When it comes to protecting your jewelry from theft or damage, the more information you have at the time of loss, the better you can cover it. That advice comes from Janece White, Worldwide Signature manager for Chubb Personal Insurance.
Chubb covers jewelry items up to 150 percent in most states, which means that if the replacement cost value is more than what you have it insured for, Chubb will insure it up to 50 percent more. The problem, she says, is that many people are shocked when they find how underinsured they are. With the sharp rise in gold prices, for instance, a gold band purchased in 2005 when gold’s average price was just over $400, wouldn’t be fully covered even by 150 percent coverage today if the piece hasn't been reappraised since.
There are a few key elements to a jewelry appraisal. Among them: What type of jewelry is it? What is it made of? What type of gemstones are used and how are they graded?
“The wholesale price of a two-carat diamond ring can vary wildly—from a colorless ‘D’ at $95,400 to an ‘M’ color, highly included stone that wholesales only at only $2,000,” White says. You’ll also want to consider the credentials of your appraiser. “You wouldn’t want a store clerk to appraise your piece. Look for a graduate gemologist or a diamond gemologist,” she says. Also, make sure your appraisal is signed and dated by the appraiser. Rare pieces demand a specialist. And don’t forget, she notes, that appraisers should do a condition check. “Are the prongs loose? Is there a chip in the stone?”
If you want to know what properly insuring your pieces can actually mean, consider this story from White. “A client of ours had given his fiancée a million-dollar ring and unfortunately the engagement broke off. She returned the ring, but when he had it reappraised, a microscopic chip was found. We took the stone to be recut, which he insisted be done with a stonecutter in Israel. We had Brinks Security courier it to Israel, hand-deliver it to the stonecutter, deliver it back to the airport, where Brinks brought it back.” All in all, he was able to claim $100,000—the difference in value between what he purchased the ring for and what it was worth after it had been recut.
Whether you own a million-dollar ring or jewelry that is far less valuable, White recommends adhering to this jewelry care checklist:
Don’t keep your most valuable pieces in your bedroom. Install a secure home safe with the appropriate fire and theft rating for jewelry or keep valuable items in a bank vault.
When traveling, keep expensive items with you at all times, or use a hotel safe (not the safe in your room). Don’t pack jewelry in your luggage or wear valuables to the pool or beach.
Replace broken or scratched crystals immediately. Even hairline cracks can let dust or moisture into the mechanism, threatening its accuracy. Check your watch clasp periodically to prevent accidental loss.
When cleaning diamonds, use mild detergent or a sudsy ammonia bath. Never let your diamond touch chorine bleach, as it can pit and discolor the mounting. Have your prongs and mountings checked annually, since wear and tear can loosen a stone. Diamonds can scratch all other jewelry, so store them separately.
Make sure your pearls are cleaned and restrung regularly to prevent pearl strings from becoming stretched, weakened or soiled. Wipe pearls with a soft cloth after each wearing because over time, perfume, cosmetics, hairsprays, and oils and chemicals on your skin can erode the quality. To protect pearls from scratches, store them in a soft cloth pouch.
Guard against loose stone settings by having prongs and mountings checked annually. Remove gemstone jewelry while outdoors during intense sunlight or under tanning lamps, which can fade the stone. Because each gemstone is different, discuss specific care and cleaning procedures with your jeweler.