I was asked recently by Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers to partake in a Q&A about jewellery valuations which they subsequently published in their client newsletter. A lot of people have commented they found it very useful so I thought it would be good to publish the transcript of the interview in this blog post - or click here to view it on the Bruce Stevenson website.
We are always talking to our clients about the importance of regular valuations for their jewellery and watches. We don't want any of them to be in position where a valuable watch is lost and yet to replace it is going to cost thousands more than it was insured for. Many of the panel of insurers that Bruce Stevenson use offer what is called 'extended replacement'. This means that if you have had a professional valuation carried out in the last three years the insurer will pay the full cost of replacing or repairing any damage even if it is more that the amount insured.
To get a view from a jewellery expert, we talked to Clare Blatherwick, who is one of the most experienced professionals in Scotland:
Q: When we think about jewellery we often think of diamonds, precious stones and pearls, but other types of jewellery can also be very valuable and perhaps more difficult to authenticate and value. Can you give some examples?
A: It's easy to just think of valuable jewellery as containing big or important stones and that is frequently the case but there are instances of other types of jewels being less obviously valuable but of cultural and financial importance. Some good examples of this would be work by British designers from the 60s and 70s, such as Andrew Grima, whose collectibility factor has increased dramatically in the last few years. Jewels that can be considered works of art in their own right and pieces created with strong design as their driving force are seeing a real upsurge in desirability and value. One example would be the work of designer Suzanne Belperron who never signed her pieces, stating instead that 'my signature is my style'. Her jewels command enormous premiums amongst those who appreciate her work. But her pieces can be missed by those unaware of her aesthetic or importance in the marketplace because there is no physical signature on her work.
Q: What should one look out for if one inherits a collection of jewellery - how might you know you have a 'sleeper' amongst the collection?
A: That is a very tricky question. Ultimately it's not easy for the person who has inherited a collection to know what they have and that underlines the importance of having an expert examine the collection on behalf of the owner. In fact, it's not just people who have inherited their collection who may not realise what they have and it's worth. The fact that the jewellery market is so dynamic can mean pieces bought by an individual may have increased significantly without them realising. It is always an enjoyable part of the job to be able to advise a client that something in their collection is either much more valuable than they thought, or has a history and significance to it that they were previously unaware of.
Q: How can one recognise how old an item of jewellery is, as diamonds often look timeless?
A: I'm afraid that isn't something that can be distilled into a quick sentence or two. I have been working in jewellery for over twenty years and am constantly still learning. I invest in continuing my education to ensure I am up to date with developments around synthetic and imitation gemstones, as well as new types of treatments. Not only are there constant advances being made by people who want to trick us with stones that have been treated or enhanced in some way in order that they appear better than they actually are. It's important to be constantly looking at what's appearing in the market and for common themes that might indicate a batch of fakes, of let's say, Art Deco jewels or jewels purporting to be by a particular maker, has appeared from a particular part of the world. It's interesting you say diamonds that look timeless and of course I understand what you mean but actually the type of cut of a diamond can reveal a great deal about the age of the diamond and often the age of the piece it is set into. The clever fakers know this too though and can have diamonds cut to look older than they are. It's really down to experience and exposure to a lot of jewellery to determine what is right and what isn't
Q: In layman's terms what are the current value trends for items of jewellery?
A: Generally the market is very strong at the upper end where people are looking for alternatives to cash sitting in the bank. Natural pearls have seen a big increase in value over the last few years and although that market seems to have stabilised, values are still very strong. Coloured gemstones are big news at the moment with natural, unheated sapphires and rubies in particular commanding significant prices. Ultimately it's a supply and demand situation. Certain gemstones such as spinel and Paraiba tourmalines can fetch prices more commonly associated with 'precious' rather than 'semi precious' gemstones and amber is also seeing a big increase in value due to interest from Far Eastern buyers. Jewels are starting to be appreciated as works of art, so as I mentioned before, jewellery by designers with a unique aesthetic are also experiencing significant uplift in value.
Q: If I own a collection of jewellery, should I get it revalued?
A: Your broker and insurer can advise as to how often they expect you to have your collection valued but I think it is safe to say that in the current dynamic market it would be unwise to rely on index linking to ensure you are properly covered. The jewellery market is fast paced and seeing some real spikes in areas, so if your pieces haven't been looked at in the last 3/5 years then it's definitely time for them to be revalued. And of course, there will be some instances where values have dropped so it makes sense to be confident you are not overinsured and paying a premium that is unnecessary.
Q: How much does it cost to get my collection valued and can you visit me to do it?
A: I am delighted to visit clients at their home, office or bank to value their pieces. Whilst I'm based near Edinburgh, I see clients all over the country. Having to carry jewellery around is nerve-wracking for most people and this way that anxiety can be removed from the process. I charge an hourly rate rather than making a charge based on the value of the pieces. This is the fairest approach in my view and I'm always happy to chat through how many and what type of pieces a client has in order to give a good indication of the likely cost.
Clare's contact details are below should you like to speak to Clare about your jewellery or indeed follow her on social media:
+44 (0) 7967 380191