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How secure is your studio?

Hi folks!

I’m just starting an article on security for the home studio for
Lapidary Journal, and wondered what security concerns you guys have
that the article might be able to address. I know many of you have
home studios: do you worry about theft? About other security threats?
Have any of you known someone who has been a victim of crime in
his/her studio? Have any of you consulted an expert – police,
insurance agent, FBI, JSA, etc. about your security arrangements? Are
there any sources of you’ve found valuable?

For security reasons, I certainly don’t expect anyone to discuss
their security measures on a public forum, but if anyone would be
willing to discuss their concerns confidentially, I’d appreciate the
help. You can contact me directly at @Suzanne_Wade or by phone at

Thank you all!

Hello Suzanne, There are many factors to consider concerning home
studio security. Two questions that come to mind are, What assets are
you trying to protect? and, Who are you trying to keep away from those
assets? A petty burglar will surly remove gold and stones lying loose
on top of your bench, but will have one heck of a time hauling your
rolling mill through the bars on the shop window. A thief on a higher
level understands the value of your tools, common storage methods,
where to sell what he or she takes, understands the risks involved
(but usually ignores them), cover their tracks, and can cause
considerable loss to you. Keeping only enough precious materials on
hand for the current project, alarm systems, and safes are helpful in
discouraging this fellow. The “motivated” professional thief will
probably drive up in a moving van and clean out your shop. (After a
couple of slow shows, One wonders to whom are these thieves selling
your jewelry? Hell, we can avoid the middle man and sell to them
ourselves!).The issues to consider here are documentation and
recovery in addition to prevention. There is a local case pending
where a jeweler will recover at least some of his stolen tools because
he had engraved his initials on them.

A little paranoia is healthy where security is concerned; however,
large scale shops and retail have other problems, and really should
consult with professional security experts. This should be an
interesting thread to follow and I am looking forward to reading your
article. Will E.

I discovered my loss the day after Labor Day. I estimate between 5-6
K in tools, silver and gold. I need to file with the school to attempt
some compensation from their insurance company. The hardest thing for
me to do is to sit down and reconstruct just what I lost.

I was told I need to document and support with sales receipts that
which I claim. Some of the things stolen I had for 25 years. I feel so
violated I am paralyzed from taking action. This is a very difficult
thing for me to do. I have not made a thing since this happened.

I visited Pawn Shops, Swap Meets, garage sales looking for my things,
to no avail. Saddest thing is I cannot just go out and buy new, have
no money to do so. Depressed, yes definitely, sad, beyond belief.


Teresa, we are so sorry for your loss. You will come back and
probably stronger and smarter than before. You must have had some
important items stolen. Is there a fellow artist that can help with
lending a few items to begin money making projects to get you back on
your feet. There has to be something in your studio that is begging
for you to try that would be new and exciting. I know that paralyzed
feeling to overcome and with time and
friends and new ideas it will pass. Hang in there and go for it. Pat

Teresa - As difficult as it may be, there is great value in putting
together as complete and accurate a list of the stolen tools and
equipment as you can, as soon as you can. Even though it has been 2
months already it is possible to catch the thieves. Providing Dr.
Aspler and all approve, you can distribute the list via Orchid, whose
members have a world-wide reach. This is one of the services which
Lapidary Journal used to provide, and it worked - the stuff has to
get sold somewhere, or used by the thieves in their own shop. No one
lives in a vacuum; others will know of the suddenly "found"

Jim Small
Small Wonders

Dear Teresa: Since many years I read yours e-mails. Very sorry things
stolen. What can I (or others) do for you? Where are you? Regards

Some years ago, my insurance agent told me to take polaroid (today I
use a digital camera) pictures of everything in my house - including
photographing what was in your chests of drawers, kitchen cabinets,
etc… Also photos of each wall showing what was hanging on them, art
work, draperies on the windows etc… He then said to make 2 sets of
the pix and store one off site in your safety deposit box, and give
the other to your insurance agent for their file. Then should you
ever (and let’s hope that is never) have a fire, you have a complete
visual record of what may or may not have been lost, damaged, etc.
Same goes for breakins. The insurance agent said too often when
people had fires, they really could not remember what all was in a
particular room, and to actually write down a list was so burdensome
that most people never got around to it, but taking the pictures
simply gave you instant recall to what was (in general) on the wall,
in the drawer, on the shelf etc… I did that and while I never needed
them, it was comforting to know that it was available. To that end, I
have done the same thing with my jewelry equipment and supplies. Does
take a bit of time but if you just make up your mind to spend an
afternoon doing it, you could print off copies of the pictures from
your digital camera and on the photograph you could add notes re cost
of item etc. (in case of tools). It’s also a quick way to record what
you have in your inventory of finished items. This is just something
for you to think about. If you have a better solution for recording
or listing all the things you own (you may beone of those incredibly
organized people who has kept records and updated them everytime you
bought any new equipment) I’d be interested also. Hope this is
helpful to some of you out there. Thanks. K

