Help Appaising a Lost Ring
October 2, 2011 7:35 AM   Subscribe

My 75 year-old dad's house was robbed and several pieces of jewelry were taken including his dad's old ring. He's trying to claim insurance on it but they won't pay unless they can see a picture of something like it. My dad doesn't have a picture of the ring, or a computer to look up something similar. I don't live in the area. How can I help him remotely or guide him to someplace in the San Fernando Valley/Los Angeles area where he might be able to find a ring of similar value.
posted by ms_rasclark to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know this is kind of a longshot, but if you know someone who has a computer nearby, you can ask them to temporarily install "logmein" on it, and have your dad sit down in front of it. Then you have the controls, and he can tell you what to look for online, and then when you find something equivalent, you can take over the search in his area.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 7:39 AM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call up the local public library and see if one of the librarians there can help him search online for the picture.
posted by JanetLand at 8:09 AM on October 2, 2011

Or draw a picture, and post it with this question for search help. Also, search on eBay.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:21 AM on October 2, 2011

Best answer: IANYJ. I answer a lot of jewellery questions here, because I like to be helpful and I miss some parts of working with it, other parts, notsomuch. Insurance claims are a giant pain in the butt, because they don't account for sentiment or provenance, and it's a lot of back-and-forth if you want it to be. I've worked with people replacing jewellery, and it's a process, and an intricate one, if you really want to claim what's yours. But first, you have to figure out if that's what you paid for.

I will point out that insurance companies are funny. And by that I mean funny-strange, not funny -ha ha.

Here is some excellent information
that I used to ask every client to peruse upon buying a piece of jewellery. There are helpful questions in there even now for you to have your dad ask his agent about how it's going to be replaced once he does what they ask. You may need to see if you can advocate for him a bit, depending on his clarity of mind. Age doesn't mean a lack of intelligence, but it can mean fatigue, confusion and difficulty coping with the modern preference for email.

But, moving on:

First, if items aren't individually listed/scheduled with recently updated appraisals, they are not likely covered individually and replaced with the most comparable item, but will likely be reimbursed under a miscellaneous amount; or an attempt will be made to replace with something modern and mass-produced by a jeweller where they have an account or relationship. You may choose not to replace at all, and if they allow for monetary reimbursement, it may be less than what you'd get if you chose a jewellery item due to the back-end dealings.

There is no point to doing all this back-and-forth if they'll just give him a cheque for the maximum amount he's entitled to for all of the missing items, seeing as he may never make a claim of this magnitude again. There's no replacing sentiment, and if the family doesn't want to inherit replacement jewellery with no provenance, that may not be worn even if it's replaced - go for the money instead if that's an option. If you get replacement jewellery, you can't sell it for what it retails for anyway, so even if it's less money by check, you may come out ahead.

Are they going to take your dad's word for what he lost without a picture? If so, then there's ways to do it.

Second, this is the insurance agent's job, to do all of this work - not the client's, beyond his giving the description part, but this can be argued since I haven't worked on a claim in ages and I am not an insurance agent.

He may not have a picture of the ring, but not thinking that literally - is there an old picture where he might be wearing the ring?

My other suggestion, though: You get the description from him and post it here.

Try to get him to give a clear description of the style of the ring, with some idea of the measurements. Here's a page with typical styles of old signet rings, for example, and you can use those words: Was it was an oval signet ring? A modified square? Engraved? Depending on the age, we can determine whether it was likely hand-engraved rather than machine-engraved, but if he knows, that speaks of the quality. What store did it come from? Did it have a black stone like onyx or a blue one like lapis? A gemstone? What colour? Diamonds?

Here is an antique site that has a huge variety of men's rings
listed, of all ages.

Beyond that, there is some detective work involved in determining the value of what he really had even after finding a comparable picture, should he end up saying "I had that $4500 1.10 ct diamond ring there".

How old was it when he got it? (This would help determine whether it was mass-manufactured or custom.) What colour gold (rose/yellow/white) (or, doubtfully, platinum) was it? What finger size was it? (Accounts for weight - he can use a slip of paper, then measure the paper in mms.) Was it European or North American in origin (the difference between it being likely a 9k or 10k; 14k or 15k)? These factors will help determine not just the likely karat of the gold (based on cost and popular preference at the time, few rings were 18k) (Unless he's from a culture, say Italian, who generally tend not to wear less than 18k); whether it really was as old as believed (white gold can only be so old - there are no Victorian white gold rings, I promise); and most importantly, the weight (Was it light, or significant?). With gold prices being what they are today, it's the cost of the gold that's going to be the biggest factor in what he's reimbursed.

