OK, once more—with feeling. Readers of this column will know that I’ve been talking about the need to hide whatever jewelry you are not wearing each day, not only from unwelcome intruders, but from the random “prying eyes” of repair people, housecleaners, or even your children’s (or grandchildren’s) friends. In order to do this successfully, you must have a foolproof back-up plan regarding your “stash” place in the event that you become incapacitated or worse, and I have one more noteworthy story that should really drive home the point.
Some years back, a jeweler I knew (in the Waterbury area) related the story to me of having one of her customers come in with a old cloth bag that was full of fine diamond jewelry that dated back to the early part of the 20th century. It had been discovered by workmen who were renovating an old Victorian house the family had lived in for nearly 20 years, when a sheet-rocked wall next to an old fireplace had been removed to reveal a brick alcove that had been used to store firewood, back when when wood was the primary source for heating the house. (The bag had been found when the old firewood in the space that had been boarded over was removed.)
Assuming that the jewelry belonged to the previous owners of the house, the current owners diligently tracked down the family they had bought the house from, but to their surprise, found that this was not the case. In fact, the previous owners were not aware that such a space ever existed, and they had lived there for more than forty years. The jewelry must have belonged to the original owners of the house! Town records regarding the family yielded no clues as to the current location of it’s inhabitants, and the name shown on the old records was a common one. Through the family attorney, the matter was reported to the police, and notice was posted in the local papers with no results, so the jewelry was eventually returned to the current owners. “Finders keepers,” legally.
At the request of the new owners, the jeweler worked up an insurance replacement appraisal which indicated that the bag contained assorted pieces of very fine heirloom-quality diamond and platinum jewelry (a pin, a necklace, a bracelet, and several rings), worth in excess of $100,000 at the time. (This incident occurred close to 20 years ago.)
So the bottom line is, if you care enough about your jewelry to take the precaution of stashing it somewhere clever, you need to tell somebody (whom you trust implicitly) about it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “I wonder whatever happened to ________’s jewelry!” Incidents like this are easily avoided. Don’t be so clever that you wind up short-changing your heirs in the process.
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 JLBCO@hotmail.com. Names or contact information will not be used for publication, and all inquiries will be answered promptly.