Protecting Art, Antiques and Jewellery

Art and antiques are often the most treasured possessions and require a great level of care. They are often seen as good investments, and can also be of sentimental value, with many items being passed down from generation to generation.




Assessing the risk


Wide variations in humidity and temperature can damage fine art and antiques. Therefore rooms containing these items should be kept at constant temperature and humidity levels of:

  • 21°C or 70°F
  • 50% to 55% humidity levels

If temperature or humidity levels fluctuate widely, damage may take the form of mould, mildew or surface cracking.


Open fireplaces should be protected with fireguards to prevent expensive rugs and carpets from being damaged by burning embers. Annual chimney sweeping will help ensure items are not damaged by soot fallout. If items do need cleaning, it is important to seek professional advice from specialists such as conservators and restorers. Cleaning should only be undertaken by experienced, skilled professionals and not by domestic cleaning staff.


Special care for paintings


Special care should be taken when hanging paintings. The hooks, cord and wall fixing must be considered suitable for the weight of the picture along with the intended location.

Hanging pictures and paintings over open fireplaces or radiators, could cause damage by heat and smoke. Similarly, paintings hung in direct sunlight would be susceptible to fading, especially watercolours.  It would also be wise not to hang paintings directly under a bathroom, water tank or water cylinder, in case of a water leak or on the inner face of external walls, as water may penetrate through brick and stonework.


Moving fine art and antiques


Professional packing and transportation companies should be considered when moving fine art and antiques. Damage can be avoided by following the below top tips to protect these items during transportation:

  • Ensure that the individuals moving the items are fully aware of the fragile nature and importance of the pieces being moved.
  • Items should be inspected before packing in order to ensure that any inherent weaknesses will not be made worse by moving. Clearly mark containers and crates ‘fragile’, particularly for porcelain and glassware.
  • Label the top of each container and mark directional arrows pointing to the top of the container on the sides.
  • Ensure that pictures are wrapped in thin, non-acidic paper and then covered in non-porous material such as plastic wrapping. Sheets of bubble wrap, cardboard or foam will also provide additional protection.
  • Pictures should be stored vertically when in transit, with the space between items filled with packing material to avoid any unnecessary movement which could cause damage. Never lean works of art against one another.
  • Once the items have arrived at their destination, they should remain packed for at least one day to allow them to acclimatise to their new environment. This will help prevent damage by sudden exposure to any changes in air temperature, which can cause surface cracking and warping.

Security advice


Marking items in a collection of fine art or antiques has proved increasingly popular and several products aid the identification of valuables in this way. SmartWater, which is a non-hazardous combination of chemicals, is a forensic marking system similar in concept to a DNA profile. When dry, SmartWater is virtually impossible to remove. It cannot easily be seen under normal lighting conditions but will glow under ultraviolet light.


Micro-dots containing a unique reference number that are applied to various locations on an item can also be used. There are a number of products on the market that are used in conjunction with stickers to alert the Police to their presence when examining property with UV lamps.


Microchipping is another form of security marking, where a microchip is embedded into the items of fine art. You should check with an expert to ensure no damage is caused. 


Professional valuations and photographs


We recommend that all items of fine art and antiques are revalued every five years to ensure their insurance replacement values are kept in line with current market trends. It is important to remember that items should be valued for insurance purposes using retail replacement values and not auction or probate values.


Documentary evidence of the provenance of an item will assist the valuer and will also be a significant help in the event of a loss. Photographic evidence is a convenient and simple method of recording details of your possessions, and can be of enormous assistance when settling claims. It may be possible for the valuer to simultaneously produce a photographic record during the valuation of the item. Photographs should include all sides of any antiques and photograph the back of all paintings, as well as the main scene.


Protecting jewellery


Items of jewellery are often some the most treasured possessions. Due to their construction, monetary value and sentimental value, they require a greater level of care.


Getting professional valuations


It is important that regular valuations of jewellery and watches are carried out to ensure that items or collections are not underinsured and we recommend that these items are revalued at least every five years.


When valuations are undertaken, it is important to check that the jeweller or valuer is a member of the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) or a member of the Guild of Valuers and Jewellers.  Valuers may charge a percentage of the value of the jewellery or a fixed fee for valuations.


A professional valuation should include a full description and photograph of the item. Therefore, if an item of jewellery is lost or stolen, this document will make it easier to replace or recover an item. It will also provide the Police with a detailed description to aid the chances of recovery.


Buying jewellery items


Many retailers, when selling modern diamonds weighing more than one carat, provide a diamond grading report stating the grade (colour, clarity, carat and cut) of the diamond.


It is important to retain any diamond grading laboratory report given at purchase.


Keeping jewellery safe


Safes provide a secure environment within the home for jewellery, precious metals, sentimental items and money.

There are various types and designs of safes, all of which are suitable for different needs.


The physical size of a safe does not always relate to the level of protection it can provide. For maximum protection, a safe should be housed within an alarmed, yet easily accessible and well-lit area, benefitting where possible, from 24-hour alarm coverage or fitted with a safe limpet.


Safes are rated in cash values, which is a method of classifying security safes by their security level. Manufacturers design their safes to meet various levels of security and these are designated by a cash rating from £1,000 up to £150,000. The jewellery rating of a safe can be calculated from its cash rating and indicates the value of jewellery that can be kept in it. The jewellery rating is flexible, depending on the type, size and location of the safe.


When purchasing a safe, the locking mechanism must be considered. Most modern safes are fitted with electronic locks that are powered by standard alkaline batteries. Each lock has a low battery level indicator, but even if the battery is flat the internal memory of the lock will retain the user code. Electronic locks are both reliable and flexible as the code can be re-programmed as many times as required.


The quality of the safe can be measured by a number of standards; the most reliable of which are those that are Eurograde Tested. Any safe tested to this level is respected by the European Insurance Industry for protecting cash or valuables overnight up to various cash levels depending on model and grade. This is the ultimate test for security storage. In addition, there are safes that have been ‘Sold Secure’ certificated which is a scheme evaluated by attack testing, and has been conceived by the Police with the help of the Home Office. This scheme is administered by the Master Locksmiths Association, who work closely with both the Police and insurance companies.


In addition, there are specialist safes available for specific collections, including safes incorporating watch winders, chilling facilities for wine collections and humidors for cigar collections. Bespoke safes are useful where space is of a premium or if something unique is required. Specialist safe companies can install internal lighting systems, additional drawer inserts, offer a wide variety of colour options and a variety of locking mechanisms.


In all cases, it is imperative that a safe is installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.


For high value jewellery schedules, it may be necessary to have two or more safes. This enables you to spread your collection in more than one secure location within your home and can be of more benefit than upgrading an existing safe. Many jewellery thefts involve a hold-up situation and the splitting of valuable items between safes helps to further reduce the risk of them being stolen.


Bank vaults


Vaults in high-street banks are ideal locations for unworn jewellery, watches and sentimental items, or for the safe keeping of jewellery when away from the home.