appraiser Ed Lewand’s Tips for Getting the Most Value Out of Your Jewelry
What you’ll learn in this episode:
- How the internet has changed the way people research and shop for jewelry
- Why even antique jewelry should be appraised with today’s market in mind
- Why lab-grown diamonds are becoming increasingly popular, even if they aren’t necessarily a good financial investment
- How to tell if you’re working with a qualified appraiser, and what techniques they use to determine a piece’s value
- Ed’s advice for purchasing jewelry at auction, online and while traveling
About Ed Lewand
Edward A. Lewand, GG, ASA, AAA, is a professional, independent appraiser of fine and antique jewelry. He has earned a Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America, is a Certified Member of the Appraisers Association of America and a Senior Accredit Member in Gems and Jewelry from the American Society of Appraisers.
Mr. Lewand also teaches a course that he developed on appraising jewelry called the Art of Appraising Jewelry at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. He lectures on appraising and antique jewelry. He maintains his insurance brokerage license in P&C and has a certificate in Paralegal studies from Adelphi University.
He specializes in antique jewelry appraisals and works with attorneys on estates, trusts, insurance matters, and copyright issues as well as appraisal theories and concepts. He is also an outside expert for the IRS and consults with numerous galleries and dealers in New York on antique jewelry.
Mr. Lewand is also the director of Jewelry Camp (JewelryCamp.org), now in its 43rd year, held at PHILLIPS Auction House in New York, an international conference on antique jewelry and art pertaining to jewelry.
He does work for international accounting firms as well as appraisals for the sale of major companies.
A good jewelry appraiser can give you much more than just an estimate of what your jewelry is worth. As a professional, independent appraiser of fine and antique jewelry, Ed Lewand draws on his historical knowledge of jewelry and his connections in the industry to give his clients a deeper understanding of what they have in their collections. He joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about how to know you’re working with a qualified appraiser; why less expensive jewelry, like lab-grown diamonds and art jewelry, is on the rise; and why you should always read the fine print when making a purchase. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey Podcast. This is the second part of a two-part episode. If you haven’t heard part one, please head to TheJewelryJourney.com.
Today, our guest is Ed Lewand, who was one of our first podcast guests several years ago. He’s a professional independent appraiser. Welcome back.
Ed: So, I do recommend product knowledge. As far as theories and concepts, a lot of places like to make appraisals more important than they really are. As long as you do your research and your documentation, provide whatever is needed for that particular assignment, explain what you’re doing in your scope of work, and maintain all your files and notes, you’ve pretty much got it. [End of repeat of first part]
It’s also establishing the right market for somebody. I don’t know who wrote the books a long time ago. There are 12 principles about appraising and theory. I always put every little note down. I’m valuing the second retail. The model is no longer in current production. The value is based on auction comps and comps on the internet from sites such as 1stDibs. I put that in my notes. I don’t put the actual comps in; those are in my notes, but I put that on the appraisal just so people understand where the numbers are coming from.
One of the misconceptions—I just ran into this last month in Nashville; I don’t run into it in New York—is that everybody is like, “Why isn’t the item appraised for double?” It’s a real item. It exists in the real world. Appraising it for double isn’t doing anybody any favors. It’s misleading. The appraisal should reflect a real number that exists and that the piece sold for. This way you understand that it’s the value of the piece. It’s just like when you’re buying a house. The appraisers value it based on comps in the marketplace, the location and everything else. They’re not going to give an appraisal for double on the house, because the bank’s only going to give you money based on that loan and what they could sell it for if they have to take over the house and you default. The same thing with an engagement ring. If everybody in the area sells the ring for $5,000 for a comparable ring, then the price of the ring is going to be $5,000 on the appraisal. How is it presented? If the color and clarity are correct, this is a $5,000 ring. “Well, my mother always taught me to appraise for double.” Well, if it was worth double, why weren’t they selling it to you for double?
