Men and women alike often own expensive pieces of jewelry, such as diamond rings, designer wristwatches, bracelets, and necklaces. Not only are these pieces attractive to thieves, they are subject to several other perils as well. Because of the sentimental and monetary values associated with jewelry, proper insurance coverage is of great importance.
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy will pay for jewelry damaged by fire, smoke, vandalism, windstorm, and several other causes. Coverage is also available for stolen jewelry, but only for a maximum of $1,500 or $2,500. This limit applies collectively to all items of jewelry, furs and gemstones stolen at the same time; it does not apply separately to each item. It will not pay for pieces that are lost or that mysteriously disappear. In the event of a loss, the insurer will pay only the cost of replacing the item less depreciation.
Because of these limitations, people who own valuable pieces of jewelry should consider purchasing separate coverage, either as an add-on to their homeowner’s policy or as an individual policy. With this coverage, the policy lists specific items and the amounts of insurance on each. If the policyholder buys a new item during the policy period, the policy covers it automatically for 25 percent of the policy’s limit or $10,000, whichever is less. The automatic insurance ceases after 30 days; the owner must report the piece to the insurer to maintain coverage.
The policy covers items of jewelry but does not include unmounted gems; gold, silver and other precious metals; and silverware, flatware or goldware. The owner may be able to insure some of these items separately. The insurance will pay for loss from all causes other than war, nuclear disaster, actions of the government, and maintenance of the property. The owner must choose one of two options for determining the property’s value in the event of a loss. The first is the same as in the homeowner’s policy – actual cash value, which means the insurer will pay the least of:
- The item’s replacement cost minus depreciation;
- The cost of repairing it;
- The cost of replacing it; or
- The amount of insurance shown on the policy for the item.
The second is called “agreed value,” which means that the insurer will pay the full amount of insurance shown on the policy for the item if it’s lost or damaged. This option may cost more but provides more certainty for the owner.
Jewelry owners may also select optional coverages. One option gives the owner a premium credit for items stored in a bank vault. If the owner wants coverage to apply outside the bank vault, she must notify the insurer in advance and pay an additional premium. Another option gives a future spouse, whom the policy would not ordinarily cover, insurance for his or her interest in engagement or wedding rings. Under the third option, the insurer will pay the value of a complete set of items, such as a pair of earrings, even if the loss affected only one item in the set. The owner must surrender the surviving items in the set to the insurer.
Owners of expensive jewelry should consider having it appraised by a reputable jeweler at least every three years. They should also take common sense steps to safeguard it against theft, the most common cause of loss for jewelry. Finally, they should meet with their insurance agent for a coverage review every couple of years to ensure their insurance is adequately protecting them from loss to their valuables.