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Gold standard: How volatile gold prices make for tricky appraisals

Georgian memento mori ring in gold, silver, rock crystal, and enamel. The rare, antique, and collectible nature of this piece accounts for a significant portion of its value.

3) Why consumers choose ethically sourced gold
More consumers these days are demanding transparency, sustainability, and ethical mining practices, and the industry is starting to respond. To meet this new demand, designers are recycling old gold, diamonds, and gemstones, and sometimes assembling jewellery from used or antique components. Manufacturers are also answering the call by sourcing their gold from companies with sustainable mining practices that include renewable energy, land restoration, proper disposal of hazardous waste, and pollution-reducing technology. When the gold is mined in developing countries, some companies have taken additional steps to improve the safety and well-being of their employees and families. Further, companies have taken additional steps to assure their buyers the sale of their gold neither funds armed conflict nor is associated with human rights violations. Supporting these assurances costs money, as does the marketing required to inform consumers of the story of how the gold used to fabricate the jewellery was sourced. This is a growing part of the industry appraisers need to consider.

4) When was it made?
Recognizing antique and period jewellery is well beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, appraisers need to fully understand the subject in order to recognize period jewellery. Once you have established the age of the piece, you need to determine if it adds to the gold’s value.

Consider supply and demand. When there is an abundance of similar pieces in the market, the demand and subsequent value is lower. Trends also affect the value of a period piece. For example, small art deco bar brooches have fallen out of favour. As such, they are in abundance in the market and often sell for only a small percentage over gold value.

A piece’s condition should also factor into your examination. Look for signs of damage, repairs, or alterations, such as a replaced catch or ear wire. Detachable components that are original to the piece can increase the value. Consider the pendant with a detachable, threaded pin-stem or a necklace with a removable tiara conversion. The original fitted box can also add to the jewellery’s value.

To establish value, look for similar items in the market that would be an equally desirable substitute for quality, period, and design. Once you’ve found several examples, the most commonly occurring price will emerge. In appraisal theory, we refer to this as ‘the mode.’

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