Now, when we get down to value, a lot of people don’t understand value. I don’t fight people on value. I fight people on documentation. I fight people on research, on comps. Value is whatever somebody wants to pay for something, whatever anybody wants to charge for it. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you feel this ring is worth $10,000 and somebody buys it from you for $10,000, even if all the appraisers say it’s worth $2,500—but I really love the ring, so to me it’s worth $10,000—that’s fine. The guy didn’t do anything wrong. That’s what he wanted for it. That’s what you paid for it. It’s just like with certain things I collect. If I want it badly enough, I’m going to pay what they’re asking for it. Even if they think it’s high, I’m not buying for investment; I’m buying it for my own enjoyment. As you can see from the background, I have a lot of things in the house on the walls, the bookshelves and everything else. This is my private office. The wife is not allowed to go past the door of my office. I enjoy collecting weird little tidbits here and there. You have to understand; there are certain things you argue, certain things you can’t argue. It’s basically representation.
Now, if you’re buying a new piece—in fact, a situation just came up. I can’t mention the names, but the salesperson represented the price with four numbers. She never added the zero. She had said 1625. She said to them, both the husband and wife, 1625, and they took that to mean $1,625. I think anybody would. Now, if you said 16250, that’s $16,250. You never add the zero on this particular item. The people came back from their cruise and took it to a local jeweler, and the local jeweler said, “Oh, it’s only worth $8,000.” So, they called me. I said, “Well, there’s a conflict here. I can’t physically give you an appraisal. This firm is connected to an accounting firm and a bank that I do work for, so I can’t do that; it wouldn’t be fair.” It affects all the companies and businesses too. So, I suggested and recommended that they call the company and see what they can negotiate. I looked at the earrings, the item, and I agreed they were only worth $8,000. Actually, between $6,000 and $8,000. I think they had a very valid thing, and they’ll end up getting money back or being able to return them.
What I always advise people is know what the rules are before you buy something. When you’re traveling it may seem like a good deal, but jewelry is jewelry, no matter where we go in the world. It has a certain value and that’s it. Sometimes you can negotiate. Maybe somebody has things marked higher so they’re expecting you to negotiate. It just depends on what region of the world you’re in. Always check. Is it a returnable item? Are there no returns? If you’re traveling, I also suggest—I’m not an expert or anything, but from my own personal experience, I strongly recommend that you use a regular Amex card, not a credit card, because there is a difference. Some companies have rules that you can’t dispute anything more than 100 miles from your home. You’ve got to be careful with what you do and read the fine print. Unfortunately, today, the fine print is 30 or 40 pages on some things. So, you’ve got to be very, very careful with that.
Sharon: I missed something, or I didn’t understand. If you have a platinum card, let’s say, and it’s not a credit card, or you use a green Amex, what’s the difference?
Ed: It’s a charge card. Amex is a charge card. It’s an international bank. It’s not a local bank. With Visa and Mastercard and some of these others, you have to see what the rules are for disputing something beyond a certain range from the address of the card. Some companies don’t do it. Amex is an international company, so they handle things everywhere you go. They’re very, very good to their members—they call us members. That’s something I always tell people. Do a little research before you buy something. It takes you five minutes to Google, read the fine print, see what their policy is. In this way, if something goes wrong, you don’t have a problem a month later. It’s always a good thing, even here in the States. If you buy something and the pricing is too good to be true, it probably is.
Sharon: Have you ever bought anything in your travels that you thought was a good deal and then you came home and found it wasn’t?
Ed: No, because when I used to go the islands or to Europe and I’d find something for myself or the family, it’s basically some souvenir. I like antiques. I collect Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mickey Mouse paraphernalia and stuff. I know what the markets and the values are, but sometimes I’ll overpay. If I’m down on the islands and I go into one of these little shops with the balloons and stuff, I’ll buy the kids those; they’re a few bucks.
Have I ever bought anything overseas where there was an error or mistake? No, luckily, I haven’t. I never did. I think when I started, I had some very good teachers who I used to travel with, and they would say, “Oh, don’t do that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” We flew to Europe right after 9/11. They took away my tweezers at the airport, but we got on the plane. We’re flying business class and first class. When we got on the plane, they gave us steak knives with the dinnerware, and we’re going, “Wait a minute. They took my tweezers away as security, but you’re giving me a real steak knife? That’s classic.” We’re sitting there trying to understand this concept.
I think on the trip back, we flew out of Geneva. The people I was with, we all bought Swiss army knives, and we said, “O.K., make sure we put it into our checked luggage, not in our carry-on.” One left it in his carry-on, and we were sure it was going to get confiscated. They called him over. They took everything out, looked in his bag, took everything. We get to the gate and there’s a duty-free store. What were they selling there? Swiss army knives. Remember they used to have the little clerks that would go around the plane and sell souvenirs and things? What were they selling? Swiss army knives.
