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Safe Advice

Hi, folks,

Inspired in part by the article in the most recent AJM that shows how
three jewelers (all on this forum) organize their benches, and in
part by a necessity to get my life more efficient, I am cleaning and
organizing my work space at last.

One thing I don’t have that I really should is a safe. It would be
helpful to know what kind of safe others have, where they bought it,
and how much I should expect to spend. My first look around didn’t
turn up anything that would allow my gem trays to sit flat in it.

Kate Wolf, are you there? The picture of your bench in AJM seemed to
show a safe on the right, with drawers above the main compartment.
What is the info on that?

I took a “before” picture of my space-- if I get it better, I’ll take
an “after” and post them both.



I use a surplus ATM safe, it cost me $50US. Weighs about 800 pounds.
They have brackets for shelves in them. If you want to make this
sort of safe fire proof, get the wall board that is fire proof and
cut pieces to fit inside and out.

I will have to move my safes soon to a shop that I haven’t purchased
yet, but need to soon. If you know how and all your doors are
unlocked, these safes are easy to move. Safes only slow down
thieves, so I make it hard for them, a pro would have those safes
open in 10 minutes. So I have an alarm system and a attack cat.


Hi Noel

  • one surprise I had is that when I was looking for insurance (from a
    company that specializes in jewelers) they would not “count” my safe,
    which is a national-brand, certified gun safe (a big one) because it
    doesn’t somehow pass some arbitrary measuring stick they have for gem
    and jewelry safes. I didn’t understand it, and the company’s premiums
    for bench jewelers was WAY too expensive so I never pursued it. Funny
    that our house insurance compnay has NO problem giving us a discount
    for the safe for storing $60,000 in cameras and guns, but for my
    little jewelry business the other company wouldn’t even consider it!



Check out any large gun store for a safe. They come in all sizes and
prices from around $400.00 to $3,000 or more. Most have variable
interiors, that is they can be configured as you require to have
more or less shelf space as opposed to racks for the vertical
storage of shotguns and rifles. Mine is from Fort Knox Security.
I’m sure you can Google that name. Another high quality gun safe is
made by Browning.

Jerry in Kodiak

Check out any large gun store for a safe. They come in all sizes and
prices from around $400.00 to $3,000 or more.

Gun safes are really an excellent safe, they are generally fire
proof. But they are heavy and hard to move. Gun safes are heavy
through out their structure instead of like a refrigerator, where
the weight is on the bottom. Plus you have to find a place to put
the safe. Remember that if you have a fire, the contents of the safe
may survive, but if you have it on your first floor, it will end up
falling into your basement if there is a fire. The contents will be
o.k. but the safe maybe damaged or warped and difficult to open.


Alright folks, let’s talk about safes. If all you are trying to
protect is a bunch of relatively inexpensive silver jewelry then it
doesn’t really matter what you put it in. However if you are serious
about protecting your wares and you have some significant value than
you need to spend some serious money. The reason that small safes are
useless is because the criminals can just cart them away. The reason
gun safes are useless is because any reasonably proficient criminal
can peel back the doors with a crow bar (go to any reasonable sized
safe company and ask them to show you the samples of peeled safes–a
lot of them have them so you can see how easy it is to get into
them). If you are going to be protecting some serious jewels than you
need a UL rated safe (which, incidentally, is not an “arbitrary
measuring stick”) that is rated at least TR-TL 15. That is a bare
minimum for small amounts of jewelry. TR/TL 15 means that the safe
will resist a torch attack or a tool attack on the door only for 15
minutes. That doesn’t sound like a lot and it isn’t. It also means
that the other sides are easier to get into. If you have inventory
valued at $250,000 or more I would recommend a TR/TL 30 x 6 which
means all six sides are protected from a torch or tool attack for at
least 30 minutes. Ideally the door should also have some type of
relocking mechanism (usually a glass plate that breaks when the door
is being drilled into and when the glass plate it drops all of the
bolts into locked position permanently). It should have both a
combination and a key (or some new ones have computerized systems).
For inventories over a million you should probably consider a safe
that can withstand an attack for 60 minutes. On top of all this you
should have an alarm system that offers protection both around the
safe as a whole and on the door. You should expect to spend between
6-8000 for a used safe with a TRTL30 x 6 rating or about
$10,000-$12,000 for a new one. The idea is to make your premises far
less attractive to criminals than another location. Your safe (if you
are in a retail store), should be visible from the street and lit up
at night (that way the police can actually see if someone is
attempting to break in). Also, better safes will generate bigger
savings on your insurance policy.