Hello Teresa, Suzanne and all -

What a shock Teresa! I can’t imaging losing all the tools - the
metal can be replaced and stones will be missed - but the tools . . .

Over the years I managed to collect quite a grouping of tools from
ads in the misc for sale column in the newspaper. It seems that
jewelry/metalsmithing is alive and well - and so, it is not as easy
to come across these deals. Usually, it is from individuals who have
passed away or had a life change where they give up the whole set up
or businesses that are closing. I found that the tools were sold as a
grouping - rather than in bits and pieces. I always found things that
I would never have chosen in a catalogue and have found very useful.
There is a tool supply shop locally that works as a network for
referral of the availability of used tools - usually from businesses
that are closing. Perhaps this might be a possibility in your area.

I can’t imagine losing all the tools. Perhaps, through the Orchid
network we could help you somehow in replacing the loss - if we hear
of some good deals (perhaps there are ebay regulars in our network
here). Even if you find the receipts - the tools will cost double the
original cost and I doubt if insurance takes that into account - but
it may. Do you have a “wish list” of what still needs replacing?

I agree with others, that it is good to post these thefts on Orchid -
because as jewelers, who knows - if they can be distinguished -
someone might try to sell them. I know it has been posted on Orchid
when there are gemstone thefts - not sure if the networking brought
the stones back - but awareness never hurts. In Hawaii we have a
radio station that runs a “posse” by cellular phone when a car is
stolen - ususally during the morning hours - and it is very

We definitely need Suzanne’s new research project! I’d be interested
in what type of safes have proven to be the most effective - or
perhaps might even be “overlooked” during a robbery - because they
were hidden in the wall or the floor. Do “hidden” safes make a
difference? Maybe it is good to have one safe with raw materials that
"could" be stolen and then the “real” safe hidden somewhere - with the
"real" valuables. Then the thieves will think they got the goods and
be on their way. Replacing customers’ one of a kind stones is never
possible - especially when there is sentimental history. At an small
upscale mall - a small restaurant had their heavy safe taken away -
during a construction upgrade. I wouldn’t trust a heavy safe - it
certainly would slow many thieves down - but many years ago my mentor
had his giant safe hauled away from a secured retail location and
emptied and dumped. So, that makes the small restaurant’s experience
the second time I have heard of that happening.

Hopefully, the article will also touch on insurance possibilities for
the individual small scale jeweler. I know this topic has come up on
Orchid before. In the near future, when I return to a coop gallery -
where I am responsible for the loss, I plan to research the options.
I have been told by other jewelers that the cost of the insurance is
greater than replacing the goods when and if the loss takes place.
Lack of coverage is one reason that makes me hesitate a bit in working
and selling at a higher level. I do know of a ceramic artist who had
coverage from an ACC plan (as I recall) - and it covered her studio
repairs - when damaged by a hurricane.

I am always wary of workers at the house - not to divulge that there
is a jewelry workshop when at all possible. However, when the house
is tented and we have to vacate, I make sure everything valuable is
put away (I take my hand tools with me!) and even cover/hide the
benches/rolling mill etc. . . . out of site out of mind, hopefully!
Hopefully, the workers won’t know what goes on in the space! I’m sure
that there is communication among the thieves of good places to “hit”.
In a classroom setting, this is impossible - it is very obvious
where the metals room is.

