How often should you update your jewellery insurance valuation?

When was the last time you updated your jewellery insurance valuation? 

Within the below article provided by Doerr Dallas Valuations and written by James Lowe, watch and jewellery specialist we explore the price rise in fine jewellery and the importance of updating your jewellery insurance valuation.  

This article includes four items of jewellery from four of the top manufacturing brands – items that have been in production virtually unchanged for nearly 20 years – unchanged that is except for the price of them. 

The price of gold in 2003 was estimated at about $450 per ounce and it’s sits at about $1510 per ounce today having peaked around 2012 to $1750 per ounce – so that’s roughly a 350% rise in bullion price over the period in question is a price increase factor but a surprisingly small one in gem set pieces like these. 

The Cartier ring, for example is quite a chunky piece of jewellery, but its basic bullion value today is probably about £400 as opposed to approximately £125 in 2003. Taking into account that the VAT rate has risen from 17.5% to 20% in the same period but again that’s had minor effect on the retail price, so that leaves gemstone prices, manufacturing costs and retail profit mark ups as the main ‘culprits’ for the 2.5/3 times price increases. 

Diamond prices for good commercial grade stones which these top manufacturing brands would use have largely stalled over the past few years; it’s only the highest quality and rare coloured stones which hit the headlines with their huge prices. And we’re all waiting to see what the effect on retail prices will be when the full impact of the introduction of synthetic diamonds is felt. Also, to be considered is the effect that the internet has had on diamond prices. 

There are numerous well-established and reliable web sites making available to all millions of unmounted stones at basically ‘trade prices’ (plus VAT) and most with recognised laboratory certificates. The ‘closed shop’ trade only which has prevailed in the jewellery business for centuries is breaking down. The coloured stone market is swamped with cheap, very heavily treated and colour enhanced rubies, sapphires and emeralds that come mainly from the Far East. Another factor is the huge increase in the use of coloured stones that 20 years ago would have been classified as ‘semi-precious’ but are now appearing at serious stone prices. 

The stones that have shown a huge increase in price over the past 10 or so years have been natural untreated sapphires, rubies and emeralds – but the stones have to have an independent laboratory certificate stating they are natural colour and untreated to come into this category. A few exceptional stones of this type – mainly in pretty 1920/1940’s period pieces - have fetched more per carat than decent comparable size commercial grade diamonds. 

Manufacturing and jewellery workshop costs in Europe have certainly risen sharply over the past 20 years – as anyone who has had to have jewellery items repaired will know only too well. 

Nearly all items are still handmade or finished by hand so the cost of making up of jewellery is a big factor in the resulting retail price. The exception to this being the type of items available from online sites and lower grade retailers that are mass produced in the Far and Middle East – these are usually poor-quality workmanship and contain poor-coloured stones. 

The second-hand and auction market for jewellery of this type is very weak – so don’t expect to cover the cost of your Far Eastern travels if you try to sell your purchases back in the UK. Profit marks up are a big variable – about 30 years ago when I was first involved with jewellery the tacitly accepted mark-up was to double the cost price and add VAT. Now, for a retail shop mark-up can be a whopping 300% to 350% plus VAT. 

That said, don’t be too harsh on the retailer – he has frightening fixed overheads and outgoings, and jewellery can be slow moving stock. Also, some jewellery and watch manufacturers do dictate a fixed retail price to the shop for their products. But it’s always worth a little haggle to see if you can get yourself a better deal!! 

If you had bought any of the four illustrated items (Cartier ring, Van Cleef and Arpels, Chopard and Tiffany) back in the very early 2000’s at these prices and had applied an across the board annual percentage increase to cover insurance you may have ended up in trouble in the event of a claim due to the variable cost factor increases. 

We recommend a review of a jewellery insurance valuation every 3 years. 

A desktop revaluation is fully acceptable within this timeframe, but a complete revaluation at 5 years especially as the valuation would include a close examination of the condition of claws, clasps and links, is something more and more insurers and brokers now insist on. 

To summarise, most of the big brand names like the ones above suffer from fakes and copying. Allegedly more Van Cleef and Arpels Alhambra jewellery has been made in the Middle and Far East than in France! 

All the brands we have featured within this article are meticulous in their marking and all their products will have a brand name and, in most cases, also reference and individual serial numbers, so if you’re shopping for some big name goodies on your Eastern travels be sure to take a good magnifying glass with you!