Whether your estate has a large collection or a few pieces, understanding what you have is critical to fair value at distribution time or a wise, informed transaction at sale time. We cannot under-express the value of a certified jewelry appraiser and, in the case of gemstones, a GIA report.
GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that protects consumers and supports the global gem and jewelry industry through trusted, independent leadership and innovative research, education and science-based gem evaluation. (Full GIA Mission HERE.)
Founded in 1931, GIA established and maintains the universal standards for evaluating and communicating the quality of diamonds, colored gems and pearls. All of GIA’s activities are governed by its consumer protection mission. Visit GIA.edu.
For the novice or initiated, such an executor who finds themselves in charge of determining the value of jewelry in an estate, the GIA has many resources that can be depended on, from education to laboratory services that an estate can definitively rely on for determining value.
By definition, Executors are administrators, fiduciaries, not subject matter experts. For specialty assets, such as jewelry and gemstones, executors depend on experts for asset determinations. A little information, however, is helpful in any area concerning estate assets, so executors have exposure and a rudimentary understanding of the subject matter. The following GIA resources are helpful to the uninitiated in getting your head around gemology.
GemKids: The GIA’s website pages dedicated to children may be a great place to start. By design, simple and non-overwhelming, this website section presents the basics of gemology to lay a foundation of understanding and framework for building more knowledge.
Gem Encyclopedia: Aptly named, this page presents a chart to help start understand basic information on different types of stones. Each stone provides links to attain more info and education. a comprehensive Overview provides the history, process, treatments, and quality factors for the individual stones. A buyers guide is provided for each stone: “What to Look for,” “Surface,” “Shape,” “Color” is discussed so even the non-gemologist can have an intelligent conversation with an appraiser or gain a better understanding of a GIA report. Each stone has additional research, articles, and detailed guides available in addition to the fundamental information provided.
For example, check out the Topaz page HERE.
A GIA Report is the industry standard for diamond grading and gem identification. GIA tests every material submitted to determine whether it is natural or not and discloses any treatments discovered during their examination. View a sample GIA report HERE.
There are three ways to submit a gemstone to GIA for their Lab Services:
Understanding what the estate has is key to fulfilling your fiduciary responsibilities and assuring fair asset distribution among the heirs. While becoming a gemologist isn’t a requirement of the job, having a level of knowledge and comfort with the assets you’re tasked with managing is good stewardship and discharge of your duties. If the estate has jewelry or gems, a knowledge of the resources provided by the Gemological Institute of America is a good place to start.