Febuary 2008

JEWELRY INSURANCE ISSUES (formerly IM News), provides monthly insight and information for jewelry insurance agents, underwriters and claims adjusters.

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Jewelry Insurance Issues

Table of Contents

Click on article titles in red


What's a Certified Appraiser? - January

Best Appraiser Credentials - February

Are the diamonds you’re insuring real? - March

Handwritten Appraisals - April


Moral Hazard, Documents and the Bottom Line - January

Ruby and Jade - February

How to mail a diamond - March

Jewelry Insurance Appraisal Standards: JISO - April

Describing a gem's color - May

Why not just put jewelry on the Homeowner policy? - June

GIA Diamond Reports - July

Not just a pretty face - August

Moral hazards on the rise - September

Hurricanes, fires, floods—and jewelry insurance - October

Inherent vice / wear-and-tear losses are rising - November

FRAUD UPDATE – lack of disclosure, false inscriptions & doctored docs - December


Inflated appraisals—alive & well! Shady lab reports—alive & well! MORAL HAZARD—ALIVE & WELL! - January

Clarity Enhancements v. Inherent Vice - February

How green is my emerald? - March

Cruise Jewelry - What's the problem? - April

Crown of Light ® - how special is it? - May

Diamonds at Auction — Big gems, big prices, and the trickle-down effect - June

Are you sure her wedding jewelry is covered? - July

What Affects Jewelry Valuation? - August

What to look for – on the jewelry appraisal, on the cert, and on other documents - September

Growing Bigger & Bigger Diamonds - October

Scam season is always NOW - November

Ocean Diamonds - December


Pair & Set Jewelry Claims and the Accidental Tourist - January

Is that brand-name diamond a cut above the others? - February

Vacation Jewelry – Insurer beware! - March

Apple's Smartwatch – The risk of a wrist computer - April

Why you should read that appraisal - May

Smoking Gun! - June

Color-Grading Diamond: the Master Stones - July

Padparadscha—a special term for a special stone - August

Jewelry Appraisal Fees - September

Insuring a Rolex - steps to take, things to consider - October

Diamond camouflage and how to see through it - November

GIA Hacked! - December


Who Grades? - January

Sales, discounts, price reductions, bargains, specials, mark-downs . . . . and valuation - February

