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One problem with our long Northeast winter nights is that you may wind up with extra time on your hands. This can leave you thinking about all manner of things that you don’t normally consider—which may leave you with a bad case of the “What ifs.” These may fall along the lines of “What if I get sick and can’t handle snow shoveling?” or “What if we have another big power outage and the pipes freeze?” But sometimes you wind up thinking about your jewelry—and maybe with the holidays now behind us, there are a few things worth considering. Please allow me to peak your paranoia:

“What if someone gets into the house while we’re away, and steals my jewelry?” This should be considered from two different angles—prevention, and insurance. Assuming that you do not have a handy UL-rated wall safe, never leave your fine jewelry in an obvious place in your home. This includes a jewelry box on your dresser, or hidden in a top dresser drawer—and if you’re going to be away for even a few days, take sensible precautions such as making sure mail & newspaper deliveries are held, asking a neighbor to keep an eye on your place, and using automatic light timers if possible. When considering a worst-case scenario, check to be sure that your insurance policies (jewelry is normally covered by Homeowner’s insurance, at least up to a certain amount) are up to date.

Joe Brandt

Joe Brandt

“What if the diamond falls out of my engagement ring?” Once again, this should be looked at from two perspectives—before and after. Aspect #1: It should cost absolutely nothing for you to have your jeweler check the security of the stones in your ring now, before you even suspect anything could be loose. (“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”) Aspect #2: Check with your insurance company to see what your policy covers. This will enable you to be certain that your paperwork with them is current, and you can learn whether this type of incident is covered at all. (Some policies do not cover the loss of a component, only the complete article.)

“What becomes of my jewelry if something happens to me?” A good question—but the answer depends on your situation. If you are suddenly incapacitated, you need to be sure family members understand that the jewelry you normally wear should be removed before you arrive at a facility—this includes hospitals, rehab facilities, “step-downs”—anywhere that’s not home. If you (or a loved one) is elderly or terminally ill, plans for jewelry should be made in advance of your demise, not afterwards. (This does not necessarily involve having a clause put into your will.)  In a crisis situation, jewelry should the last thing you need to consider, so plans need to be made well in advance—and if you’ve stashed your jewelry in a really clever place, you should tell someone you trust about it now, before “something happens.”

“What if my kids get into a fight over my jewelry when I’m gone?” This happens more often that you can imagine. “Oh, the kids will work it out after I’m gone.” Don’t bet your bottom dollar that this won’t create a war between your heirs. Make your wishes known. (Again, this does not necessarily require a stipulation in your will.) Not sure of how to go about it? Discuss it with family members. The old “drawing straws” or “eldest gets first pick” routines— which some families ultimately resort to— can be terribly unfair, and foster permanent resentment; family jewelry often has high emotional value as well as monetary value. (I know of two sisters who have not spoken to each other in years because of a fight over jewelry after Mom had passed.)

Given the looks of the incoming administration shaping up in Washington, I must say that there are definitely scarier “What ifs” to consider, but the bottom line is that although there are some things we can only hope will not turn into full-fledged disasters, as far as your jewelry is concerned, time is too short to fret without making advance provisions, or (in some cases) being proactive in reducing the risk of certain occurrences in the first place. Not sure? Ask your jeweler. Don’t have one? See the footnote below.

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Joe Brandt is a local resident, and President of J.L. Brandt Company, offering diversified fine jewelry advisory services to the general public since 1928. Readers are invited to submit questions or comments to [email protected] Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.