3 Things To Know If You Own Jewelry, Art, or Notable Furniture

Do you ever wonder what your treasured heirlooms are really worth? Perhaps you have some jewelry, art, or a notable piece of furniture that you hope to pass on to your children. Knowing the value would be nice for them.

Sheryl Gillett holds the highest honor awarded from the oldest appraisal organization in the United States. She’s a fellow with the American Society of Appraisers. With partner Stephen Caudana, she began Gillett and Caudana in 1983. She has taught at the University of California, Irvine campus and is a second generation appraiser.

If you’re not really sure what an appraiser does, you’re not alone. Sheryl says there four key aspects to an appraisers work ~ witnessing that the personal property exists at a certain time and place, identifing what it is, determining its value by researching the market, and explaining everything in a comprehensive report.

Family heirlooms don’t always have the value a family expects. Sometimes families have stories about an item but by examining the item, it doesn’t show evidence to support the story.

The intrinsic value of an item is what it’s made of like gold for jewelry or rose wood for furniture. Rarity affects value as does the desirability in the market. If something is popular at the time, it will have more value.

Things can dramatically change in value over the course of thirty years. Brown furniture made of mahogany or walnut from the nineteenth century is not selling well right now. There’s a large supply as people downsize.

There’s always a market for the really fine stuff which is the rare top 5-10% of market. The other 90% is what you usually find at antique shows and it is languishing now. If you have something in this category that you no longer want, Sheryl suggests trying to find a home for it amongst family members but if that doesn’t work out she has another suggestion. Working with an auction house is the quickest and most efficient way to dispose of personal property you don’t need. In Southern California, Bonhams, Abell, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and LA Modern are popular auction houses.

Auction houses take a commission on the value of the items being sold. The fees are up to 40% on low value items. If they don’t think they can sell an item, they won’t take it.

Another option is to donate your items to a charity. At this time, anything valued at under $5,000 does not need to be appraised. A donation worth $5,000 to $30,000 needs to be appraised but you don’t need to attach the appraisal to your tax return. Any donation over $30,000 needs an appraisal that is attached to your tax return.


Sheryl grew up with a grandfather who was an antique dealer and appraiser. After years of working as an actress, Sheryl decided she would like to go into the decorative arts business of appraisal and she talked with her grandfather about how she could learn the vast knowledge needed for this job. Now she holds the highest industry honors for her knowledge and work in the industry.

Gillett and Caudana are based in California but they travel all over. A  special discovery happened at Warner Brothers in the early ’90’s when they were appraising the property department. Picture an enormous four story building on one square city block. Warner Brothers had never done an appraisal of their  huge inventory. They really didn't know what they had onsite.

In the back corner of the building one day while embarking on this huge project, Sheryl saw a large bookcase that looked special. Upon investigation, she and partner Stephen discovered that this was the long lost original bookcase made specifically for a Greene and Greene home in Pasadena. Randell Makinson, then curator of the Gamble House confirmed it was one of a pair of bookcases.  He rushed over to see their find and pulled out of his pocket an ivory escutcheon that belonged on the keyhole. Randell had had always dreamed of finding this bookcase. Sheryl and Stephen fulfilled his dream.

I have 3 takeaway ideas from Sheryl Gillett regarding the items you may have that are waiting to be discovered and valued.

#1 To get started, you can contact a local museum. They won’t talk about value but they can tell you if you should pursue the value of an item or if it’s just decorative. In the art world, fine art is by recognized artists and decorative art looks good over your sofa.

#2 Auction houses have an appraisal day. Their appraisal value is based on what they could get for your item at their auction.

#3 Sheryl will look at a picture free of charge and tell you if you should seek out the value of that item based on her initial assessment.

Contact Information: www.gcappraisers.com


"Auction is the quickest way to dispose of personal property." ~Sheryl Gillett on Design Your Second Half, the podcast
Wishing you a lifestyle you love,

 ~ Nancy
To be inspired by past podcast posts, click here.