Credential Conundrum - March

Frankenwatches - April

Fakes, fakes, and more fakes - May

Marketing Confusion — What is this gem anyway? - June

12 Reasons Not to Insure a Rolex! - July

Why NOT to insure a Rolex: Reasons 5-7 - August

Why NOT to insure a Rolex: Reasons 8-10 - September

Why NOT to insure a Rolex: Reasons 11-12 - October

The Doublet Masquerade - November

Is the gem suitable for the jewelry? Is this a good insurance risk? - December


Wedding Rings on HO? NO! - January

Silver: the new gold - February

Point Protection - March

Tiffany v. Costco - April

What counts in valuing a diamond? - May

Appraising Jewelry - What’s a credential worth? - June

A Cutting Question concerning vintage diamonds - July

Synthesized Diamonds - Scam update - August

Pretty in Pink - Kunzite on parade... - September

Preventing jewelry losses - October

Scratch a diamond and you’ll find . . .??? - November

Synthetics in the Mix - December


Advanced Gem Lab - A deeper look at colored gems - January

Whose Diamond? - February

Appraisal Inflation - It Keeps On Keeping On - March

Big Emerald - April

Changing colors and making gems: Are we seeing "beautiful lies"? - May

Diamonds - Out of Africa. . . or out of a lab? - June

Appraiser's Dream Contest - July

GIA & the Magic of Certificates - August

Pricey when it’s hot: What happens when it’s not? - September

Fooling With Gold - October

Tanzanite – December's stone - November

Branding Diamonds - What do those names mean? - December


Unappraisable Jewelry - January

Replicas - Are they the real thing? - February

Composite Rubies- From bad to worse - March

Jewelry Hallmark - A Well-Kept Secret - April

Non-Disclosure: Following a Trail of Deception - May

Preserving the Diamond Dream - June

Spinel in the Spotlight - July

Jewelry 24/7 - Electronic Shopping - August

Diamond Bubble? - September

Disclosure: HPHT - October

"Hearts & Arrows" Diamonds - November

How a Gem Lab Looks at Diamonds - December


Emeralds - And What They Include - January

Pink Diamonds: From Astronomical to Affordable - February

Palladium-the Other Precious White Metal - March

Bridal Jewelry - April

The Corundum Spectrum - May

How Photos Cut Fraud - and help the insured - June

The Price of Fad - July

Old Cut, New Cut-It's All about Diamonds - August

EightStar Diamonds-Beyond Ideal - September

The Hazard of Fakes - October

Jewelry with a Story - November

Counterfeit Watches - December


Blue Diamond-cool, rare and expensive-sometimes - January

Turning Jewelry into Cash—
Strategy in a Bad Economy
- February

Enhancing the Stone - March

Being Certain about the Cert - April

Every Picture Tells a Story - May

Color-Grading Diamonds - June

The Newest Diamond Substitute - July

What Happens to Stolen Jewelry - August

Jewelry As an Investment - September

Black Diamond: Paradox of a Gem - October

Protect Your Homeowners Market—Keep Jewelry OFF HO Policies! - November

What’s So Great about JISO Appraisal Forms & Standards? - December


Garnet - and Its Many Incarnations - January

Organic Gems - February

Do Your Jewelry Insurance Settlements Make You Look Bad? - March

Don't Be Duped by Fake JISO Appraisal - April

Diamonds in the Rough - May

The Cultured Club - June

Sapphire-Gem Superstar - July

It's a Certified Diamond! 
- But who's saying so?
- August

FTC Decides: Culture Is In! - September

Paraiba Tourmaline – What's in a Name? - October

How Fancy is Brown? - November

CZ – The Great Pretender - December


Moissanite's New Spin - January

Online Jewelry - Buying and Insuring - February

Blood Diamonds - March

Damaged Jewelry, Don't Assume!- April

Chocolate Pearls - May

Appraisal Puff-Up vs Useful Appraisal - June

It's Art, but is it Jewelry?
- July

Diamonds Wear Coats of Many Colors - August

DANGER! eBay Jewelry "Bargains" - September

TV Shopping for Jewelry - October

Enhanced Emerald: clever coverup - November

How do you like your rubies -
leaded or unleaded?
- December


The New Platinum: A Story of Alloys - January

Ruby Ruse - February

How Big are Diamonds Anyway? - March

GIA Diamond Scandal
Has Silver Lining for Insurers
- April

Watch Out for Big-Box Retailers Insurance Appraisals - May

Mixing It Up: Natural and Synthetic Diamonds Together - June

Tanzanite - Warning: Fragile - July

Red Diamonds - August

Inflated Valuations & Questionable Certificates - September

Emeralds - October

Where Do Real Diamonds Come From? - November

Counterfeit Watches - The Mushroom War - December


The Lure of Colored Diamonds - January

Synthetic Colored Diamonds - February

Watches: What to Watch for - March

When is a Pear not a Pair? - April

The Truth About Topaz - May

White Gold: How White is White? - June

One of a Kind - or Not - July

Jewelry in Disguise - August

Valued Contract for Jewelry? Proceed with Caution! - September

Antiques, Replicas and All Their Cousins

Grading the Color of Colored Diamonds

New GIA Cut Grade for Diamonds - December


Synthetic Diamonds - and Insuring Tips - January

Bogus Appraisals and Fraud - February

A Picture is Worth Thousands of Dollars - March

Don't be Duped by Fracture Filling - April

Gem Scams Point to Need for Change - May

What is a Good Appraisal - June

4Cs of Color Gemstones - July

Gem Laser Drilling: The Next Generation - August

Why Update an Appraisal? - September

When to Recommend an Appraisal Update or a Second Appraisal - October

Secrets of Sapphire - November

Will the Real Ruby Please Stand Up - December


Mysterious Orient:
A Tale of Loss
- January

Bogus Diamond Certificates and Appraisals - February

Can Valuations be Trusted? - March

Spotting a Bogus Appraisal or Certificate - April

Counterfeit Diamond Certificates - May