And if you think your safe can’t be broken into I can assure you that
it can. We once had a problem with a safe servicing and we got locked
out of the safe (we have a TR/TL 30 x 6). I watched four guys from
the safe company struggle for two hours trying to get back into the
safe. Then they called in their “pro” (who, I might add, looked
exactly like a safecracker) who came in and within 10 minutes had the
safe open. Granted, he had the key and the combination but from
watching him it was apparent that it didn’t matter. He would have
been able to open it anyway. Fortunately he was with the good
guys–most of them aren’t!

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140


The insurance companies (I use Jewelers Mutual) have a reason for
using a “rated safe” it is not arbitrary. I am not a defender of
insurance companies and believe it to be legalized extortion invented
by the mob, having said that I believe that the insurance companies
are creating a standard to be used so they can insure jewelers
safely. Here’s why. If the Smith jewelry insurance company allowed
you to use your gun safe and me to use a different gun safe from a
different manufacturer and other jewelers were allowed to use safes
that their grandma left them even if all of these different safes
could hold the gold of fort Knox. No safe is safe! A rated safe
however has standards it has to go through to be rated. So if your
gun safe is broken into and you have to replace a priceless heirloom
to a customer, even a crackerjack necklace becomes priceless when
stolen. Then the customer’s attorney steps in to get damages for the
priceless heirloom that has devastated the poor soul for life. The
attorney says, “My client’s priceless heirloom necklace was stored in
a gun safe, your honor, not a safe rated for fire and theft.” The
judge rules against you and you have to pay a gazillion dollars. Your
attorney and the insurance company’s attorneys are now embroiled in a
costly lawsuit for years. You file bankruptcy and it all sucks. That
was a made up story by the way. Ok now there are probably thousands
of jewelers and jewelry stores in the USA If they all had safes
manufactured by different companies and they had no standards or
ratings it could be very hard for anyone to be insured and collect.
Any one can manufacture safes by the way this makes standards and
ratings in an industry that is robbed daily insurance in itself. Here
is a little safe story I heard awhile back. This guy told me he owned
a store in town in Utah. His store was 3 doors down from the police
station. Thieves ran a truck into his back wall in the ally of his
store and used a fork lift to take his safe out and load it into
another truck. He lost everything. His safe wasn’t rated.

J Morley/Goldsmith/Laser Welding

Unfortunately that kind of safe wont protect you from much of
anything. A punk kid will have that one open in about 5 minutes or
less with a crowbar. I used to have one and it proved to be a
complete joke. You need a minimum TL30 rated safe to protect even
from a punk kid burglar. A TL30 will fend off a pro with state of the
art tools for aprox 30 minutes. And withou the proper kind of
fireproofing, that ATM safe is merely a 800 lb oven. Even fireproof
safes lose ther protective ability with time. After about 20 years a
fire proof TL30 becomes an oven too, because the fireproofing settles
to the bottom of the walls and you only have aprox 6 " of protection
at the bottom. With fireboard, all you have done is added non burning
material to the inside but the heat is the big problem. When your
building around it is burning the interior of the safe can heat to a
few thousand degrees Farhnheit very quickly. You will simply have a
melted puddle inside since gold and silver both will melt long before

If in the future, you want insurance covereage, you better think of
at least a TL-30 rated safe, as past rating systems seem not to be
considered safe for jewelers by the insurance carriers such as
Jeweler’s Mutual. These safes can be purchased for $800 and up.
Sometimes for free if someone is trying to clear some space. Moving
will be a really big consideration as well. The people that move
these things don’t much like to hoist a safe weighing in at more
than 1,200 lbs, as their stair climbers are limited to that.

Bruce D. Holmgrain
JA Certified Master Benchjeweler, CAD/CAM Services

I bet if your homowner’s insurance company knew that you were
running a jewelry business out of your house, they wouldn’t insure
your $60,000 in cameras and guns, either! A home jewelry business is
a thief magnet. Gangs of professional thieves target jewelry much
more than small amounts of guns and cameras, and your gun safe
wouldn’t last five minutes for a real professional.


I have a gun safe.

$300.00 from Ollie’s outlet…(though i saw a similar one at
cabella’s outfitters for a little more) the best thing about a gun
safe is it is you can bolt it to the wall and it is large enough not
to be moved. (most safes I looked at were much too small and left
the concern of someone just picking it up and walking out. the gun
safe is approx. 4’ x 2’) like gerald, I have a home based
business…but not only do I put my metals in the safe when I am not
working on them…I have a safe place for customer’s jewelry as well
as my own…and a safe place to hold our families hunting rifles.
Very multi-purpose. My safe (which is a small one) holds approx. 4
rifles/shotguns and has a ton of space on the right with shelving for
lots of valuables.

