Letters

J-BAR Course Needs Fuller Explanation

Regarding Ms. Gardner’s response to JCK‘s September article on the “J-BARroom Brawl,” please be aware that my comments were made after repeated readings of the course material, as well as the final exam, all which I found to be inadequate. The importance of valuation theory is not properly addressed and the mention given to purpose and function only barely explained. The chart on “appraisal types” (page 20) is a bare outline of the instruction needed to properly understand each group. Market research methods are barely explained. At best, the course is only an outline demanding a fuller explanation.

I was quite surprised that none of the exceptionally well-written appraisal books were even mentioned: Cos Altobelli’s The Practical Guide to Jewelry Appraising; Ralph Joseph’s The Jeweler’s Guide to Effective Insurance Appraising; Anna Miller’s Gems & Jewelry Appraising and Illustrated Guideto Jewelry Appraising, and others which not only cover most appraisal doctrine in detail, but also embody the same narrow areas that the JVC’s J-BAR course so often repeats throughout—FTC guidelines, misrepresentation by the appraiser, codes of ethics, etc.

I have to wonder if Ms. Gardner took the trouble to read any of the books. The needed material is covered at length in the above books and all a caring reader would need to do is to join one of the major appraisal organizations, follow their respective Code of Ethics, and get a chance to apply appraisal theory and practice under experienced people. Networking with experienced peers is the best way to achieve prominence in any field, and these organizations go a long way to assist and advise their members. A paralegal writing a beginner course for lawyers would certainly not be allowed to handle legal disputes.

Ms. Gardner’s stated mission is to act as a clearinghouse to resolve appraisal disputes for the trade and/or the public. Yet the course, being a “beginner course” for jewelers, makes no mention of a board of advisors or other appraisal experts of JVC or J-BAR who are qualified to help settle such disputes. She would have been better advised to have, at least, recommended the books to the jewelers and draw upon members of some of the appraisal organizations to assist. She even refuses to give credit to those who either wrote the manuscript or assisted in the final product!

USPAP is mentioned a number of times, but nothing is said about the fact that only three Standard Rules actually apply to jewelry appraising, and that USPAP has been considered as the minimal standard by the four major appraisal organizations.

The appraisal organizations alluded to above are the American Society of Appraisers (ASA), the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), the American Gem Society (AGS), and the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA)

The latter three confer as a group known as Council of Jewelry Appraisal Organizations (CJAO) and share new knowledge for appraisers as needed.

Their members are even given credit for courses taken with other appraisal groups. These appraisal organizations also have helped to settle disputes among appraisers and the public. In a number of cases they have expelled ethics violators and helped the public to appreciate appraisers in general.

The four appraisal organizations have spent many years designing, writing, researching and practicing appraisal theory. Many of their members are practicing jewelers as well as independent appraisers and have covered the responsibilities of jewelers doing appraisals for many years. Is it any wonder that they so resent an attempt by an organization as prominent as JVC to try to teach a “kindergarten” (Ms. Gardner’s own words) appraisal course which promises to list its graduates in a resource directory for lawyers and insurance companies? This is a sad commentary on JVC. Its Certificate of Completion does not say it is only a basic course. This Certificate of Completion will, more than likely, be put up on walls to impress prospective clients who will not know the difference.

I firmly believe that JVC is a noteworthy organization and is needed by our trade to explain and help enforce the FTC guidelines and fair practices for suppliers and jewelers. Cecilia Gardner’s expertise as a lawyer is not in question here, but the JVC’s expansion into some sort of an appraisal authority is certainly premature judging by the work done so far. It should be working more in concert with the organized experienced appraisal groups rather than appear to be making an end run around them.

Gail Brett Levine, Executive Director, National Association of Jewelry Appraisers, Rego Park, N.Y.

Raising the BAR

After reading Ms. Gardner’s comments in the September issue of JCK, I went back and reread J-BAR’s educational offering—Jewelry Appraisal Basics. I reiterate my contention that the J-BAR concept is a good one, but the current generation of the appraisal course misses its mark. However, I am encouraged by Ms. Gardner’s comments that the JVC views J-BAR as evolutionary, and that she hopes to accomplish the goals that were put forth in the sidebar “J-BAR: The Best of Intentions” that accompanied Mr. Roskin’s article.

My suggestion of working with appraisal organizations stands. The major benefit that J-BAR could have brought to the industry would have been the implementation of a review board to work with the appraisal societies in setting a uniform set of professional appraisal standards and then educating members of the trade and public about those standards. It is in this area that Ms. Gardner should have aspired to assume a leadership role. I still believe that the J-BAR should offer a comprehensive test open to anyone. Taking the educational courses necessary to prepare applicants to the J-BAR should be incumbent on the applicant. After all, the area lacking in this field is not on the educational end. It is in the regulatory and disciplinary end. I hope to see further details about J-BAR’s dispute resolution and disciplinary entities in the near future.

The Jewelry Appraisal Basics course could have been better prepared with the full cooperation of appraisal organizations that have spent far more years researching and developing standards. I am in favor of a simplified course for basic insurance documents because there are so many “unqualified” appraisers out there. I do not believe that the current J-BAR will correct that. I understand that the premise of the course is that those in violation of the course recommendations and the J-BAR Standards and Practices could be in violation of the law. But the legal consequences are limited. This fact will not be a revelation to many jewelers who write appraisals. In my experience, most jewelers who provide insurance appraisals at the point of sale do a fairly credible job. As to those appraisers who inflate values or practice “low balling” to kill competitors’ sales, when called on it, they always seem to have the same response: “Name an appraiser that has been sued.”

I know such appraisals don’t conform to the legal standards, you know they don’t conform, but guess what? It’s been my experience that most of the people writing them know that they don’t conform. More education isn’t going to solve that. What remains needed is a true “BAR” to work with the associations to standardize jewelry appraisal practices, assume a leadership role in promoting professionalism, and provide a forum to hear grievances and discipline participants who violate standards. I believe this is a logical direction for the JVC to take the J-BAR.

The JVC under Ms. Gardner’s tenure has played an important role in researching issues of liability important to every member of the trade. A few examples include educating the trade about compliance with the Patriot Act, working to curb under-karating of gold jewelry, as well as advancing the Kimberley Process and Tanzanite Protocols, to name just a few accomplishments. I am glad that Ms. Gardner is proud of the J-BAR. However, based on her prior works in these other areas, I think Ms. Gardner can raise the BAR.

Stuart Robertson, Research Director, Gemworld International Inc., Northbrook, Ill.