Case of the Mysterious "Rare" Sapphires - June

Politically Correct Diamonds - July

Name Brand Diamonds - September

Princess Cut: Black Sheep of Diamonds - October

Reincarnate as a Diamond - November

Synthetic Diamonds - December


Irradiated Mail/Irradiated Gems - January

Fake Diamonds (Moissonite) - February

GIA Diamond Report - March

AGS and Other Diamond Certificates - April

Colored Stone Certificates - May

Damaged Jewelry: Don't Pay for Nature's Mistakes - June

The Case of the "Self-Healing" Emerald - July

Mysterious Disappearance: Case of the Missing Opals - August

The Discount Mirage - September

What Can You Learn from Salvage? - October

Gaining from Partial Loss - November

Year in Review - December


Colored Diamonds - January

Good as Gold - February

Disclose Gem Treatments - March

FTC Jewelry Guidelines - April

Myths Part I: Each Piece is Unique - May

Myths Part II: Myths, Lies, & Half-Truths - June

New Trend: Old Cut Stones - October

The Appraisal Process - November

Year in Review - December


Deceptive Pricing - January

Gems - Natural or Manmade - February

Jeweler/Appraisal Credentials - March

Fracture Filling - April

Salvage Jewelery - May

Gem Treatments - June

Don't Ask/Don't Tell - A Buying Nightmare - July

Laser Drilling of Diamonds - August

Jeweler Ethics or the Lack Thereof - September

Gem Scam - October

The Truth about Clarity Grading - November

Year in Review - December


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Organic Gems

Gemstones are the focus of much of jewelry's beauty and value, but some gems are not "stones" at all. Organic gems come from once-living plants and animals. These non-"stone" gems have their own separate valuation criteria, durability issues and imitations.


Here's a gem material with serious historical punch: amulets of red coral have been found in Neolithic graves dating back to 8000 BC. Today coral is used for necklaces, earrings and brooches, as well as dramatic table sculptures.

Angel Skin Coral
14K yellow gold ring
Red Coral & Diamond
18K yellow gold pendant


Coral comes from thousands of individual coral polyps, each polyp only a few millimeters in diameter. For protection, each polyp secretes a protective jacket of calcium carbonate. As the colony builds these shells, they couple together into branches and, if large enough, reefs. It is these calcium carbonate structures that are the gem material.       

Dark red and oxblood coral have been the most desirable for jewelry, but connoisseurs also value a delicate shade of pink called "angel skin." Yet the desirable colors are increasingly difficult to find because all coral supplies are suffering from industrial pollution, oil spills, thermal stress caused by heated discharge from power plants, overharvesting of the coral, and careless and destructive harvesting.

As supplies of fine red coral go down, prices go up, and imitations and adulterations increase. Some dealers are dyeing colorless coral to a reddish shade that experts recognize as fake; this might fool the inexperienced appraiser or buyer, and most certainly the insurer. According to some experts, 90-95% of the new coral entering the market is color-enhanced.

Another scam involves combining shavings of coral branches with a chemical binding agent, then selling the product as genuine coral. Rank imitations, including shell and plastic, are also passed as coral.

True coral is sensitive to detergents, perfumes, chemicals and even body acids. Gemologists and dealers recommend that coral be cleaned periodically in a mild soapy solution to rid it of these abrasives.


This most popular organic gem is produced in the soft tissue of a mollusk. Since ancient times freshwater pearls have been harvested from rivers and lakes, and saltwater pearls from coastal ocean beds. Only a small portion of pearls harvested were of a shape, color and quality to be used in jewelry.

South Sea Cultured Pearls
17-inch strand

Over the last century, the development of pearl cultivation techniques has revolutionized the pearl industry. Gem-quality pearls are now produced in huge quantities. Technology allows coloring pearls to pink, blue, gray, green, golden, or chocolate, to meet—or create—the latest fashion. This classic gem once available only to royalty and the wealthy is now a favorite for affordable jewelry. (See our May 2007 issue for a more detailed discussion of pearls.)


Ivory comes from the tusks and teeth of animals such as the elephant, walrus, hippopotamus and sperm whale. There is also fossilized ivory, sometimes called ancient ivory, from the tusks of woolly mammoth and mastodon.

Humans have carved ivory into personal ornaments (as well as art works and utilitarian objects) since prehistoric times. Contemporary jewelry using ivory is rare. The rapid decline of ivory-producing animals and the cruel practices of poachers caused many countries to ban the importation and sale of ivory. Plastics and other imitations have moved in to fill the gap.


Cameo engraving on shell enjoyed a golden age in the Greco-Roman empires, then fell out of fashion until the art was revived in the Renaissance. Carvers favor particular species of shell that have a white or pale surface layer and a reddish to brownish inner layer. The two distinct layers allow the figures in relief to stand out. The small relief sculptures, which have changed little over the centuries, are made into bracelets, earrings, pendants and brooches.

Shell Cameo
set in 18K yellow gold brooch mounting

In cameo-carving areas of Italy, artisans train from age 13 to produce the delicate works. These days, manufacturers may use automated lasers to carve cameos, but such manufactured works do not command the high prices of hand-carved pieces.


