FAQs

THE 38 MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS/ANSWERS ON THE SUBJECT OF JEWELRY APPRAISING IN 2018.


1. Can an appraiser purchase jewelry from the public?
2. Can an appraiser design, sell, and/or repair jewelry?
3. Can I wait while my jewelry is being appraised?
4. What is the cost of an appraisal?
5. How does the appraiser determine the fee for each piece?
6. Can I get my appraisal updated over the years without taking the jewelry to the appraiser again?
7. How often should I have my appraisal updated?
8. Do you remove gemstones from jewelry to appraise?
9. Will you update another person’s work?
10. Will you appraise online descriptions?
11. Should only expensive jewelry be appraised?
12. Doesn’t my homeowner’s insurance policy cover my jewelry if I don’t have it appraised?
13. How do you determine the value of an item for the home owner’s insurance appraisal?
14. Is the insurance value the same as the retail value?
15. Can I talk with my appraiser about how to sell jewelry?
16. What is antique value? Can vintage or period jewelry be more expensive because of its age?
17. When I purchase jewelry on a trip, should I bring it to my appraiser to examine?
18. Can my appraiser examine my jewelry to see if any gemstones are chipped or if any repairs are needed?
19. Is my appraisal value in any way affected by whether I have purchased replacement cost coverage or agreed value (contract) coverage?
20. Is there a fee to examine a group of pieces just to determine what should and should not be appraised?
21. I presume one cannot insure sentimental value, right?
22. Can silver-plated flatware and serving pieces be easily sold?
23. Do you appraise silver flatware and serving pieces?
24. Do you appraise silver flatware and service pieces in your office or at clients’ homes?
25. Since you retain copies of your clients’ insurance appraisals, can I request an appraisal for a different purpose at some point in the future?
26. Do your appraisals come with photographs?
27. Should I bring my old appraisal/laboratory report to my appointment?
28. Why do I need an appraisal when I have one from the original seller?
29. Is it important to open my watch to appraise it?
30. I have a ring with a stone that changes color under certain lights – is it alexandrite?
31. Can you tell me how much the value of my diamond has increased over the past 50 years?
32. If I donate my jewelry to a charity, can I deduct its appraised value provided to me by the seller’s report for insurance?
32. I purchased my diamond online. When you appraise it for insurance, do you use internet diamond prices or regular jewelry store diamond prices?
33. I purchased my diamond online. When you appraise it for insurance, do you use internet diamond prices or regular jewelry store diamond prices?
34. What is the difference between replacement cost insurance and agreed value insurance?
35. I know there is an online company that sells jewelry insurance. What is its name and is there an advantage to using it over my renter’s or home owner’s policy?
36. Can I have my gemstone(s) identified but not appraised?
37. Is my jewelry insured if I keep it in a safety deposit box?
38. How does a chip in a gemstone affect its value?

 

1. CAN AN APPRAISER PURCHASE JEWELRY FROM THE PUBLIC
No! This would be considered a conflict of interest and would immediately prejudice the value and or description provided by the so-called appraiser. If you wish to sell jewelry to a jeweler, you do not need an appraiser or appraisal. You only need to find 3-5 jewelers in your city who purchase from the public. Jewelers are approached every day by the public to provide offers to purchase jewelry. Their offers have no relationship to any kind of appraisal you may have retained over the years.

 
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2. CAN AN APPRAISER DESIGN, SELL AND OR REPAIR JEWELRY?
Yes! The conflict of interest rules prohibit the appraiser from making an offer to purchase the pieces he evaluates. They do not prohibit the appraiser from providing products and other services to the public.

 
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3. CAN I WAIT WHILE MY JEWELRY IS BEING APPRAISED?
Yes. I like my clients to sit with me. This makes them feel secure, and it allows me to converse with them, which often reveals information that assists the appraisal process. You may request an appointment or just stop by. After inquiring about the number of pieces and the purpose of the appraisal, I then estimate the length of our appointment and provide the fee. I charge my fee only once. Then, over the decades, upon your request, I will update my report at no charge. After you depart with your jewelry, I research the value, prepare the appraisal and mail it with color photographs within 1 to 2 days.

