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Mastering the method of manufacture

Knowing how a piece was made can help in the appraisal process

By Carole C. Richbourg

The skilled hands of Tudor Gwilym Owen, goldsmith (retired).
The skilled hands of Tudor Gwilym Owen, goldsmith (retired).

When preparing an appraisal for insurance coverage, detail is crucial. Gone (hopefully) is the use of a one-sentence description attached to a value. These days, the courts are increasingly seeking out professional qualified appraisers who offer more than an off-the-cuff opinion. Thorough knowledge of the subject property and its relevant market are de rigueur; detail ensures the client receives the appropriate replacement in case of loss or damage.

One component of this detail some might find challenging—and sometimes gets lost amid the descriptions of the centre diamond, metal, type of finish, setting, etc.—is determining the method of manufacture. When the item is new, this detail can help rank the piece to determine the relevant market. When the piece is not new, how it was put together can offer valuable clues to the era in which it might have been made.

This discussion focuses on four of the most common manufacture methods—past and present—used in jewellery: casting, die-striking, stamping, and hand construction. While entire articles can be written about each of these subjects, the point is to become familiar with evidence of a particular technique. Photographs and tips aid both the novice and seasoned appraiser to ask themselves the right questions to determine which method(s) were used.

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