Other helpful detective work I would have employed back in the day:

So, he was born in 1936, and if he received the ring upon graduation or for a significant adult birthday (a common occasion) that would put the ring at the early to mid-1950s. If he inherited it, and it was his father's, that puts it in the late twenties/early thirties (just before he was born, and depending on his birth order) (people married younger then and often had more pregnancies - but considering the economy of the time, not many average people were buying rings depending on the geographic location or financial well-being). In fact, I have some mid-century department store catalogues from where lots of these-type rings came, and looking up what was generally available back in the day and then finding an estate dealer with a comparable one would be another way I'd go about finding a value for it.

So, there's cultural, economic and historic considerations too - but honestly, not worth spending ages poking around through if they're only going to give him a medium weight 10k mass-produced machine-engraved signet ring in place of his; or the the $450 cash that a mid-century one might sell for online at an Estate Jeweller's these days.

(Please accept my apologies for messiness - there's a lot going on on Corrie Street this morning while I worked at this, and I've no time left to edit now.)

posted by peagood at 8:51 AM on October 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I just spoke with my dad and got more information. Peagood, your specifics were so helpful in guiding the conversation. He inherited the ring upon his father's death and doesn't know how old it is. All he knows is it was at least 14K gold with a square ruby - no embellishments. Also stolen was an Omega watch he received upon retirement from New York Life in 1978 after 20 years of service. The watch was 18K gold bracelet style band with a round white face, standard numbers, stainless steel back. The third item was a sterling silver signet ring with his initials built into the ring that he received as a gift 30 years ago.
posted by ms_rasclark at 1:24 PM on October 2, 2011

Best answer: I'm glad! I'll keep poking around as I get time, looking for the most likely items. I am not doing this professionally, just as a diversion, of course and just giving information, not values.

As for the square ruby - can you ask him a few more questions? What I'm trying to get at is finding if it was a natural ruby or synthetic or something else. At that time it could have been anything. Can he draw it on a piece of paper, then measure it in millimeters? Was the top smoothly polished (buff top) or facetted? Really a ruby - or darker like a garnet? At the time, there were glass stones, synthetic stones, poor quality rubies and good quality rubies, garnets and garnet doublets (great rubies would have been used in other jewellery) - it could have been anything, really.

The Omega watches were Seamasters or Constellations or DeVilles, though which version under that heading, I can't tell you; and it was likely an 18 karat gold case only - though very possibly, for a presentation watch it was only gold-filled. The bracelet most certainly gold-filled or there certainly would have been scheduled insurance for it - it's possible, but not likely because it just wasn't done. Presentation watches generally have a lower value on the secondary market, though they're often in better condition. They were given later in life, and tended then to be worn for Sunday best. Here's a great source of information on beginning to search for a value, especially if there's any chance he has any of the numbers - as it says "Once you have the serial number, go to the official OMEGA website at and select their CUSTOMER SERVICE section. From there select the "VALUE A WATCH" feature and follow the instructions." Or, here, just look through 1978's watches and see what most resembled his - is there a picture of him in it? Here's an idea of what they were most often like, unless his preference was for a "dress" watch. There are a lot of vintage Omegas out there for replacing his - but again, if you don't get the exact watch, do you want it without the presentation/sentimental value? Then find three comparables, if you can, for the cash out or for replacement. If there's someone in the family to inherit the watch, see if the insurance company will replace it with any Omega watch in a particular range, if then it will be worn and enjoyed and your father will be thought of with love. Or, I mean - the insurance agent should - but you should be prepared with knowledge.

The reason I say that you may have some flexibility with the watch is that timepiece mark-ups are bananas. Omega (and Cartier) used to offer watches as sales incentives for store employees, as in "sell eight during a certain period and earn a stainless Seamaster". As a store employee, once each year, I was allowed to buy a watch from the distributor for half-retail less twenty percent (and that was still above cost). So, insurance companies will have a deal with Omega, and will likely be able to get a replacement watch of your choosing from the company at a price that pleases them and gets someone in your family a great watch that will be worn and enjoyed for the next thirty-whatever years.

The silver ring could have been anything - again, a picture of him wearing it would help - but they're not hugely valuable, so you might find a comparable one in a store if you remember it yourself. Take cards from the stores, have the employees write a sku or style number and find three comparables.

Again, what I'm trying to put here is for you to have the best hope for getting a cash out, and perhaps replacement if that's what they're going to do. If the police have been notified and the pawn shop detail has the info, you may find the watch, especially if it's been engraved, as the shops are required to keep sheets. You can make a flyer and send it around to estate jewellers, but that's only if he wants the watch back. That said, the gold ring has likely been sold for melt, and the silver one either tossed or flipped for a quick five bucks. It's sad, really. I hope your dad is holding up well in this. It's great that you're helping him.
posted by peagood at 6:09 PM on October 2, 2011

Response by poster: Peagood, my dad was so impressed that a perfect stranger would take the time to provide such a thoughtful and informative response. Thanks for letting me be a good daughter and have some way to offer him some help. Yay, Ask Metafilter!!
posted by ms_rasclark at 8:53 AM on October 7, 2011

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