The Gem Master: Heather Fletcher

Written by: Sue Fritz | | Uncategorized

Jewelry Quality Control

At Lavalier, you can get a quote for jewelry insurance in less than a minute, and it only takes a few more to buy jewelry insurance. But what happens after you hit that ‘purchase’ button? It goes to our underwriting team, led by GIA graduate gemologist (and MBA!) Heather Fletcher. She and her team review all the details of your appraisal and examine each diamond or gem certificate. Not only does this allow Lavalier to assess your insurance application, it also helps us help you ensure that you have the coverage level you need for as close a replica as possible in the unfortunate case of loss or damage. Check out her interview for more on the jewelry insurance process, gemology, and her tips and trade secrets!

Interviewer: Thanks for sitting down and chatting with us, Heather. So, what made you want to go into gemology?

Heather: I’m from a ‘diamond family’! I’m a third-generation gemologist. My father and grandfather were both diamantaires, and my sister is a gemologist, too.

Interviewer: What does it take to become a gemologist? What is your background and training?

Heather: Having a respectable certification is important in this industry. I have a Graduate Gemologist certificate from the Gemological Institute of America, which means I learned about diamond grading and color stones from the people who really know their stuff. Experience is also important. I spent a large part of my career working closely with the world-class diamond experts at De Beers Diamond Jewelers. Before that, I earned my BA from Yale and an MBA from Harvard.

Interviewer: Wow! So what made you want to work with Lavalier?

Heather: I get to use all facets of my training here: my jewelry background as well as my MBA. Lavalier has a cool, disruptive business model. We’re taking something that’s traditionally laborious and problematic – trying to find jewelry insurance that will actually protect you – and making it super easy and quick for our customers. We’re really focused on providing the best customer experience possible. A lot of insurers are way behind on this front, but Lavalier is making it a priority.

Interviewer: Let’s talk a little bit about the insurance process. Customers need an appraisal to purchase insurance for jewelry items. What advice would you give about finding an appraiser?

Heather: If you’ve just bought something, your jeweler should provide you with the appraisal at the time of sale, and you can use that to get it insured. If you want to appraise an older piece, make sure to use someone who is credentialed. The American Gem Society has a list of certified jewelry appraisers, so that’s a great place to start.

Interviewer: What should customers make sure to note about their jewelry items, so they can be replicated if necessary? One-of-a-kind and vintage jewelry pieces are hard to replace!

Heather: This is why a comprehensive appraisal is so important. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and when insured through Lavalier, you have the option to work with your original jeweler to create a replacement that’s just like the original. When you get your appraisal, make sure it lists gem and metal type(s), sizes, weights, and details like color and clarity. A description of the setting style helps, too. Lastly, the appraisal should have your name and address and be signed and dated.

Interviewer: Let’s talk jewelry! What advice would you give to potential proposers about choosing an engagement ring?

Heather: I always tell people to do their homework – to gain a basic understanding of the Four Cs and how they impact a gem’s appearance and price – but not to go too crazy. The two most important things are if you think it’s beautiful, and if your future fiancée will agree.

Interviewer: Speaking of the Four Cs, which is most important to the value of a diamond?

Heather: Well, carat generally has the biggest impact on diamond price, and it goes up exponentially as the size increases. Larger gem-quality stones are simply harder to find! Color and clarity both have a significant impact on value, and it’s also exponential. But I always advise people to pay attention to the fourth C, Cut. This is a measure of the skill with which the polished diamond was honed from the rough material – the human component. A diamond that is expertly cut will sparkle and shine much more than one that was cut to maximize weight or to hide an inclusion. I’d rather have a perfectly cut, slightly included G-color diamond than a badly cut E-color VVS (very very slightly included) diamond, because the well-cut diamond will have more fire, life, and brilliance.

Interviewer: So once they’ve found that perfect piece of jewelry, do you have any advice about how to care for it?

Heather: Keep it clean! Diamonds naturally attract grease and oils, and this residue seriously dulls their shine over time. Wash them regularly with mild soap and warm water (and always plug the sink). Better yet, use purpose-crafted diamond cleaning cloths. Also, if you’re going to do something potentially damaging like lift heavy weights or use cleaning chemicals, take your rings off. The saddest, most mangled rings I’ve ever seen came off the hands of a woman who always wore them sailing. She’d spent years winching sails with her rings on, and they barely survived.

Interviewer: In your years as a jewelry expert, you’ve seen all kinds of jewelry. What are the latest jewelry trends on the horizon?

Heather: Fine jewelry is such a personal item, and we’ve definitely seen a trend towards consumer participation in the design of their jewels. I love seeing these custom-made pieces in jewelry insurance applications, because you know they have a really special story behind them, and it’s good to see that the owner is protecting their bespoke items. On the fashion front, rose gold is definitely having a moment! It’s a beautiful pink color due to a copper alloy, which can be really flattering. We’re also noticing an uptick in ethically sourced pieces, which is wonderful. I’ve seen more fancy cut diamonds and fancy color stones in general. Oh, and two-part rings! I love those.

Interviewer: Thanks so much for your time, Heather. I’m sure readers will enjoy this insight into what goes on behind the scenes here at Lavalier!

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