HOW ARE ART, WATCHES & FINE JEWELRY APPRAISED?
HOW ARE ART, WATCHES & FINE JEWELRY APPRAISED?
An expert on the process that determines the value of art and beyond.
Why might someone consider getting an artwork or object appraised in the first place?
Appraisals are legal documents used for a variety of reasons. The most common would be for estate tax calculations, equitable distribution in a divorce or estate settlement, calculating the value of an object to collateralize it, insurance scheduling, figuring out the value of an object after damage or loss, or just out of curiosity.
If someone wants to follow through and get a work of art, watch or piece of jewelry appraised, what kind of professional should they go to? Are there any credentials or kinds of experience they should keep an eye out for?
There is no universal licensing, Federal or State, that an appraiser needs. This often leads to some confusion. However, there are some accreditations that you should look for when engaging an appraiser. The first is that the appraiser should be USPAP compliant, meaning that the appraiser, research method, and report follow specific standards. Look for an appraiser who belongs to a professional organization like the Appraisers Association of America, the American Society of Appraisers, or the International Society of Appraisers, to name a few. Lastly, if you need jewelry or watches appraised, having a Certified Gemologist or a Watch Specialist inspect your pieces is recommended. HODINKEE Insurance, which is underwritten by Chubb (the largest publicly traded P&C insurance company), is the most secure way to protect important timepieces, providing “all-risk” coverage for most causes of loss with no deductible. Our agents can always help find an appraiser for insured customers, but requirements may vary depending on the appraisal you need.
When it comes to art specifically, the simplest place to start is where you purchased the work–usually, a gallery or auction house. It's often possible for them to do an appraisal in-house or recommend a trusted professional elsewhere, if not.
Again, while there are no universal standards for appraisers, finding someone with experience and subject matter expertise is always the best option—whether for insurance, estate purposes, equitable distribution, or assessments for loan collateral, always consult with your insurance broker or trusted advisor if you have difficulty finding an appraiser.
What does the appraisal process usually entail?
The appraisal process is simple and usually follows a logical approach, though it may differ slightly depending on the type of appraisal.
First is contracting an appraiser with expertise in the object you wish to have valued. A professional agreement is signed outlining the arrangement and fee(s). An appraiser should NEVER charge you a percentage but instead, charge an hourly rate or a project fee. Next, a time for inspection is arranged, and you provide the appraiser with digital images. It is also highly recommended to provide them with all paperwork (receipts, papers, old appraisals, conservation documents, or GIA reports) that you may have, as this often helps inform the valuation and saves the appraiser time, which in turn saves you money. After the inspection, the appraiser takes time to research and draft their report. Sometimes, research can take a few days or longer, depending on an appraiser's workload, but they often will give you a clear timeline upfront. Finally, after their research and administrative work, payment for their services is remitted, and a final document is shared with you.
If you are a HODINKEE Insurance customer, we do not require formal appraisals for watches under $100,000. If your watch is at or above that threshold, we can help you obtain an appraisal from a reputable appraiser or expert, making the process even more seamless.
Beyond the eye, knowledge and experience of the appraiser, are there any tools of the trade or technologies they use?
For fine art, an appraiser may bring their own camera, gloves and a blacklight. For jewelry, they may bring a scale, caliper and loupe. In many ways, appraisers are detectives! They also rely on professional databases that have information to help them arrive at an appropriate value. All appraisers rely on these databases as it is their responsibility to back up their valuation with comparables should the report ever need justification.
It is important to note that appraisers aren't clairvoyants–I've met many people who have asked me to "tell them the story" of their piece! An appraiser's job is to research the value of the object, and if they uncover information in the process, all the better. Do not expect an appraiser to deliver a history report of the object beyond justifying their valuation and providing comparables. Additionally, appraisers are not authenticators. They cannot definitively say a specific artist or maker created an object, but they can raise red flags to you in their research process.
When it comes to art, watches and jewelry, what are some of the big factors that immediately help determine their value?
While art, watches, and jewelry are different, some commonalities exist. First is condition: is the object in good shape? Has it ever been conserved or repaired? Another is provenance: when and where did you purchase it, and do you know who owned it before you? Often, celebrity ownership can impact the value of the piece. Prime examples are paintings from a well-known collector or museum, a watch worn by a famous athlete, or diamonds owned by royalty.
Appraisals for these different property types should all contain key data points in the report that we at HODINKEE Insurance look for. We look for a clear image and description of the object, the appraiser's name and signature, and your information on the report. Lastly, insurance appraisals should always state a definitive value, unlike auction estimates which by contrast offer a potential range. Note that for other types of reviews–like for estate purposes or others–appraisers need to include many more data points in the report to be used by the Internal Revenue Service or other professionals.
Let's say an appraisal value for a specific work of art, watch or piece of jewelry is well-established. What are some things that might cause its value to change? And do re-appraisals typically increase in value over time, or could it go either way?
If you're a reader of either Hodinkee or Platform: you're someone plugged into the market! While valuing fine art is more nuanced, watches are, by nature, editioned pieces, meaning their value can be more easily triangulated. If you have a substantial collection of any kind, the rule of thumb is to have it reassessed yearly or biannually to consider market fluctuations. For some individuals, more frequent maintenance is required, especially if the collection makes up a significant percentage of their net worth or is part of an investment strategy. However, a regular cadence should be established with a trusted appraiser for your average collector. These reassessments (or schedule reviews) can also be done remotely for added simplicity.
Is there anything about the appraisal process today that's evolving?
Appraisals, like everything else, benefit from digitization and the advent of new technology. Many appraisal firms now produce exclusively digital reports. New databases help appraisers arrive at values quicker and more accurately. Additionally, many online services like live-chatting or instant-appraisals have popped up recently. While I will not knock the experience or expertise of any people on the other end of the chat system, it is important to know that those services are only for the value-curious and intended for modest antiques. Insurance carriers, attorneys or banks won't accept those valuations. While there is an opportunity for the profession to benefit more from technology, nothing will replace the expertise and eye of a seasoned appraiser.
Currently, technological advancements have come in the form of consumer-facing products for collectors, like art recommendation apps, and market indexes; there have been great advances throughout this space!