How Much is my Jewelry Worth?

How much is my jewelry worth?  I’m asked this at every show.  As a gemologist I can identify the gemstones in your jewelry, but to answer the question of value, the right person to ask is an appraiser.  I’ve asked my colleague, Jeanne Hawk, a GIA Graduate Gemologist, Registered MasterValuer and Certified Insurance Appraiser, to be a guest blogger this month:

Establishing and substantiating the value of an item are what appraising is all about. An appraisal is an opinion of value, a well-researched conclusion that is supported by facts which are interpreted from the marketplace. Most jewelry appraisals are done for obtaining insurance coverage. An insurance appraisal is used to determine the retail replacement value of a jewelry item. Other appraisal types include those done to determine fair market value for estate items and items sold for scrap value.

Many of my clients have jewelry of unknown identification or value. I do consultations to identify the gemstones and/or diamonds and metal karatage to determine what you have and whether you should keep it, insure, or scrap it, as is often the case with outdated gold chains. I’ll let you know the market value if you plan to sell it. And if it’s something you want to insure, I can prepare an appraisal for you.

There are six steps involved in the appraisal process as follows: 1) establish the scope of the appraisal, 2) plan the appraisal, 3) collect and analyze the data, 4) apply a valuation approach, 5) set limitations and contingency conditions, and 6) supply the final estimate of value.

At the present time anyone can call oneself a professional jewelry appraiser. However, self-anointing does not confer expertise. The key is education. A gemologist who has undergone formal gemological training, holds a degree or special education in valuation science, and has buying and selling experience either on a wholesale or retail level has the basic prerequisites of an appraiser. The valuation must be done by an individual with suitable qualifications who has no interest (no bias) in the item. Participation in professional appraising organizations is important, as well. It is critical that any jewelry appraisal be developed and written in accordance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), authorized by Congress as the source of appraisal standards and appraiser qualifications.

I am a certified Gemoljeanne_cropogical Institute of America (GIA) Graduate Gemologist (GG), qualified to accurately identify and grade the gemstones in your jewelry. As a Registered Master Valuer™ and Certified Insurance Appraiser™, I am trained in appraisal valuation techniques and can appropriately value and appraise your jewelry. All appraisal reports are prepared in accordance with USPAP.

At your appraisal appointment, I will clean, identify, measure, weigh, grade, and photograph your jewelry. Most appointments take 30 minutes; longer appointments may be needed for multiple items. You will leave with your jewelry. In 7-10 business days, once I have completed the valuation part of the appraisal, you will receive your appraisal via email. Payment for the appraisal, and any hard copies requested, is due at the time of your appointment. Would you like to learn more about how the value of jewelry is determined? Find out in my FREE report! Call this 24 hour toll free recorded message to request your report. 1-800-579-3932.

Jeanne Hawk Fine Jewelry Appraisals specializes in gem identification, diamond grading, jewelry appraisals, market value estimations, general consultation, and quality assessments. To best meet my clients’ needs, services are provided by appointment only. I can be reached at 831-359-3449 or via email at to schedule an appointment. The office is located at 5521 Scotts Valley Drive, Suite 235, Scotts Valley, CA 95066. The company website is Give me a call or visit my website today!


Gold, part 2 of 2

Gold, Part 2 of 2: Platings

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidelines for correct terminology when describing gold used in jewelry.  These guidelines apply only to items made in the United States.  Other countries may have different guidelines.

Gold Filled (also called gold overlay):

Gold filled jewelry is made by using heat and pressure to apply a layer of karat gold to a less costly base metal.  The surface layer of karat gold on gold-filled items is usually 10kt, 12kt or 14kt. To know the thickness of the layer, look for a fraction, such as 1/10 or 1/20. Examples:

  • 1/10 10kt GF: 1/10 of the total weight must be 10kt gold.
  • 1/20 12kt GF: 1/20 of the total weight must be 12kt gold.

Gold fill is 50 to 100,000 times thicker than regular gold plating, and about 17 to 25,000 times thicker than heavy gold electroplate.

Gold Vermeil (pronounced vehr-MAY):

Gold vermeil is a plating of karat gold over sterling silver. The FTC guide states “An industry product may be described or marked as “vermeil” if it consists of a base of sterling silver coated or plated on all significant surfaces with gold, or gold alloy of not less than 10 karat fineness, that is of substantial thickness  and a minimum thickness throughout equivalent to two and one half (2 1/2) microns (or approximately 100/1,000,000ths of an inch) of fine gold.”

Gold Plated:

Gold plating is a very thin deposit of gold (about 1/1,000 – 1/1,000,000 of an inch).  Heavy gold electroplate might be 2 or 3/1000s of an inch thick (this can also be written as 2 or 3 mils).  Many gold-plated items have a white nickel plate under the final gold plate.  Gold plating can be worn away relatively easily.


Photo by Paolo Ciccone

Mochi’s Gifts Jewelry:

I use gold-filled beads, clasps, and ear wires for my designs. This is the best way to provide you with a durable, high quality piece of jewelry featuring gold components at an affordable price. I also use gold vermeil beads to get the beautiful color of high karat gold without the high cost.

The earrings pictured here feature gold-filled earwires and headpins (the straight wires the beads are on), gold vermeil puffed square beads, and garnets.

Thanks for reading!


Sources for information on gold used in jewelry:



Gold, part 1 of 2

Today I’m going to provide some information on gold used in jewelry including karat gold, gold vermeil and gold plating. Much of this information was initially confusing to me which is why I chose to learn more about it. I hope you find it interesting and informative and that it improves your confidence when you purchase jewelry!

Did you know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes guidelines for precious metals and jewelry? Gold fineness markings and descriptions have very specific definitions under U.S. law, but remember, products purchased in other countries may follow different legal requirements. And, unfortunately some sellers may purposely misrepresent their products’ purity.   See the sources at the end of this posting for more information.

Gold, part 1 of 2: The Basics

Gold has been used for jewelry for centuries and has been found in archaeological sites in Egypt and South America as well as in many other areas of the world.

Karat (kt) Gold:

Pure gold is 24 karat (kt), meaning 24 out of 24 parts are gold, in other words, “pure” gold. 24kt gold is very soft and not practical for jewelry as it is too malleable. To make it stronger, gold is alloyed with other metals.   Alloy metals may include copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium and/or manganese. These alloys can also give the gold different colors (yellow, rose, white and green). In addition, the higher the percentage of the alloy vs. gold, the lower the cost of the finished metal. See the table below for the conversion from karat to gold content.

Common karat (or fineness) values seen in jewelry Approximate % gold
24 100
22 92
18 75
14 58
12 50
10 42

I have often been asked whether white or yellow gold is “better”. 14 kt white gold has the same amount of gold as 14 kt yellow gold. It is the percentage of gold that matters, not the other metals used to provide durability and color.

Next week, Gold, Part 2 of 2: Platings.

Thanks for reading!