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Have some jewelry that you think is valuable?

Have some jewelry that you think is valuable?

Albany Institute sets jewelry appraisal day featuring Mark Lawson Antiques
Have some jewelry that you think is valuable?
Antiques appraiser Mark Lawson speaks at an event in Malta. Inset, a woman's ring that sold for $10,000.
Photographer: provided photos

All that glitters might just be gold. At least, that’s what some people could discover at the Albany Institute of History and Art this weekend. 
In partnership with Mark Lawson Antiques, the Institute will host a jewelry appraisal day from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. 
Anyone with jewelry they’d like appraised can come and have a local team of gemologists provide a verbal appraisal of a piece’s market value. Each appraisal is $5, and each attendee is limited to three appraisals. 
Here, we catch up with Mark Lawson, owner of Mark Lawson Antiques, about how he got his start in the business and the most surprising items he’s ever appraised. 

Q: How did you get into appraising?
A: I’ve loved gemstones and jewelry since I was a kid. I grew up in Manhattan, [and] when I was 8 years old my favorite intersection was 57th Street and 5th Avenue. I wouldn’t walk by Tiffany’s without going in and visiting the Tiffany diamond, which was this egg-sized, canary-yellow diamond, which, back in those days, they always had mounted in an armored case at the corner of the store. You may have seen the same diamond [that] was worn in a necklace by Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards. 

Q: What’s one of the most surprising appraisal appointments you’ve done?
A: We specialize in vintage jewelry and costume jewelry. I had a woman who came in with a box of costume jewelry. She just wanted to sell it and it looked like any box of costume jewelry that you might have been given as a kid to play with. [But] I immediately noticed a beautiful ring set with a bright yellow stone, surrounded with diamonds and set in white metal, and it turns out that it was a diamond ring set in platinum and we sold it for her for $10,000. She would have put it out at a yard sale for a couple of dollars, I’m sure. 

Q: What’s the most valuable item you’ve ever appraised?
A: I had a family from Niskayuna whose parents were going to a nursing home and they were clearing out the house [contact me]. They had this big painting of Hindu maidens by water by a temple that was unsigned. The heating [in the home] had failed during the winter and the pipes had burst. [The painting] had been terribly damaged. They sawed off the damaged parts. They touched it up some with wall paint and had it reframed. From looking at it, we were able to identify it as an important English Orientalist painter and we were able to figure out that it had been sold to the Metropolitan Museum, which then deaccessioned it at some point in time. So we got all the historical work done, the authentication report done and we sold the painting for $130,000. If it had been undamaged it would have been $400,000 to $500,000. You never know what you’re going to find. 

Q: What can people expect at the event this weekend?
A: People will come in. They’ll register. We have myself and a group of jewelry appraisers that will be there evaluating people’s items. We give them the market value, [which is] the value you could reasonably expect to sell a piece of vintage, antique or used jewelry for. But we’re all qualified as appraisers, so if someone wants to know what the insurance replacement value is we can certainly give them that as well. These will only be verbal appraisals, but I’m sure [people can contact] any of the appraisers there after the fact and get a certified written report. 
I’ve done lots of appraisal events for antiques, collectibles, but I haven’t done one in the region strictly for jewelry. But with the prestige of the Albany Institute and the interest that’s being generated by them exhibiting, for the first time, their collection of jewelry, I’m anticipating a good turnout. 

Q: Do you have any recommendations for people who want to come but who are unsure of whether their jewelry is valuable enough?
A: The worst thing that will happen is you’ll have a chance to see the Albany Institute, which is a gem of a collection. If they want to get their things appraised, it’s a relatively minor charge. It goes to a good cause. All the money goes to support the running of the [Institute]. Worst-case scenario, they’ll have a nice day and get some good information about what they have, and if they’re lucky, who knows? They could have something that’s worth many thousands of dollars. 

For information about Mark Lawson Antiques or the event, visit marklawsonantiques.com or call 518-587-8787. 

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