Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Appraisers examine works of art, jewelry, antiques, and the contents of estates to determine their value and authenticity. This job requires detailed knowledge of the subjects and an understanding of current market values and trends.
A fine art appraiser, for example, will study a work of art for style of brush strokes, color values, and other relevant characteristics. This information can establish the period in which it was painted or help identify the artist. If a forgery is suspected, the appraiser may analyze paint samples for their chemical content or examine the painting using sophisticated laser equipment or under X-ray. This judgment requires a knowledge of the materials, style, and techniques employed by different artists in different periods.
Antiques appraisers usually have a specialty, such as silver, jewelry, or furniture of a particular period. They must be familiar with the styles, materials, and markings that help them date and authenticate genuine antiques. They must also assess the condition of an article in relation to others still in existence and determine the rarity of the piece.
Most jewelry appraisers have some training in gemology. This training enables them to appraise the value of gemstones according to their color, the clarity of the stones, and the quality of the cut. After examining an article, a jewelry appraiser then determines its wholesale and retail values. This figure is based on the information the appraiser gathers about the piece and how it compares to similar pieces. Appraisers also have to know the current market value of an item according to various pricing guidelines and any trends that may affect the price, such as the current price of gold.
Estate appraisers are in great demand today to establish the value of items for purposes of sale, estate planning, insurance, and bankruptcy. Unlike other appraisers, they tend to deal with a group of items rather than individual types of articles. An estate appraiser will visit a house, list and possibly photograph the contents, and take measurements of large pieces of furniture. The appraiser then sets the value of each item by consulting catalogs, comparing retail values, and finding prices for comparable items.
Education and Training Requirements
The education and training requirements for appraisers vary according to the types of articles they appraise. Generally, training and experience are gained by working as assistants to specialists in retail stores, galleries, and auction houses. For fine art appraisal, galleries and art dealers prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree in fine art or art history. For those interested in jewelry, the Gemological Institute of America offers a six-month training program leading to a diploma in diamonds and colored stones. It also offers courses in sales and appraisal. Estate appraisers prefer to hire high school graduates as assistants, whom they will train to appraise certain types of articles.
Getting the Job
Apply directly to retail stores, art galleries, and auction houses for assistant positions. Part-time and summer vacation jobs in these places may help interested individuals gain valuable experience. High school or college placement offices may be able to give students information about job openings. Newspaper classifieds, Internet job banks, and magazines about art and antiques may also list positions for appraisers.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement as an appraiser comes with experience and specialization in a particular area. For example, appraisers become experts in Oriental rugs or art from a particular place or period. For those working in retail stores, advancement usually means taking on more types of appraisals and appraising articles of higher value. Experienced appraisers who have a specialty may start their own businesses or work freelance. Some may work as consultants to art galleries and museums. A few become well-known authorities in their field and may be asked to appraise objects around the world.
The employment outlook for appraisers appears to be good through the year 2014. As more and more people invest in art, jewelry, and antiques, appraisers' services will be in demand. The area of estate appraisal is also expected to grow with appraisals being required for planning, insurance, bankruptcy, and sales. There is currently a shortage of estate appraisers, and the job prospects for those with experience are very good.
Working conditions vary widely, depending on whether the appraiser is self-employed and works from a private home or office or is employed by a large jewelry store, museum, or insurance company. Appraisers may be required to do a lot of business travel. Objects can be found both in clean, spacious museums and in dirty, cluttered attics.
Appraisers must be skilled in their work and be able to deal with many different types of people. Occasionally, a client will disagree with the appraised value of an object. In such instances an appraiser must be tactful but firm.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association of Certified Appraisers
232 N. South St.
Wilmington, OH 45177-1649
American Society of Appraisers
555 Herndon Pkwy., Ste. 125
Herndon, VA 20170
Earnings and Benefits
Entry-level salaries for appraisers with a diploma in gemology are about $20,000 per year. The median salary for real estate appraisers is $43,390 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experienced appraisers with a specialty and a good clientele can earn more than $65,000 a year. There is currently a move away from paying appraisers a percentage of the value of the object being appraised and toward basing their fee on the time spent and the expertise required to make the appraisal. Benefits usually include paid holidays and vacations, medical insurance, and pension plans. Self-employed appraisers must provide their own benefits.
A person selected or appointed by a competent authority or an interested party to evaluate the financial worth of property.
Appraisers are frequently appointed in probate and condemnation proceedings and are also used by banks and real estate concerns to determine the market value of real property.