Security of Art & Antiques

This lock behind this escutcheon dates to about 1690 and despite being over 300 years old this escetoire retains its original lock and key. The key is beautifully pierced and detailed, the lock is surprisingly sophisticated despite its age.


It is advisable not only to secure your home against theft with the advice of your local Crime Prevention Officer and insurance company but also to ensure that your possessions can be identified if they are stolen.

Security Locks

As most household theft is opportunistic there are simple steps you can take to protect your property. It is worth noting that 80% of burglaries take place in properties without window locks. By double locking a solid mortice lock when leaving the property a thief is prevented from simply walking out of the door with your possessions to his car parked outside. For the cost of an evening for two at the theatre, one call to Banhams or any member of the Master Locksmiths Association ( will result in a professionally installed mortice door lock and a set of window locks.

Mark it, register it, keep it!

Science is playing an ever increasing role in the fight against crime which has resulted in DNA analysis replacing finger printing as the modern method of forensic crime detection. Unimark ( in association with Selectamark Security Systems produces a host of security marking products from RFID transponders the size of a grain of rice to the most advanced DNA marking kits. Each bottle of the manufactured DNA has its own unique signature which is allocated to each client. It is applied in the form of a clear, water-based, non-flammable, low toxic liquid adhesive that appears as a transparent clear varnish, but is visible using an ultra-violet lamp.

The DNA mixture comes with hundreds of pinhead sized microdots, each inscribed with the householders unique security code enabling the police to trace an item in minutes. Unequivocal identification can be made from tiny specks of DNA, so weaknesses in possession of stolen goods legislation are avoided.

Simple to use, the DNA mixture can be applied in seconds. Ownership details are recorded on Unimark's LPCB approved secure database. Of course more overt marking systems are also highly effective - silverware can be minutely engraved by an expert for example - but check first that the engraving will not affect the value. Marking should be made on parts which are not easily visible or normally cleaned, for example on the base of a silver candlestick, under a table top or at the back of a chest of drawers (which should have the backs or undersides of drawers marked as well as the carcass).

Most thieves steal items only to sell for cash. Without DNA evidence only 15% of home burglaries are 'solved' and the figures for the actual return of stolen items are even more disappointing. The police have limited resources to dedicate to tracing stolen items but DNA marking and new developments in commercial database management of stolen items considerably improve the chance of their being traced. It is also a good idea to display on windows the fact that the building's contents have been property marked.

Photographic Records

If valuable items are stolen, a photographic record will also be of great help in getting them back. Loss adjustors and insurance companies have great difficulty in resolving claims to their clients satisfaction, particularly for unique items, when there is not even a basic photograph.

Ideally each piece should be photographed individually in colour, preferably in natural light. The item should be placed against a plain background and should take up as much space as possible in the photograph.Try to ensure that there is minimum reflection on pieces such as glass, silver or varnish on oil paintings. An indication of size can be given by including a ruler or 50p piece in the picture. An additional photograph should be taken of any details, signatures or marks such as silver hallmarks or factory marks on the underside of ceramic items which would help in identification. It is also a good idea to photograph pictures and objects around the rooms in your house to remind you what is missing should a burglar take a few random objects.

Make an inventory of all valuable items with full descriptions including such details as identifying marks and dimensions. The inventory, together with the photographs should be kept in a secure place, ideally with a second copy kept off your premises, perhaps in a bank or with a solicitor.

"I can't think of a greater deterrent to a thief than knowing all the contents of a house he is about to burgle have been property marked." - Lord Mackenzie, OBE, Former President of the Police Superintendents' Association and special adviser on policing issues to the Home Secretary (1998 - 2001)

"A photograph really does speak a thousand words. It ensures a fairer settlement and enhances considerably the chance of recovery, as well as removing so much anguish and frustration for the owner." - Mark Dalrymaple (Tyler & Co, London) Chairman - CoPAT - The Council for the Prevention of Art Theft

Information on security art & antiques of reproduced by kind permission of LAPADA