If you own non-costume jewelry, at some point you'll hear about appraisal, the process of determining the value of the jewelry. You need to have a jewelry appraisal done for several reasons, from valuing the piece for insurance to knowing what you could sell the piece for. Appraisals give the piece an official value because the price you bought it for is likely no longer accurate for a number of reasons.
The Appraisal Process
The actual process doesn't take that long. The person who does the appraising inspects the jewelry and comes up with an approximate value based on materials, workmanship, current condition, known rarity, and so on. Pieces can go up and down in value. Also, once you buy a piece, its selling price is technically no longer accurate because, just as with new cars that you drive off the lot, depreciation sets in the moment you buy the piece.
For insurance purposes, many companies will still accept receipts from your original purchase; check with your agent. However, if you have jewelry without a receipt, you'll need the appraiser's price, and that price might not match what you remember paying for the piece originally. Also, if you have a piece of jewelry you bought at a private sale or inherited from family, don't be surprised to hear that an item is costume jewelry. You should double-check that claim, but it is common to find costume jewelry that happens to look very real.
Appraisal vs. Sale Prices
The appraisal value can also differ from the actual sale value if you were to sell the item now. Appraisals can be done for the insurance value or for the "what you would get now" value if you tried to sell the jewelry to a secondhand store. You need to discuss this with the appraiser to be sure you get the right price.
What Can Be Appraised
Any piece of jewelry can be appraised, but you should be sure that the appraiser has experience with that type of material. For example, someone certified to appraise diamonds and colored stones might not be able to appraise pearls. Others may be experts in Edwardian and Georgian paste, plus mid-century items, but not know anything about appraising modern handcrafted jewelry with semiprecious stones.
Call a few appraisers; some work on their own while others work at jewelry or pawn shops. When you find one who can look at the pieces you have, you'll get a better sense of what you can do with the jewelry, such as sell it or store it, if you're not going to wear it.