Appraisals on the Road

PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow” is a popular program for the Public Broadcasting Service. As host Mark Walberg and the “Antiques Roadshow” staff travel from coast to coast, they encounter thousands of people and tens of thousands of antiques each year. With jewelry easier to carry than say a late 19th century gilt bronze statue, a large amount of jewelry passes through the halls at each taping location for the show.


Peter Shemonsky, director of Circa’s San Francisco office.



That’s where appraisal experts such as Peter Shemonsky come in. Established in 2001, Circa is a leading buyer of fine jewelry in the re-sale market. In his role at Circa’s West Coast office, Shemonsky appraises jewelry every day, but nothing like the quantity seen during the season tapings of “Antiques Roadshow.”


Shemonsky has been donating his time and appraisal expertise to the PBS show for eight years. For Shemonsky and the team of appraisers pulled together for an “Antiques Roadshow” event, taping starts at around 7:30 AM and ends about 12 hours later when all the jewelry and antiques have been appraised.


With the jewelry and paintings tables many times being the busiest tables for each show, Shemonsky and the appraisal team see 400 to 500 people seeking on-the-spot jewelry appraisals. “I remember one show when we had about 900 people show up at our table alone,” recalls Shemonsky. “It gets pretty exhausting. In one day of taping the show I see about the same amount jewelry as I do in a month at my regular job at Circa.”



Shemonsky’s most recent stop with “Antiques Roadshow” was in Denver, CO, in July. (Please see the original JCK report quoting a Denver Business Journal article.) As part of a special “Roadshow” segment, Shemonsky was invited to visit the Colorado Treasury Department, which holds roughly $450 million worth of unclaimed property.




Omega pocket watch.


“I’ve seen these sorts of unclaimed government property storage facilities before, and there’s a lot of jewelry of all types that is forgotten or unclaimed for a variety of reasons,” says Shemonsky.


When unclaimed safe deposit boxes are opened most have the usual precious items, such as gold coins, gold and silver ingots, old pocket watches from bygone eras and of course the ubiquitous cameo from grandma’s jewelry box. Paper wealth such as treasury or bearer bonds is also commonly found amongst the forgotten jewelry items and precious metal ingots.




But once in a while Shemonsky comes across something special, and his stop in Denver was no exception. After looking at 70 to 80 pieces, there were two pieces of jewelry that stood out from the rest – what Shemonsky calls “wild cards” in the mix.


During last month’s “Antiques Roadshow” trip to Denver, Shemonsky and the appraisal team discovered a Victorian Era necklace. The silver-topped, yellow gold necklace was set with peridot, garnet, amethyst and citrine, all done in modified brilliant round cuts. Shemonsky estimated that the “Renaissance Revival” style necklace was from the 1860’s or 1870’s.


Another “wild card” for Shemonsky and the appraisal team was a platinum ring set with a 5.5-carat yellow diamond. The diamond ring was of interest for several reasons. Given the stone’s shallow cut in an antique pear shape, at first glance it looked much larger. “We originally thought it might be a 7.5- to 8-carat diamond,” says Shemonsky.


Being an I-3 clarity rated diamond, a heavily included stone could not have been treated in any way when it was remounted in the 1950’s as high temperature, high temperature (HPHT) technology got its start in the 1960’s. Given his observations and the technology of the day, Shemonsky concluded the yellow diamond to be natural and was produced roughly in the 1880’s or 1890’s and remounted several decades later.


In addition to the thrill of the occasional “wild card,” Shemonsky enjoys the enthusiasm of the people who attend the show tapings. And, given the volume of jewelry appraised in a single taping of the program, Shemonsky and his appraisal colleagues garner much in terms of industry knowledge from the many pieces and the people who submit them as well as the other appraisal team members, each bringing to the table the essential appraising skills plus defined areas of expertise.


Shemonsky enjoyed his recent trip to Denver and was impressed with the state’s Treasury Department’s mission to return as much unclaimed property as possible. In 2008, Colorado’s Treasury Department returned about $22 million in unclaimed goods. For those trying to track down unclaimed property, Shemonsky encourages them to go to their state Treasury Department’s website and conduct searches for “unclaimed property.”


The July taping in Denver will be aired as part of “Antique Roadshow’s” 2010 season, premiering Monday, January 4 at 8:00 PM (EST) – or 7:00 PM (CST). After that, Shemonsky’s next assignment on PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow” will begin with the summer 2010 tapings.


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