Sharon: You did better than I did. They took away my plastic steak knife and I couldn’t believe it.
Ed: I’m telling you, it’s weird. It’s very, very strange. Our government has developed TSA PreCheck. They’ve developed Global Entry. There are all different things you could do. There’s Clear, which I strongly suggest people use. It makes life so much easier, and it moves so much faster. But you’re always going to run into a problem traveling. Like I said, if people take five minutes to read the fine print, they avoid a lot of problems later for themselves. That’s what I suggest. That’s the story.
Sharon: Yeah, I can believe that. What should we look for in a good appraiser?
Ed: That they have kept updated with the latest USPAP, the Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices, that they have obtained a certain level in one of the appraisal organizations for gems and jewelry, that they’re providing you with an adequate description of the item with a photograph, and that they’re charging a fair price and explaining the value to you. In other words, they’re not just saying, “O.K., here’s a ring. It’s worth $3,000. Thank you, goodbye.” No. “It’s worth $3,000. We checked the internet. We made a few phone calls. We looked at the Rapaport List. We looked at the guide. This is the number we came up with for you, and here’s the reason why.” It takes a few minutes to explain it to people. Your explanation should be a narrative of the report, or for a standard retail replacement appraisal, it should contain a very good description for replacement purposes. It should have a fair value on it, which makes sense. Now, if it’s not a new purchase, if it’s an older purchase, if it was mom’s engagement ring, it should still be based on information related to what it will cost you to go out and buy a new ring in a store in this area or nationally.
I take into account the internet because I see a lot of diamonds coming off the internet still. Remarkably, you can buy some very large, expensive stones on the internet. I’m shocked; five, six, eight carats. I’m fascinated that people spend that kind of money, but they do. The other thing, too, when you’re buying diamonds, is making sure you have an accompanying GIA web report. They’re not certificates; they’re reports. A certificate in different states means warranty, but they’re lab reports. GIA developed the system we use today. They are still the premier lab that everybody wants to use for identification and grading. I think you solve a lot of headaches for yourself that way.
And, be forthcoming with your appraiser. If you’re going to have jewelry appraised or if you’re selling something, the appraiser is going to ask you certain questions. Do you have the original box and papers for this watch? Do you have the original receipt? What type of store did you buy it in? Are there problems or situations? Professional appraisers are there to work for you. I can do a standard engagement ring in about 10 minutes. The more information you give me, the better I can research everything you’re looking for and help figure out if there’s a problem. So, don’t withhold the certificate. It’s not a game. We’re here to work for you. We’re charging anywhere from $150 for a ring under a carat to $400 or $500 for something that’s five carats. We’re charging you a lot of money to sit there, talk to you and explain and investigate your piece of jewelry so we can derive a value that’s in the correct marketplace.
Sharon: Do you look for a hallmark on a piece or something that would be a manufacturer’s signature?
Ed: Just to clarify something, a hallmark is a government-issued stamp for taxes and content for the gold. A trademark is the seller’s mark or the manufacturer’s mark. They’re two different things. One of the best people that knows about that is—I just forgot his name. He used to teach at Jewelry Camp. He’s a good friend; I talk to him all the time. It’s Bill and Danusia, who do a great class. They wrote the World Hallmark Book, which is right behind me.
Sharon: I didn’t know Danusia wrote a hallmark book.
Ed: Danusia is going to be mad at me if she listens, but Bill, Lindy and Danusia wrote World Hallmarks. It’s a great book. They put so much time and effort into that. It was never about profit; it’s just about education. They have the most information. They are the top people in identifying marks, and Bill is a walking encyclopedia. If you ever get to hear them lecture—I think this summer they’re lecturing for Gail Levine at her NAJA Conference. If you have a chance, you definitely have to hear them talk. They’re fantastic.
That’s another good little jewelry organization that just specializes in jewelry, the NAJA. Gail tries her best to bring people the best information they can possibly get. The difference between a jeweler appraiser and a professional independent appraiser is not much. If the values are there and they do the work correctly and their report is defendable, then they’re doing a good job. Niklewicz, that’s Danusia’s name.
Sharon: So, a hallmark is like a Tiffany mark?