 
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4. WHAT IS THE COST OF AN APPRAISAL?
Appraisers charge by the piece. My fees begin at $15/piece. Over the last 46 years, fees average $38/item. I am happy to determine the precise fee by phone, after you describe your item(s) and tell me the purpose of the appraisal. Fees may increase with complex jewelry containing multiple gemstones each of which must be identified, measured, graded and valued and or when it becomes important to determine both laboratory enhancements to and geographic origin of gemstones. The home owner’s or renter’s insurance appraisal is usually inexpensive. The cash equivalent value appraisal to help customers divide jewelry among family members is the least expensive. Appraisals for charitable donation and or casualty loss deductions require detailed knowledge of the Internal Revenue Code (and which are attached to tax documents) are generally the most expensive to perform. It is unethical to charge a fee based on the value of the piece. Payment is made at the time of the appraisal, by credit card, cash or check.

 
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5. HOW DOES THE APPRAISER DETERMINE THE FEE FOR EACH PIECE?
There are two parts to every appraisal. The first is accurate identification and thorough description. The second, which takes the most time, is research. Research must be done to find pieces of like kind and quality and determine their average selling price. This varies from easy to extremely difficult. It must be done so that the appraiser when asked can explain to his client the research results which resulted in the final appraised value.

 
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6. CAN I GET MY APPRAISAL UPDATED OVER THE YEARS WITHOUT TAKING THE JEWELRY TO THE APPRAISER AGAIN?
Yes, as long as your insurance company permits this service. Some do and some do not. The appraiser must indicate on the updated report that the work was accomplished without viewing the jewelry. Thoroughly professional appraisals performed the first time allow this to work. When I perform the initial appraisal, all future updates are free.

 
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7. HOW OFTEN SHOULD I HAVE MY APPRAISAL UPDATED?
As often as you wish. As a general rule, every 4 to 6 years is a good standard.

 
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8. DO YOU REMOVE GEMSTONES TO APPRAISE?
No. The only exception occurs when there appears to be a significant conflict between the seller’s representation of gemstone weight/quality and the appraiser’s judgment, and it becomes necessary to remove the stone to determine accurate answers. When this happens, my customer is present to observe both the removal and the resetting.

 
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9. WILL YOU UPDATE ANOTHER PERSON’S WORK?
No. If I have never seen the jewelry, I must see it to perform my initial appraisal.

 
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10. WILL YOU APPRAISE ONLINE DESCRIPTIONS?
No.

 
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11. SHOULD ONLY EXPENSIVE JEWELRY BE APPRAISED?
No. Any kind of jewelry may be appraised for any reasons you wish, but especially so that you can insure it on your fine arts rider, which is then appended to to your home owner’s policy that protects your home and its contents. Most individuals and families choose a value. Below that value they choose not to appraise or insure. Above that value, pieces are appraised and insured. Over the decades, that value has varied between $250 and $1000. However it may be lower or higher, whatever you wish. Another good test would be: if you severely damage or lose an item, will you make a claim to your insurance company in order to either replace the item or cash out. If you would make a claim, then you should obtain an appraisal and have the item scheduled on your fine arts rider. In the last decade, insurance companies have created “bundling clauses,” where every piece that does not exceed a certain cost is “bundled” together, and appraisals for each piece may no longer be required by the insurance company. See my answer to Question 12 below.

 
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12. DOESN’T MY HOMEOWNER’S POLICY COVER MY JEWELRY IF I DO NOT HAVE IT APPRAISED?
Yes, there is some coverage, but it is limited. Generally speaking there are 3 limitations. First, there is a deductible to pay. Second, there is a maximum amount of coverage allowed for a single item. Third, there is a maximum amount of coverage allowed for all jewelry, cumulatively. There are also policies which “bundle” all jewelry where individual pieces have a value of no more than $5000, and an appraisal is therefore not required on each item to obtain coverage. The challenge of the “bundling clause” is, in the event of a loss, since you do not have an individual appraisal, how do you determine the replacement cost when you make your claim? Your insurance agent is the best source for information on the coverage limitations for jewelry without appraisals.

 
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13. HOW DO YOU DETERMINE THE VALUE OF AN ITEM FOR INSURANCE?
The purpose of the insurance appraisal is singular … to protect the owner in the event of damage or loss of any kind, and to allow the owner to shop for a new item in many kinds of jewelry stores, or to cash out for current value. The appraiser does not ask where you purchase jewelry or what you pay. Instead, the appraiser researches the value of that piece or one of like kind and quality, to determine its retail selling price in a large number of stores, both on line and in traditional brick and mortar venues. The result of the research provides the appraiser with the value that is high enough to fulfill its purpose.

