PUBLISHED: 4:35 PM on Wednesday, December 12, 2007
December isn't just for Christmas anymore; it's engagement season
HERNDON, Va., - If you thought men dreaded Christmas shopping, imagine the pressure of fighting the holiday crowds with a whole other mission in mind-finding the perfect engagement ring. December is the most popular month to get engaged. According to the Conde Nast American Wedding Study, 15 percent of engagements happen in December. When Christmas is added to the mix, this makes December one of the busiest months of the year for jewelry shoppers.

"This is a really busy time of year for jewelry retailers, with a lot of first-time buyers making big purchases," says Susan Eisen, an Accredited Senior Appraiser and Master Gemologist Appraiser® with the American Society of Appraisers, "but it can go much more smoothly if the consumer is well educated about the process."

Most people don't buy fine jewelry often, and many engagement ring shoppers are making their first, and possibly only, major jewelry purchase, so the thought of buying an expensive diamond or colored gemstone brings the fear of not getting a good deal and not knowing the quality of what you are paying for. Or, even worse, the fear of buying a ring the person won't like. Don't be deterred says the American Society of Appraisers, a few pointers can takes the uncertainty out of a holiday jewelry purchase.

Know what quality of stone you are buying. All stones should carry documentation about any treatment the stone has received to improve its appearance. Most expensive diamonds are sold with a grading report noting the quality of a stone. For diamonds, look for a report from an independent lab like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gem Society (AGS). If the diamond you are considering doesn't have a report, then you should get one. However, the grading report will not tell you the value; you need an appraisal for that. Colored stones seldom carry an independent grading report, and should be also be appraised.

Know what the value of what you are buying. To understand the value of the jewelry, consumers need to get an appraisal. Even before you go shopping, an appraiser can help you get the best value for your money and can give advice as to what styles best hold their value over time. Most reputable

jewelers will let you borrow the jewelry to take them to an appraiser. Some require that you purchase the item and then allow you a period in which you can have it appraised and return it for a full refund if it doesn't meet your expectations. Be sure to ask about a store's refund/exchange policy in case you have to return the item for any reason.

Choose an accredited appraiser with professional credentials. Choose an appraiser who is an accredited member of a nationally recognized appraisal organization, such as the American Society of Appraisers (ASA), as well as a Graduate Gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (FGA). The appraisal should be done for a set fee, not for a percentage of the value of the property-that's unethical.

"When making a fine jewelry purchase, make sure you understand the return policy, have a thorough description of the item written on your receipt and get it appraised right away," says Martin Fuller, ASA, Master Gemologist Appraiser®. "An appraisal at the time of purchase will give you confidence and peace of mind, as well as a document useful for insurance purposes. It will be of great value if the item is ever lost, damaged or if you want to sell it."

To learn more about jewelry appraisals or to find an ASA accredited gems and jewelry appraiser in your area, visit or call (800) ASA-VALU.

ASA is an international organization of appraisal professionals and others dedicated to the education, development and growth of the appraisal profession. ASA is the oldest and only major organization representing all disciplines of appraisal specialists, originating in 1936 and incorporating in 1952. ASA's headquarters is in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Visit the ASA Web site at