For Mother's Day, Protect the Family Jewels

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Mother's dayMother's Day is nearly here, bringing with it piles of flowers, an avalanche of candy, and a big boost for the nation's brunch industry. But, while the classic Mother's Day gifts are great, Sunday might also be a good day to think about taking better care of the presents that mom has already received.

Motherhood and jewelry do tend to go together: For many moms, engagement rings and push gifts are among the most valuable jewelry they own. But while these baubles are wonderful remembrances of some of life's most meaningful moments, they can also be worrisome possessions -- small and extremely valuable, they often fall down drains, get left behind, or are snatched by thieves.

What Insurance Covers -- and What It Doesn't

Most homeowners insurance policies offer limited coverage for jewelry. But, according to Richard Standring, regional manager for Fireman's Fund insurance company, "scheduling" a piece of jewelry -- specifically listing it on an insurance policy -- can provide extra protection. "You have to pay an additional premium," he notes, "but there is no deductible, and the coverage is more extensive than that of a normal home insurance policy."

In addition to helping when jewelry is stolen, scheduling also makes things easier when jewelry is lost. "Many insurance claims come under the heading of 'mysterious disappearance,' which aren't covered under standard homeowner policies," Standring explains. "The back falls off an earring, the clasp breaks on a necklace, or a ring is left behind in bathroom. Sometimes, the setting of a diamond ring fails, and the diamond falls off -- taking with it most of the value of the ring." Under these circumstances, scheduled jewelry would be replaced, while unscheduled jewelry would be a total loss.

Don't Know What You Got 'Till It's Gone

Even if Mom isn't interested in scheduling her jewelry, it's still a good idea to get it appraised and inspected. Standring suggests getting jewelry evaluated by a qualified appraiser every 3 to 5 years: "Precious metals, especially gold, are very volatile, and their prices change constantly." For example, a one-ounce gold chain would have cost just under $700 in 2007, but would go for over $1,500 -- more than double -- today.

For vintage jewelry, Standring points out, volatility is an even bigger issue. "Pieces often qualify as fine art, which means that the price may change even more quickly."

It's also a good idea to regularly inspect jewelry. Checking backings and settings can help ensure that necklaces won't fall off or jewels won't fall out. Many jewelers will perform cleanings, inspections, and basic repairs for only a small fee.

Keeping Safe

Another danger of jewelry is that it tends to be remarkably easy for thieves to find. Most baubles end up in jewelry boxes, dresser drawers or closets. Even a basic safe can provide a much higher level of security and, Standring notes, cut the price of your insurance premiums. "Depending on the size of your jewelry collection, it can pay for itself in as little as five years."

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Most safes are installed in bedroom closets. Picking a less obvious place -- like the furnace room, the mechanical room, the attic or the kitchen -- can give an added level of security, as thieves are less likely to search for jewelry outside of the bedroom.

If mom isn't interested in getting a safe, it's still possible to increase the security of her jewelry without spending a fortune. Standring notes that, while they won't qualify for a discount on insurance, old-fashioned hiding places like hollow books or false cans of soup can provide a level of protection from thieves. Best of all, many of these options cost less than $20. In other words, for less than the price of brunch, you might be able to buy your mom peace of mind -- and a Mother's Day gift that she can use all year.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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