 
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14. IS THE INSURANCE VALUE THE SAME AS THE RETAIL VALUE?
Yes and no. It may be, if the retail value fulfills the purpose of the appraisal. If the retail value is closer to the wholesale cost, then the answer is no. The value for insurance must then be higher. Example. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price of a wristwatch is a good benchmark for the appraisal, even if the customer purchased the watch at a discount. However the average retail selling price of a diamond in 2018 is very low, too low in fact to fulfill the purpose and function of the insurance appraisal.

 
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15. CAN I TALK WITH MY APPRAISER ABOUT HOW TO SELL JEWELRY?
Absolutely. A professional appraiser will know his/her local and regional marketplace. Which jewelers buy from the public? What do they pay? Is the piece of a style or type that may be sold on an internet auction? Is the piece of a type where the most dollars may be obtained through consignment? Should the piece be refined, and the gemstones used in other jewelry or sold? What is the value of the piece as a trade-in to help pay for new jewelry? These are all questions properly given to your appraiser. When you make your appointment, tell your appraiser that you have jewelry you are considering selling and you need professional advice on how to go about it. One way to know quickly if you are dealing with an honorable appraiser is if he/she immediately wants to examine the pieces and make you an offer. Licensed ethical appraisers cannot purchase from the public. It is considered a conflict of interest.

 
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16. WHAT IS ANTIQUE VALUE? CAN VINTAGE OR PERIOD JEWELRY BE MORE EXPENSIVE BECAUSE OF ITS AGE?
There is no such thing as antique value, except for pieces made during and before the 17th century. No, the age of vintage/period jewelry from the 18th century forward should not create a premium price. The features used to determine the cost of old jewelry are identical to those used to determine cost of new jewelry. These are the metals used, weight and quality of gemstones, method of manufacture, beauty and function of the design, name of designer/manufacturer, execution and comparative rarity of the piece. Words used by sellers to promote age are merely part of the sales presentation. If the representation of age is accurate, this may create additional interest, BUT AGE ALONE SHOULD NOT CREATE ADDITIONAL COST.

 
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17. WHEN I PURCHASE JEWELRY ON A TRIP, SHOULD I BRING IT TO MY APPRAISER TO EXAMINE?
Yes, if you wish to confirm information provided by the seller. Yes, if the seller’s documents do not describe the features of the gemstones and jewelry thoroughly. Yes, if the seller has provided sub-standard laboratory reports to support the sale of gemstones. Yes, if you wish to insure the item and the seller did not provide you with a report for that purpose.

 
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18. CAN MY APPRAISER EXAMINE MY JEWELRY TO SEE IF ANY GEMSTONES ARE CHIPPED OR IF ANY REPAIRS ARE NEEDED?
Yes, this is routinely done and the appraiser discloses to his client anything that requires attention immediately or will need to be taken care of in the near future. Many insurance companies will not insure jewelry where gemstones are chipped. You may determine this with a quick call to your insurance agent. If that is the case, the appraiser can determine the cost to repair the chipped gemstone plus any change in value after the repair is completed. Chipping is considered damage under most insurance policies, and many clients choose to submit a claim when this happens. The claim may be only to repair the stone and provide a check for the difference in value before and after repair, or the claim may be to replace the chipped gemstone entirely. The best insurance policies allow you to do either. SEE QUESTION/ANSWER #38 for additional information.

 
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19. IS MY APPRAISAL VALUE IN ANY WAY AFFECTED BY WHETHER I HAVE PURCHASED REPLACEMENT COST COVERAGE OR AGREED VALUE (CONTRACT) COVERAGE?
No. The appraisal process and the resulting value have nothing to do with the type of policy and coverage you purchase. See my answer to Question 34 regarding these two types of coverage.

 
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20. IS THERE A FEE TO EXAMINE A GROUP OF PIECES JUST TO DETERMINE WHAT SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT BE APPRAISED?
No, and this should be done at the beginning of the appointment.

 
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21. I PRESUME ONE CANNOT INSURE SENTIMENTAL VALUE, RIGHT?
That is correct. However many clients still wish to insure relatively inexpensive jewelry because in the event of damage or loss, they desire to make a claim rather than absorb the loss out-of-pocket.

 
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22. CAN SILVER-PLATED FLATWARE AND SERVING PIECES BE EASILY SOLD?
Very difficult to accomplish. There are significant quantities of these available for resale at very minimal prices, often in pawn shops and antique malls. In addition, they cannot be refined, as the cost of refining is greater than the tiny amount of silver obtained. Sometimes sterling silver flatware and serving pieces may be sold, and this should be determined by your appraiser before you refine the metals. If the piece (s) is sterling, it will be marked with the number 925 or the word sterling or perhaps the abbreviation sterl. If the piece is not marked, in almost every instance, it is silver-plated over base metal, like copper. Hallmarked pieces, whether manufactured in the United States, Europe or Russia, may be sterling or silver-plated. The fact it is hallmarked does not by itself allow the appraiser to assume the identification of the metal.

