4 Ways to Document Your Jewelry Now

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Contributor, Benzinga
March 10, 2023

Jewelry is often a significant investment and a meaningful symbol of personal style and sentimental value. Large jewelry collections and high-value pieces like diamond engagement rings can be worth thousands of dollars. 

If a fire, flood or other natural disaster destroys your jewelry, or if it is lost, stolen or mysteriously disappears, your insurance company will require proof of ownership to reimburse or replace it. 

Documenting your jewelry helps protect your investment and ensures you receive adequate financial compensation or jewelry of equal replacement value. Documentation is also critical if you plan to sell your jewelry or if you need to pay capital gains tax on inherited jewelry. 

Keep your jewelry protected by learning how to keep up-to-date records and essential documentation.

Why it is Important to Document Your Jewelry

Creating an inventory of your jewelry allows you to keep track of all the pieces in your collection and have details on each one. A diamond or gemstone of similar size can vary greatly in value depending on its specific attributes. For instance, the value of a lab-grown diamond may be 30% to 40% less than the cost of a mined or natural diamond. 

Your jewelry records describe each item in detail, including the stone measurement, clarity, color and value. This information can ensure that your jeweler replaces the original item with the same or similar one. 

How to Document Your Jewelry Items

Several types of documentation can provide important information about your jewelry items, from purchase receipts to lab certificates. By gathering and organizing this information, you can better understand your jewelry’s worth and ensure that it is appropriately cared for and protected.

1. Proof of Purchase

If you are planning to buy or are in the process of buying a high-value piece of jewelry, ensure you request a proof-of-purchase document like a receipt or tax invoice. The seller provides these documents as transactional proof of ownership.

The purchase receipt should contain information about:

  • The date of purchase
  • A brief description of the jewelry piece, including type, metal, stone, size, carat or karat weight and any other significant design details
  • The purchase price and payment method
  • The seller’s name
  • A serial or identification number, if applicable

2. An Official Appraisal

For inherited collections or jewelry purchased more than a year ago, you may need an official appraisal to establish your jewelry’s value. A professional jewelry appraisal is a detailed evaluation of the item, which includes information about its materials, craftsmanship and value. An appraisal can help with estate planning and distribution of assets, obtaining insurance and providing information for tax purposes. 

Ideally, you should have your jewelry appraised by a professional certified by the Gemology Institute of America. During an appraisal, the appraiser inspects the jewelry, taking into account its design, materials, craftsmanship and condition. 

They also examine any markings or stamps on the piece that provide information about its origin and authenticity or indicate historical or cultural significance, such as assay marks, dates or karat values as indicated by symbols like 14K, 18K or 24K. The appraiser measures the jewelry to calculate carat, karat weights and size.

The appraisal documents should include information such as:

  • A detailed description of the jewelry item, including color photographs
  • Identification number or serial number
  • Information about the materials and craftsmanship, such as metal purity and any hallmark stamps
  • Appraised value, including a range or a single value
  • Date of appraisal
  • Name, signature and credentials of the appraiser
  • Information about the appraisal method used, such as a cost or market approach

3. Lab Certificates

A lab certificate is a document that verifies the authenticity and quality of a diamond or other precious gemstone. It is issued by a reputable gemological laboratory and includes information about the stone's characteristics and grading. This document can help verify the stone’s identity and authenticity, provide standard measurements of its characteristics and establish its value. It also offers crucial information for insurance applications and claims or sales. 

A lab certificate for a diamond or precious gemstone should include: 

  • A description of the stone
  • An assessment of the stone, including its cut, color, clarity and carat weight
  • A grading report that provides a numerical and visual representation of the stone’s characteristics
  • Date of examination
  • Name and logo of the gemological laboratory
  • Signature of the examiner
  • Identification number or serial number

4. Photographs

Take photographs of your jewelry from multiple angles to prove to the insurance company that you own the pieces and that they are in good condition.

Understanding how to photograph your jewelry collection properly can help you ensure your photos convey the value of your jewelry collection:

  • Clean your jewelry with a microfiber cloth before you take photos, so it is free of dust, debris, dirt and smudges. 
  • Use a solid white background to reflect light on your jewelry pieces and prevent unwanted shadows. 
  • Set up a few light sources or use a photo light box around a piece of jewelry to scatter lighting and reduce contrast. 
  • Ensure that your camera or phone is set to a high resolution so you can capture all the details of your jewelry. 
  • Take photos from the front, side and above angles of each piece. Close-up photos of multi gemstone pieces like earrings and rings highlight the purity of the metal and the color, clarity, carat and cut of the stones.
  • Make sure the item is presentable in the photo. For example, if you're photographing a necklace or dangly earring and it is tangled, make sure to untangle the piece before taking a picture.

You may print and place the hard copies of your photos in an album for safekeeping in an insured deposit box. For extra security, digital copies can go into an external hard drive or in the cloud. 

As you acquire or sell your pieces, you should update your jewelry collection album and understand the value of each one. A jewelry appraiser can determine the worth of your jewelry and ensure that you receive the full amount if you need to file an insurance claim.

Do You Need Documentation to Get Jewelry Insurance?

One of the most important reasons for documenting your high-value jewelry is to obtain jewelry insurance. Insurance for your jewelry protects it against damage, loss, theft and mysterious disappearance. 

Many dedicated jewelry insurance policies offer up to 125% of the appraisal value of your pieces. But to ensure you are getting the right amount of coverage, you need adequate documentation. 

Documents required to apply for jewelry insurance include proof of purchase, official appraisal and detailed photographs. Insurance providers can use these documents to develop a policy that offers the coverage you need at a fair premium. Most jewelry insurance policies cost between 0.5% and 1.5% of the piece’s value, paid monthly or annually. 

You also need photographs and a certificate of appraisal or proof of purchase if you make a claim on your policy. This helps prove the jewelry belongs to you, that it is authentic and shows insurance adjusters and jewelers what the piece looked like before it was damaged or lost to ensure you get a suitable replacement. 

Safeguard Your Jewelry

Documenting your jewelry is a critical step in preserving its value. It also ensures you have the information you need to make informed decisions about insuring or selling your pieces. Whether you’re a collector, owner or buyer, documenting your jewelry is an investment in its future.

Protect your fine jewelry and luxury watches with an affordable policy from an insurance provider such as BriteCo. Use its convenient online tool to get a quote in minutes and enjoy worldwide coverage along with peace of mind.