-julia potts
julia potts studios

Continue from:

The “best safe” is not having your business card stating that you
are doing any jewellery business at your home base! Even casual
acquaintances must not know of your proffession is done at your
home…just let them know that you are sharing an office…anything to
avoid any questions. One tells one and next thing you know the “wrong
ears might pick it up” and woops!

I knew of a stone dealer who was conducting precious stone dealing
at his house…his adopted daughter told one of her male friends of
"the fortunes at her home". She walked in turned off the alarm system
and her boy-friend hit my friend to “one centimetre” of dying,
gagged, tied up, hit over the head. he was on the local news.We
couldn’t recognise his face. …she is in jail for years…moral of the
story “Safes” are great, but business card advertising is not always
great, use with both with caution…gerry!

Hello All,

I worked for a few years in the vault, safe and banking equipment
business. First I want to say you get what you pay for. I have a
safe that I bought used that is a big name in the banking industry.
If your safe it not UL listed for a TL30 rating you would have been
better off hiding you goods under the mattress. Once you have the
safe it needs to blend in and not be seen. Mine looks like a tool
storage cabinet in the garage. We have a decoy paperweight
(Sentry)safe with a bag of pawnshop jewelry for the crooks to take
thinking they made the big score. Just so you know, you can open one
of those Wal-Mart safes with a tire tool. Most guys that have been
around the safe business for a few years will tell you that an older
TL15 takes about 5 mins to crack. So if you want to keep $60K of
goods in your safe, so does a $300 safe sound like good insurance.
My safe was less than a $1000 with tax and delivery. It is big
enough to crawl in and close the door.

There is more to this than the safe. There is your security
protocol. All catalogs and other related items should go to a PO
Box. All you your deliveries should not have Big Giant Gems Inc. as
the delivery address. Use BGG Inc for your items arriving from Rio.
Don’t tell everyone what you do. Do not meet with customers/clients
at your home. Do not throw away catalogs or industry magazines in
your garbage. Allot of you have day jobs or your spouse does, so
throw them in the dumpster at work. Drop them in the trash at the
Post Office after you remove the mailing labels. Think of as getting
rid of the evidence. All business calls go to your cell phone and
have that bill sent to your PO Box, you are paying for it. Do not
put you address on your business card. Do not list you home address
when you register you web site. Again use that PO Box. My PO Box is
not even listed to my home address. It is listed to another property
that is a seasonal use property owned by the family. I did live
there when I opened the box a decade ago. I work mainly through
galleries. That offer some extra security. Make sure they will not
release any personal about you. Our home phone is listed
in my wife’s maiden name so you can’t even look for the phone
number. I am very hard to find.

Then there is a home security system. I am no expert on that and
will leave that for comment by a more knowledgeable person that I.

I use to work in the jewelry display and packaging. Our salesman
would either have their homes broken into or their cars like once a
year. The California rep got his car twice and his house once in one
year. We even had a sign on the car that had the company name, the
logo and the slogan. All they would get is empty jewelry boxes. Not
even a piece of costume jewelry. No one said that criminals are very
smart. If you just look like somebody that they think has something
they will try to rob you. They even stole some frozen pizzas from
one of the sales rep when they broke into his house.


The reason gun safes are useless is because any reasonably
proficient criminal can peel back the doors with a crow bar (go to
any reasonable sized safe company and ask them to show you the
samples of peeled safes--a lot of them have them so you can see how
easy it is to get into them). If you are going to be protecting
some serious jewels than you need a UL rated safe (which,
incidentally, is not an "arbitrary measuring stick") that is rated
at least TR-TL 15. 

Hi Daniel - it was I who said “arbitrary measuring stick” and I was
being facetious, my usual mode when discussing anything related to
that government-sanctioned legal organized crime racket referred to
as the insurance business. However, before you arbitrarily write off
guns safes, see below :wink:

My gun safe isn’t useless - it has a TL-15 rating which the company
says has the following onstruction requirements:

  "U.L. listed Group II, 1 or 1R combination lock. 

  750 lbs. minimum or comes with instructions for anchoring in a
  larger safe, concrete blocks or on the premises where used. 

  Body walls of material equivalent to at least 1" open hearth
  steel with a minimum tensile strength of 50,000 P.S.I. 

  Walls fastened in a manner equivalent to continuous 1/4"
  penetration weld of open hearth steel with minimum tensile
  strength of 50,000 P.S.I. 

  One hole 1/4" or less, to accommodate electrical conductors
  arranged to have no direct view of the door or locking

And the following performance requirements:

  "Successfully resist entry* for a net working time of 15
  minutes when attacked with common hand tools, picking tools,
  mechan-ical or portable electric tools, grinding points,
  carbide drills and pressure applying devices or mechanisms." 