 
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23. DO YOU APPRAISE FAMILY SILVER FLATWARE AND SERVING PIECES?
Yes. This is a relatively inexpensive appraisal if all pieces are part of the same design from the same manufacturer, which makes the research quick and simple.

 
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24. DO YOU APPRAISE SILVER FLATWARE AND SERVING PIECES IN YOUR OFFICE OR AT CLIENTS’ HOMES?
Both. There is no additional fee to come to a client’s home.

 
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25. SINCE YOU RETAIN COPIES OF YOUR CLIENTS’ INSURANCE APPRAISALS, CAN I REQUEST AN APPRAISAL FOR A DIFFERENT PURPOSE AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE?
Yes. Once I have performed the insurance appraisal, I can then send my clients any information they wish about any of the pieces, including how to sell them, how to divide them equally in estate planning documents, how to donate them to qualified charities, and so forth.

 
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26. DO YOUR APPRAISALS COME WITH PHOTOGRAPHS?
Yes, every piece is individually photographed at different angles, in color, and these are sent with the signed original to the client. After the appraisal is faxed to the insurance agent, the client should retain the signed original and the photos in a safe place.

 
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27. SHOULD I BRING MY OLD APPRAISAL/LABORATORY REPORT TO MY APPOINTMENT?
Yes, because these reports may contain accurate information about mounted gemstones. THE BEST APPRAISAL RESULTS FROM A PARTNERSHIP between the customer and the appraiser. Any data you have from other sources which might make your appraiser’s work more accurate should be brought to your appointment. Your appraiser will still independently evaluate your gemstones and jewelry.

 
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28. WHY DO I NEED AN APPRAISAL WHEN I HAVE ONE FROM THE ORIGINAL SELLER?
Often the report supplied by a seller simply repeats the information presented during the sales presentation. Usually this is not sufficient to describe the item thoroughly which makes it more difficult for a future jeweler and adjuster to determine value. Also, a value provided by an expert who is independent of the sale and who researches the current value may more properly protect you on your fine arts rider.

 
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29. IS IT IMPORTANT TO OPEN MY WATCH TO APPRAISE IT?
Yes, unless you have paperwork that lists the serial numbers of the movement and case. These are important details to verify the authenticity of your watch and its replacement cost. Some insurance companies no longer insure wrist watches without the serial and reference numbers of the case and movement.

 
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30. I HAVE A RING WITH A STONE THAT CHANGES COLOR UNDER CERTAIN LIGHTS. IS THE STONE ALEXANDRITE?
In addition to natural alexandrite (which is a variety of the mineral chrysoberyl), there are a number of additional natural, synthetic and imitation gemstones that change color under different lights. One of these is synthetic color change sapphire which was manufactured during the first 20 years of the 20th century. This is the gemstone most often brought to me by families who have been told it is natural alexandrite. Another color change gemstone is synthetic alexandrite, which was first manufactured in the 1970’s. Color change natural sapphire is a relatively uncommon gemstone, purchased mostly by collectors. Of all of these, natural alexandrite is the most expensive by far. Natural alexandrite from Russia, mined in the 19th century, is the rarest alexandrite, if the color change moves from red to green, with no brown or violet. The few Russian alexandrites which enter the world market annually always come from estates. Newly-mined natural alexandrite comes from Brazil, Sri Lanka and India and a few less important sources. These alexandrites almost always have some strong purple mixed with the green and red.

 
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31. CAN YOU TELL ME HOW MUCH THE VALUE OF MY DIAMOND HAS INCREASED OVER THE PAST 25 YEARS?
Yes. This is called a retrospective appraisal.

 
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32. IF I DONATE MY JEWELRY TO A CHARITY, CAN I DEDUCT ITS APPRAISED VALUE PROVIDED TO ME BY THE SELLER?
No. You must obtain a fair market value appraisal from an expert appraiser in this specialty field. If you donate to an auction held by an IRS-approved qualified charity, currently you may deduct the amount of the high bid, regardless of what you originally paid for the item. If you donate to an institution which uses your item (s) in the normal course of its business, like a university metal smithing or gemology program, the appraiser must supply a fair market value report which you attach to your federal income tax filing for the purpose of obtaining a deduction.