It scares me somewhat to upgrade to a higher end product - and will
have to learn about the insurance possibilities. All I have heard
from other jewelers is that the insurance costs more than taking the
chance of replacing things down the line. Also, if things are stolen
from the retail site where I will be relocating - the theft issue is
handled by the individual artists. I will look up previous strings on
Orchid on insurance. Robbery is a different issue than theft, but
having been robbed at gunpoint many years ago - when working in a
health store, I know first hand that the unforseen does happen! I
think this is one reason why I love working behind the scenes. :slight_smile:

Best wishes Teresa in reconstructing your tools. The trauma of it
will take time - but let us know if we can help in some way. And, thank
you for your kind words in your LJ article feedback! :slight_smile:

Aloha, Cynthia

Teresa and Cynthia, I don’t know how things are in Teresa’s location
as to replacing the stolen tools, but here in my area the gentleman
who is the head of the jewelry arts department at the community
college is somewhat of a refferal service for those selling used
equipment. Also, on the matter of insurance, I tried for years to
acquire a policy that would cover my tools and equipment as well as
my inventory on exhibition. Finally I was able to have one
specifically suited to my situation through Jewelers Mutual. They have
policies for almost anyone in the trade and you can control the costs
depending upon what coverage you feel is adequate to your needs. I
find mine to be quite affordable after all. Best of luck to you both.

Teresa, What a devastating loss. Of course, I’m sure you had your
favorites which could never be replaced no matter how much money
might be available. I know my favorite set of flat nosed pliers is
the first pair I ever bought and they came from Pakistan with no brand

I just bought a new file because I couldn’t find the one I needed (no
booing and hissing about clean studios, please) and would be more than
happy to send you the one I replaced. I even have an extra pair of
flat nosed pliers. They aren’t what you would want forever, but could
help out temporarily, they were my “show” pliers that could afford to
get lost or stolen.

How else could we help? Anybody else have an “extra” that is never


Nancy Bernardine-Widmer
Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry

Stealth. My studio flies low and hopefully avoids the radar. My
studio is built out behind my house, and it’s modest exterior gives no
indication of what lies within. I limit the exposure of my physical
address and phone number, although anyone could probably discern it
with a little effort. I’m not as concerned about being targeted
"professional" criminals - there is better prey out there than me. I’m
more concerned about a casual contact with the wrong person, who
passes on the nature of my business to an unscrupulous associate.

Then come the countermeasures. First - I’m home a lot, since I work
from here. I vary my pattern so my routine is unpredictable. When I
was still working my “real” job, I would come home in an irregular
pattern for lunch, or to pick something up. The studio is contained in
a fully fenced yard, and my Dalmatian, Abbie, is quite diligent. Last,
I have a lock that can’t be cut with bolt cutters and motion sensing
lighting. Oh… I also have a safe, which is not in the studio.

None of these measures will keep a truly motivated thief at bay, but
again, I’m hoping the threat I have to deal with is more opportunistic
than calculated.

My $.02,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Teresa and All, You are but one of many loving, caring, and generous
people I know of or have heard about that have become a victim.
Almost everyone I have talked to has survived the experience and
continued on in their passion for gems and jewelry. Some have quit
and never want to look back. Of the ones who have continued one
common thread exists. They will do everything they can to never
again become a victim. Most are now armed with firearms 24 hours a
day, every day. That’s right they sleep with a weapon close at hand.
They no longer teach, have people to their studio, use their real
name in casual communications with others in the field, store
valuable goods in their studio, or have many friends in the business.
Everything is kept within a very small circle. Their studio
resembles a fortress, bars on the windows, window alarms, door
alarms, motion sensors, security doors, large safes, and of course
personal firearms. All these people lost most of everything they
had. Now in rebuilding they will protect their belongings even to
killing someone if they have to. Our US system of justice provides
little to no protection for the independent crafts person. Most
thiefs never get caught and the police rarely make a robberry a
priority case. Insurance is a joke and a waste of money as they very
rarely pay. When they do pay, the money is a small percentage of
the loss. My advice to you is to get tough. The person who robbed
you probably is someone you had in the studio. Yes, you probably
know the thief. Maybe you even helped him fix something out of your
generosity. Stop teaching with your own tools. Make the school
provide the tools. Never have friends, customers, or open house in
your studio. Keep finished products in a bank vault. Get a personal
firearm and learn how to use it. Secure your studio with alarms and
physical barriers. Never give out your studio address. Form a tight
circle of business confidants and work within that circle. Support
each other. In short do any thing you can to not give a thief the
chance to victimize you again.


suzanne, what a great idea for an article, I would love to read it,
however I am afraid that I might miss it, as Lapidary Journal is not
one that I am always able to read, there are so many good
publications right now you must simply chose a few and hope to catch
the best of the rest, Perhaps I should rethink and re-subscribe to
LJ, but for now just don’t let us miss this one
when it comes out. thanks :O) Paul.