It certainly can’t be opened with a crowbar, as you say - I’ve seen
the marketing that you’re talking about, and it’s an excellent
marketing campaign created by . . . Jewelry safe manufacturers!

Since it’s in my poured-concrete shop, which has a steel rod network
in the walls and a steel door, and the safe is bolted into the
concrete with bolts that were anchored to the steel and poured in
place, I’m reasonably comfortable that someone would have to work
darn hard to get our stuff. I’m not hanging on to expensive repair
jewelry or gems priced over what I could reasonably replace, so I
feel quite confident.


    I bet if your homowner's insurance company knew that you were
running a jewelry business out of your house, they wouldn't insure
your $60,000 in cameras and guns, either! A home jewelry business
is a thief magnet. Gangs of professional thieves target jewelry
much more than small amounts of guns and cameras, and your gun safe
wouldn't last five minutes for a real professional. 

Yes, true! - we don’t put signs up about a studio or any business
near our home. It would be like saying, “Please come
break into our home!”

When I was looking for business insurance, I was looking more for
basic liability and income coverage. I couldn’t find anything that
worked for me. Jeweler’s Mutual wanted $1200/year - that’s insane,
for me. The girl who was “helping” me with the quote wasn’t helpful;
she wouldn’t even explain safe ratings - she just said that if it’s a
gun safe it’s not counted, and that I must also have an alarm system.
Since I live off the grid, with only cell phones and satellite for
internet, I can’t have an alarm (like a lot of good it would do: call
the sheriff, wait 40 minutes). She just could NOT grasp the fact that
alarms work on PHONE LINES, and my nearest phone line is 7 miles and
$300,000 away.

I don’t do work that requires me to keep client gems or jewelry; I
am not working in gold yet. In 3 years of not paying $1200 I can save
that and have the cash I’d need to replace all my shop with top-notch
tools! My lapidary rough is outside anyway, except the turquoise, and
it’s not going anywhere.

So I guess I’m going to not feed the insurance beast after all!


I have a safe that I bought from Sam’s Club. It is a Sentry brand
electronic safe. It has a very good fire rating, is big, solid, and
heavy. The fire rating was an important factor in my decision to buy,
because I keep removable hard disks with all of my several computers’
data backed-up on them, as well as many important papers in the safe.
I bought it for $299, but the last time I was in Sam’s I noticed
that the price has been raised to the vicinity of $350. I still
think it is a good deal. One of the many things I like about it is
that it opens with a keypad, rather than the combersome dial. This
makes it quick and easy to open. This is important to me because I
want my safe locked at all times, not just when I am away. It also
has adjustable shelves.

Del Pearson of Designs of Eagle Creek in Beautiful South Texas where
we have recently be getting some much-needed rain.

There has been some good common sense advise here. Don’t let people
know where you are or live. I have training in lock picking, once
you know how to, it’s can faster than a key. A good safe needs to be
one that will slow a thief down to a crawl. That is why I go for
weight. Place I keep no hoisting equipment around in big shop. With a
steel plate, some bolts and a heavy duty racket set (3/4 inch size)
I can pop the door off many safes. It just takes a good while to do
it. The real key is slow the crook down as much as possible, an 800
pound safe is tough to move quitely. With out a engine hoist it is

impossible for one or two men to do this. what could be a “golden
rod”, could be a trip wire for your security system.


Roseann, In your case a Bull Mastive would be a great security
system. They are rather friend while being as big as a small
elephant. A pro would be in and out before you know it.


I have a postal box for an address, I used to give out my address
until one really strange guy showed up. From then on, nobody would
know, except my GF and the cat. Neither of them have the
combinations to the safes, plus the safes are near the door so the
police can see if something is happening. Don’t think because they
are near the door that it is easier for a thief. We are talking
about 800 pounds empty and has to go up two steps; then face the
attack cat! If I want to be really cruel I could put a 100 or 200
pounds of lead shoot, loose in the safe.


Greetings all.

In this present business incarnation, I am not doing any work on
valuable items. In the past when I was, the piece was kept at my
bank, in the safe deposit box, when it was not actually being worked
on. I would pick it up in the morning, return it when I was done at
the end of the day. It was a matter of scheduling. A hassle?
Sometimes, but I slept well.

In the incarnation before that, when I was partners in a store,
there was the safe and security system as per Jewelers Mutual specs
and a great relationship with the local police.

NEVER let people know where you live. DO NOT have "I am a Jeweler"
license plates. Be paranoid. Run your business like a business not a
game. The stakes are too high. Getting ripped off makes the insurance
rates look a bargain.

Have had friends hurt and robbed.

Bill Churlik