Q and A

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Q: One of my daughters has suggested that instead of leaving everything up for grabs after I’m gone, I should list my good jewelry in my will, so there’s no quarreling— but I’ve looked at everything, and have no idea as to how to even begin to divide it up between the three girls. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A: The solution may not be as difficult as it seems. Unless there is already a high degree of animosity between your daughters, there is no need to go through the formality of a will. A simple written document should suffice, without the need to pay an attorney or other administrator. I recommend that the first thing you do, is ask about “who wants what,” and make your decisions with this in mind. Family jewelry is often valued at least as much for emotional reasons as monetary ones, so irregardless of value, you should try to learn whether any particular items are especially important to one child or another.

Aside from items that may have a great degree of sentimental value, the only fair and equitable way to do it is to divide items by monetary value, but the value must be determined evenly, and may require an up-to-date jewelry evaluation, if not a (more formal) appraisal. Once values have been established, it usually becomes easy enough to divide things up, although in many families, the value of a more or less modest collection of jewelry may be skewered by a single item, which is often the engagement ring — so when it comes to dividing equally, this can be problematic. If a single item presents an insurmountable problem, the only fair way to handle it would be to sell the item, and divide the money between the children. “Drawing straws” will sometimes seem like a fine idea, but (trust me), it’s not often that this method works to everyone’s satisfaction. No two families (or collections of jewelry) are alike, and sometimes people need to enlist the assistance of an unbiased professional to help sort things out.

Q: I recently had some work done on an old diamond ring that had belonged to my mother, but when I got it back, I noticed a chip on the largest diamond, right under a prong. When I asked the jeweler about it, he said it was that way when I brought it in, but I’m not sure that’s correct. Is there anything I can do about it?

 The first thing that I will ask is whether you are absolutely certain that there was no damage to the diamond to begin with. It is often the case (especially with an older piece that perhaps had not been well-maintained) that only after a professional cleaning will certain types of damage become obvious. If there is a degree of uncertainty on your part,  the short answer is no, probably not. Even if you have some sort of documentation that makes no mention of damage, who’s to say that the diamond did not sustain the damage between the time of the documentation, and the time you brought the ring in for repair?

Technically, the jeweler should have inspected the ring carefully before taking it in for whatever work you had done, and noted any damage (provided it was evident under close inspection) on the receipt. (Although careful inspection and notation on intake paperwork doesn’t always happen, if “push” were to come to “shove,” this could be a deciding factor.)

Assuming that you are sure there was no damage to the diamond beforehand, the practicality of pursuing the issue may also boil down to a matter of degree, as well as amount of energy you are willing to invest. A small, unobtrusive chip on a diamond (any way you look at it) is sometimes not really a big deal, and these can often be repaired, unless the diamond is too small to make the procedure practical.

The question then becomes one of “Who will pay for the repair?” However, if the chip compromises the integrity of the stone, or is so large that the value of the stone is dramatically effected, I suggest that you talk with the jeweler, to see if an agreement of some sort can be reached. (If you cannot get satisfaction, you local Better Business Bureau may be able to help.)

The last resort would be to wind up in court, which can become awfully expensive in short order. Even Small Claims Court can require an extensive amount of time and effort.


Joe Brandt is a local resident, and president of J.L. Brandt Company, offering speaking engagements and diversified fine jewelry advisory services to the general public since 1928. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments to  JLBCO@hotmail.com. Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.

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