 
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33. I PURCHASED MY DIAMOND ONLINE. WHEN YOU APPRAISE IT FOR INSURANCE, DO YOU USE INTERNET DIAMOND PRICES OR REGULAR JEWELRY STORE DIAMOND PRICES?
I use both, depending on which venue provides you with the best protection. By 2010, the price of diamonds on line and in most jewelry stores had become highly competitive. In fact, many traditional brick and mortar jewelry stores in 2018 regularly beat the price of online diamond websites, in order to establish a professional relationship with you for future purchases and jewelry services like appraising and repair.

 
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34. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REPLACEMENT COST INSURANCE AND AGREED VALUE INSURANCE?
For a replacement cost type policy, you provide your insurance agent with an appraisal and the item is then scheduled on a fine arts rider. When a claim is made, the insurance company determines the replacement cost, based on its buying power and relationships with various jewelers. The replacement cost is high enough so that if you wish to replace the item, there is enough money. You may also choose to cash out instead of replace. Your check is almost always lower than the appraised value. Agreed value coverage is the opposite. You turn in your appraisal and the item is scheduled on your fine arts rider. However when you make a claim, your insurance company sends you a check for the full appraised value, not a lower replacement cost. Most of the agreed value companies also will allow you an additional 50% increase in the amount of your check, if you have neglected to update your appraisal over the years, and the current selling price is that much higher. Obviously the annual premium for agreed value coverage is higher than for replacement cost coverage. Most of the well-known insurance companies are replacement cost vendors. These include State Farm, Farmers, Allstate, Farm Bureau, USAA, Liberty, American Family and many more. Agreed value companies include Chubb, Fireman’s Fund, AIG, Zurich, AAA and a few others. Information on the differences between replacement cost and agreed value types of insurance may be obtained from any independent insurance agent.

 
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35. I KNOW THERE IS AN ONLINE COMPANY THAT SELLS JEWELRY INSURANCE. WHAT IS ITS NAME AND IS THERE AN ADVANTAGE TO USING IT OVER MY RENTER’S OR HOME OWNER’S POLICY?
The name of the company is Jeweler’s Mutual. It is a very old and highly reputable replacement cost company, specializing in jewelry insurance. It is used by the public as well as jewelry businesses. The advantage of using Jeweler’s Mutual is that if you ever make a claim, because it is an entirely separate company, the annual premium for your renter’s or home owner’s policy will not increase. I recommend to my clients to check the annual premium to schedule jewelry with Jeweler’s Mutual, and compare it to the premium they pay their renter’s or home owner’s company.

 
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36. CAN I HAVE MY GEMSTONE (S) IDENTIFIED BUT NOT APPRAISED? Yes, and generally the fee is quite low. An exception would be if the gemstone is flawless or nearly flawless, and the gemologist-appraiser needs to take much more time examining the stone, in order to identify its origin as a natural gemstone or a laboratory created gemstone. For certain gemstones, even the best gemologist-appraiser cannot make a conclusive identification. In that instance, you will be advised to send the stone to the Gem Trade Laboratory at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, California for accurate identification. When the stone is returned, your appraiser can then value it for the purpose you wish.

 
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37. IS MY JEWELRY INSURED IF I KEEP IT IN A SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX IN MY BANK?
No, not usually. Many insurance companies sell what is termed “vault insurance.” This type of policy allows you to remove your jewelry from your bank vault a certain number of times per year, and then return the item (s) to the vault soon after use. Vault insurance is always much less expensive than scheduling your pieces on a fine arts rider while keeping them at home.

 
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38. HOW DOES A CHIP IN A GEMSTONE AFFECT ITS VALUE?
The gemologist first determines if the break is in fact a chip versus a natural flaw on the surface, which has been there since the stone came from the earth. If there is a question of identifying the break as a natural flaw or chip, the diamond may be sent to the Gemological Institute of America for its damage report. If it is in fact a chip, as previously stated, a chip is considered damage under most policies, and the owner may file a claim to repair the stone or replace it. How much is the value of the gemstone decreased by the chip depends on its size, type, location and whether it creates a future durability problem in that section of the stone. Some chips are minute and may be easily repaired, and the gemstone loses no dimension and almost no carat weight in the process. Other chips are more serious, as when they occur on the sharp point of a princess cut or marquise diamond. In this instance, to repair the chip located on a point, the opposite point on the stone must be slightly recut, so the diamond remains symmetrical. Even here, sometimes very little dimension/carat weight is lost.

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