Amber is the fossilized resin of pine trees that lived about 45 million years ago. The ancient Greeks compared it to hardened tears or rays of sunset. Its warm yellow-red-orange color, as well as its easy workability, made amber a popular jewelry material over the centuries.

8 oval amber cabochons
in 14K yellow gold bracelet

Unlike diamond and most other gems, where inclusions lower the value, amber derives character from its inclusions of miniscule air bubbles or fossilized insects or plants. Amber material is comparatively soft, splinters under a knife, is somewhat soluble in alcohol, and burns with resin-like fumes. Whatever the value and beauty, it's not a great candidate for insurance against damage.

Jet &  Gutta-Percha

Victorian mourning customs, with their emphasis on proper (mainly black) clothing for the proper period of time, made black-gem jewelry popular in the mid-19th century. Jet, which is fossilized coal, was the first choice. Gutta-percha was a less expensive alternative. Victorian "mourning jewelry" employing jet and gutta-percha can still be found in antique markets. 

Gutta-Percha brooch
with yellow gold center containing one seed pearl

The highly malleable sap of the gutta-percha tree was not only made into lockets, brooches and walking-cane heads, it was also used to insulate telegraph wires, make golf balls, create molded furniture that imitated carved wood, and produce dental fillings and a variety of surgical devices. Contemporary plastics have replaced gutta-percha in most of these uses.

Tortoise Shell

Tortoise shell is not actually shell. It is the carapace of the hawksbill sea turtle and is chemically similar to horn. The hawksbill is now a protected species, but for several centuries its shell was a popular material for jewelry and hair ornaments. Today the term "tortoise shell" generally refers less to a gem than to a color pattern on some common material, such as plastic.

Bugs, Claws & Hair, Oh My!

Other jewelry materials have also passed out of use. The stylized form of the scarab beetle is often found in metal and gemstone jewelry, but during the period known as the Egyptian Revival the insect itself was a popular jewelry item. The beetles were carefully dried, perhaps coated with lacquer, and made into brooches, earrings or pendants. Reports say such jewely was surprisingly durable.

Tiger claw jewelry is sometimes seen in the antique market. It dates from the British colonial period in India, when tiger-hunting was encouraged. Taxidermists mounted the heads, furriers used the pelts, and jewelers set the claws in brooches and pendants.

Jewelry made of human hair was popular in England and America during the Victorian period. Young women crafted hair-work items from pattern books, and avid collectors today comb the antique markets for such pieces.


Things to keep in mind:

The gems discussed here are generally low-priced, compared with diamond. However, the jewelry may be of high value because it is expertly crafted and made of expensive metal.

Many of these materials are easily damaged — amber is soft, coral can be eaten away by chemicals and body acids, cameos made of shell may discolor over time, etc. This amounts to inherent vice.
Remember that words like unique, antique, Victorian, etc., are merely descriptive terms (or hype) — they say nothing about the jewelry's value. (See the October 2005  issue for detailed discussion.)

Many of these gems have high name recognition and might be assumed to be more expensive than they are. Tourists, for example, may overpay for exotic jewelry because they buy on the enthusiasm of the moment with no research or comparison shopping.  Also, plastic imitations abound.

Assigning value to unusual pieces requires skill and experience.  Be sure the appraiser is a jeweler who regularly deals in such jewelry and is familiar with the pricing (and scams) in its specialized market.

For scheduled jewelry, have a competent trained appraiser, preferably a Graduate Gemologist who is also a Certified Insurance Appraiser™, determine valuation and supply a detailed descriptive appraisal on JISO 78/79.

To schedule or not?

It may happen that a policyholder has a jewelry collection that is valuable as a whole, but the value of each piece is, say, under $1,000. Should you schedule this jewelry?



Always have damaged jewelry inspected in a gem lab by a graduate gemologist who has experience with the gem material involved. Some materials can change or break down under normal wear and tear, and such changes are not considered damage for which the insurer is liable.

Most materials discussed here are low in value. If the appraised valuation is high, be sure to check the sales receipt. A large discrepancy is a strong indication of inflated valuation or fake.

For high-value jewelry, check the appraiser's record and experience. Does he regularly deal with high-value jewelry? Does he have experience with this type of jewelry? Have other appraisals of his been inflated? You may want to consult a jewelry insurance professional to help resolve these questions.




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