Ed: No, that’s the manufacturer’s mark. Hallmark is like the eagle’s head for 18-carat gold in France, the wolf’s head or dog’s head for platinum, whatever you use. You could date a piece with it. You could date an antique from the cut of the stone. You could do a lot of things from understanding products. When was platinum first used? When did it develop? When did the torch come, which combined oxygen and gas to give a hotter, higher flame so you could work in platinum? When you see black platinum pieces, it’s because it was a white metal. They used to back silver in gold; otherwise, it would rub on your skin and everything and turn black. They were doing that with platinum early on. Platinum stands by itself, but by understanding hallmarks you can understand if the piece is all platinum. If the piece is platinum in 18-carat white gold, you can understand the country or where it comes from; you can understand a timeframe.
Understanding history is very important if you’re an appraiser. I tell people I don’t authenticate. It’s not my place to do that, but I will value something. If the stamps and everything are correct, I will value something based on those markings. Do I guarantee them to be genuine? To the best of my knowledge, they might be, but again, I’m not authenticating it.
To this day, with the major houses and the major pieces, you still have to go to them to get the best authentication. From what I’m told right now, they’re not doing it. There’s a new service out there that will verify, I think, Winston, Cartier, Tiffany and Van Cleef. They do those four houses. I think auction houses are finding them quite useful. They’re still not the company itself, but they’re accepted. They are very intelligent, knowledgeable people who are doing it. They’ve all worked for those companies. Like I said, you may have to hire someone or find other people who know more than you do, but the sign of a good appraiser is they will ask other people who have more knowledge than they do about something. I do that all the time, especially with antique and aesthetic jewelry. I always ask a dealer I know, who’s like a walking encyclopedia. I ask for their opinion, their thoughts, their input, what their prior sales were, so I can provide the best information, not only to cover myself, but also to protect the client. That’s important. You’re there to protect your client no matter what and to be honest and truthful.
Sharon: Yeah, that would be very important.
Ed: I think so.
Sharon: One last thing I wanted to ask. I was going back and reading the transcript of the very first time you were on the podcast. You talked about the fact that brooches originally were heavier, and people don’t want them now because they stretch fabric. What do you think today?
Ed: It’s still taste. They’re not as popular as they once were. People would wear them because you could wear it with a scarf; you could wear it with a jacket; you could put it on a hat. There were a lot of different things. I do see some designers and people still making a brooch or two, but it’s not something that’s a mainstay. People don’t want heavy things on their clothing. Clothing is lighter. With some people, it’s less clothing. So, they’re still not super-popular, but they’re still there and collectable. A lot of times they’re worn on a chain, or they’re made with a pendant attachment.
A lot of people don’t realize jewelry was sometimes made for several purposes. I’ve seen pieces made by some of the finer houses where they could be attached onto a bracelet, they could be a brooch and they also had a pendant fitting. Some of them even had tiara fittings to be worn as a tiara back in the day. But as times, styles and people’s choices change, so does the jewelry industry and the art world.
Right now, I know that art jewelry is very popular. It’s a hard item. There’s a lovely lady—I’m getting old; I can’t remember her name. She’s going to hit me when she sees me, but she represents artists, and it’s fun jewelry. Is it super-expensive? Yes and no. If it’s a noted artist, it could be worth $20,000, $25,000, but most of the time it’s not. She’s been to Jewelry Camp a number of times. Some of this stuff is so amazing, how they can concoct it and how they make it and design it. It’s a lot of fun. People should consider art jewelry. It’s a statement, but it’s fun to collect. It’s not super-expensive, and it’s a piece that when you wear it and walk into a room, people go, “Look at that ring. Oh my god, I’ve got to ask her about it.” It may be made out of tin. I’ve seen some weird stuff, but it really is interesting. Not to show my age, but as we used to say, it’s really cool. People love to wear it. Some of the finer houses have just now started seeing auctions. I know Heritage had one on art jewelry. You don’t see them a lot, but they are starting to come about a little bit more.
Sharon: That’s interesting, just became I happen to like art jewelry and it’s been behind the scenes for so long. Ed, thank you so much for being with us today. I really appreciate it.
Ed: My pleasure. It was great seeing you and talking to you. Hopefully somebody can use this knowledge. If people contact you with a question, feel free to forward it to me and I’ll help them out anytime I can.
Sharon: Thank you very much. We will have photos posted on the website. Please head to TheJewelryJourney.com to check them out.
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