Theresa, I do have some accessory tools that I had been trying to
close out and liquidate. Since my business is actually selling
gemstones and these items are just sitting here and not selling I
would be happy to donate some of these things to you. They have never
been used. I have mandrels, polishing wheels, drill bits, Let me
know off line if these are items you need and I will be happy to ship
them to you. Diane

Nancy, I am most aware that I promised you some unusual slabs and have
not followed through. I think of it every time I see your name online,
and here you are reaching out to me, amazing. I am so surprised that so
many have. We are indeed a unique forum. I hope it never changes.

I am mulling over just how to respond to this overwhelming situation.
It will take a bit of time.

Nancy I am a tool junkie, and had many pliers to not cross
contaminate them between tasks, fine wire to heavier metals, so that
is one area I need not to replace thank goodness.

Fondly, and still will get some slabs to you, Teresa

Gerry, Sad advice. I hate to have to continually look behind me, but I
know the need for security.

My situation is I take an ongoing class at a local Community College
with a very good metal craftsman as an instructor. It is a unique
situation, this is a credited Arts class and each semester it has
entering freshmen/women as well as a cadre of retired seniors, all of
whom are experienced. We are there for the larger than hobby sized
equipment available, torches, tanks, centrifuges, and a vast supply
of tools and hammers.

The class is twice a week for 3 hours, plus there is an hour long
open space ahead of start time that we can use , and use it we do.
There is an adjacent well equipped wood shop with lots of equipment
that has cross use to which we have access. We can enroll each
semester under “Special Projects” and many of us have been there for
years, another is also on this forum. We enjoy one another, make use
of the instructor when needed and help him out with new students when
he needs it, a win win situation.

I kept a very large, three tier tool box that literally was a studio
in a box. Many persons saw it and knew what was inside, one of them
stole it from the locker I rented and did away with the lock I rented.
Year or so ago I was aware someone had tried to pry the locker open by
pulling away the side panel, I had an end unit. I did not use it for a
long time waiting for the school to repair it.

I drive a large full sized van and it was very difficult to lift it
from the ground into the van. I mentioned it to the shop teacher, and
he came out with a rivet tool and strongly secured the side wall. I
began to use it again, and yes was too trusting. I do not ever want to
lose my faith in people, and will not let this loss change me.

I am protective of my home, and do not have a studio. So not much
else I can do. I have things for sale but must trust others to do that
for me, or learn how to use Internet for that purpose. I suppose I
must then get a Post Office Box to protect my home.

It is all too complicated, and I know why others have given up
entirely, I hope I am only in a hiatus right now. Hate to think I’ve
really stopped.

Sorry for the long message, I plan to respond to everyone that
reached out to me a bit later, one lengthy message is enough for

I am honored to know all of you. Teresa

To All the kind and compassionate friends who have reached out to me,
following are words sent to me from a wonderful friend and artisan.
They better say, what is in my heart , to best answer the wonderful
kind and generous messages I have received.

I first must explain my absence, the last eight days have been a
gnawing terror for me. For the first time ever, after a mammogram, I
was told there were suspicious areas that had to be rechecked. There
were no available appointments until a couple of hours ago. The wait
was awful and seemed like forever. Everything was put on hold
especially those which held pleasure. Aside from fear, all I felt was
an insatiable hunger. I actually craved Hershey Bars. I tried to be
sensible, but nothing filled that pit.

Today finally I had the recheck and this time the procedure had to be
immediately checked by the Radiologist, and I am without the dreaded
cancer. I shared my fear with a few of you, sorry to spread gloom, my
coping skills are non-existent.

The computer has remained off all week, so I know I owe a few answers
and will get on to it over the next couple of days. Monday night or
Tuesday, I will be driving via Highways 8 to 10 to 20 from Oceanside,
Ca. to Plano, Texas to spend the holidays with my son and grandsons,
salve for the soul. Perhaps I will traverse close to some of you,
please know I carry Holiday Greetings and will be sending out those
waves as I pass.

Here are the words that speak better than I, they are for all of you
my online friends.