Insuring the Family Jewels (Antiques and Other Valuables Too)

While you probably don’t have an antique that’s “a national treasure” lying around, you may have some unusually valuable possessions — like jewelry, antiques or collectibles — that call for special insurance coverage.

While a basic homeowners, condo or renters policy should provide ample protection for most of your possessions, it may not do the job for certain valuables, says Jeff McCarthy, manager of Harrington Insurance Agency’s office in Woburn, Mass.

That’s because there are strict limits. With silverware, $2,500 is the standard limit; for firearms, it’s $2,500. And the standard policy provides only $1,000 of coverage for jewelry, watches and furs.

“And that’s not $1,000 per item, but $1,000 for the entire claim,” McCarthy says.

There are two ways to get more coverage, he says.

The simplest and usually least expensive way is to buy an endorsement that will upgrade the policy. Most insurers offer them marketed under various names. An enhanced homeowners policy might give you $5,000 of protection for jewelry and furs, $5,000 for silverware, and some coverage for antiques and fine arts.

That’s adequate for many people, but others will need to “schedule” certain valuables — in other words, buy a policy rider, McCarthy says. Besides higher limits, scheduling has two other big advantages.

First, the coverage is “all risk,” he notes. All risk means that nearly all causes of loss are covered. In contrast, the basic policy covers only specified causes, such as fire, windstorm and theft.

“If a diamond falls out of your ring and gets lost, you probably won’t be able to collect anything unless you’ve scheduled it,” he says.

Second, there’s no deductible on scheduled items. If the item is stolen, destroyed or lost, the insurer will give you a full payout.

The cost of insurance varies by the kind of item. For instance, scheduled jewelry typically costs $12.50 per $1,000 of value, so a $2,000 ring can be protected for $25 a year. Scheduling valuables takes a bit more effort. First, you’ll need to get a written appraisal from an expert and give it to your agent or the insurance company.

Any certified jeweler can appraise jewelry, and they’ll often do it free if you bought it from them, McCarthy says. Getting an appraisal for other items, like paintings, sculpture, antiques and collectibles, is a bit trickier. You’ll need to find someone who’s qualified.

The insurer will ask you to have scheduled items reappraised every three to five years. For instance, the price of silver and gold fluctuates, and without a reappraisal, you could be underinsured or overinsured, McCarthy says.

The vast majority of the time, the same insurance company that insures your home will gladly schedule any items you like. However, if you have something extremely valuable, like a $250,000 concert grand piano, you agent may need to find a specialty carrier.