Buying or being given a handmade item of jewellery is a unique pleasure. Everyone can appreciate the opportunity to wear something that’s a total one-off and while not every item of specially commissioned jewellery comes with a significant price tag, many do.
I’ve written before about the importance of having your jewellery properly valued for insurance purposes and repeating that valuation process at regular intervals to ensure that if something does happen to a valuable item, you’ll get the market value – or very close to it – from your insurer.
The problem is that even when you do that, insurers are notoriously reluctant to pay top dollar and, as they are wont to do, will try their best to mitigate their losses.
But if the item you’ve lost has been handmade at your request, then although you might not have known it at the time, its provenance could be an extra layer of protection should you ever find yourself having to make a claim.
This came to light in a relatively recent case which involved the loss of a bespoke diamond engagement ring that the claimant had commissioned specially for his wife.
The ring had been designed and then handmade by a local jeweller in his workshop several years previously and the buyer had added the ring to his home contents insurance policy as a special item.
Fast forward a few years to the loss of the ring and the man duly put a claim through.
After confirming that the ring was covered by the insurance policy, the insurer asked the policyholder to supply photos of the ring and to get a written quotation from the original jeweller for the ring to be remade.
The jeweller quoted the cost of remaking the ring to the identical specification of the original at £6,500 but said he would be prepared to offer a 6.5% discount on that price, bringing the actual cost down to £6,070.
In response, the insurer approached its ‘preferred’ jeweller and asked for a quote for the same piece of work.
The firm came back to say that after applying a discount of 36% - which is a crazy number to start with – it could produce a similar ring for £4,736 – a cool £1,334 less than the original jeweller had quoted.
At this point, the insurance company offered their client two options: either to have the ring remade by its preferred jewellery firm or accept a £4,736 cash settlement.
Understandably, the claimant was quite unhappy and wisely took the case to the financial ombudsman.
And that’s where the story gets interesting, because the ombudsman ruled in the claimant’s favour, upholding his complaint and ordering the insurance company to pay the full amount quoted by the original jeweller to have the ring remade.
The reason for that was simple: the ombudsman took the view that it was impossible for the insurer’s preferred jeweller to make an identical piece of jewellery to the one that had been lost, but that the original jeweller – having designed and made the original in the first place, could.
This story has two morals. The first is that the financial complaints system does work, but the more important moral is that the uniqueness of a specially commissioned piece of jewellery is also part of what protects its value.
Had the gentleman in question bought an ‘off-the-peg’ ring online or from a High Street store, its highly likely that the claimant would have had to accept whatever his insurance company offered him.
So, when you’re thinking about buying a special piece of jewellery, it might just pay to either spend a bit extra (or lower your sights to bring what you want into your budget) and have it handmade by a professional master jeweller.