The Independent Appraiser: Friend or Foe?
Get to know your local appraisers so you can find out who the true professionals are
Every year when the new telephone books arrive at our door, we take the jewelers section of the Yellow Pages and hit the streets. We love to meet the staff at new stores and touch base with existing businesses. Almost everyone seems glad to see us. As independent appraisers, we have questions for them and they have news for us, so it makes for a mutually beneficial relationship. Notice we said almost everyone. One or two must have fantasies of skinning us alive with vegetable peelers based on their less-than-cordial response to our visits.
Yet some jewelers see an independent appraiser as their deadly foe. We believe they think an appraisers goal is to undermine sales and cause massive returns. Its true that occasionally an appraisal comes in lower than the price a retailer charged for the item. Thats because a true appraisal is based on market research, while an individual retailers pricing may not fit the market.
However, the goal of an independent appraiser is not to ruin sales or infuriate the very people who refer a large portion of our business to us. In our practice, we try very hard to build relationships with jewelers in our community. This gives us access to pricing information thats crucial to our producing a credible appraisal. Were also able to contact jewelers we have relationships with if we foresee a problem that may arise from one of our appraisals. This doesnt mean the appraisal will be made to favor a jeweler or that well release confidential client information. Instead it means a jeweler will not be blind-sided by a client who is unhappy. Of course this is difficult to do with the few jewelers who refuse to see us and will not take our calls.
An independent appraiser is an asset to jewelers an independent appraisal underscores, to the vast majority of jewelry buyers, the quality and value of their purchases. Most consumers who were feeling buyers remorse based on quality or value issues are unlikely to return the purchase after an independent appraiser has confirmed the purchase was fair.
As appraisers we do see instances in which quality is overstated or pieces are overpriced. But the vast majority of jewelry bought from locally owned stores is represented and priced ethically. Unless you purposely overstate the quality or value of the jewelry you sell, theres no reason to be angered by appraisers and their work.
If you think an appraiser really is ruining sales, offer to discuss the situation with him or her on neutral territory such as a coffee shop, and avoid being confrontational and accusatory. Remember that if one appraisal ruined a sale, you may learn there were 25 others who helped you. Customers usually let you know only when theyre unhappy.
Ask appraisers to explain their research and have them outline their methodology. (Confidentiality on some issues binds appraisers, so it may be necessary to obtain a clients permission before discussing a particular appraisal.) Be willing to explain your pricing strategy to support your view that your price was fair.
If it becomes apparent to you the appraiser is pulling a value out of thin air or just triple-keystoning a price guide, you may want to contact the appraisal organizations he or she belongs to and suggest a peer review of that persons work. If the appraisal is truly shoddy, however, the appraiser may not belong to any such organization. At best, you and the appraiser can learn from the discussion and build a better business relationship. Or youll find out an appraiser in your area isnt offering bona fide services. Either way, youll know more than you did in the first place.
by Julie Nash, A.S.A., G.J.G. (GIA) and Arthur Anton Skuratowicz, C.G.A., G.J.G. (GIA)
The authors operate Anton Nash LLC, Independent Jewelry Appraisers and Jewelry Trade Consultants, Colorado Springs, CO; (888) 440-6274, www.AntonNash.com.