Welcome to our new monthly roundup from the world of Lockton Private Clients. We'll be bringing you news and insight on a wide range of topics from both our industry and the passion assets sector, helping you stay ahead of the curve and protect the things you care about.

Diamonds – are they really forever?

During the last year, trade in illegally sourced and stolen goods has increased, with recent reports suggesting diamonds and other precious gems are particularly vulnerable to criminal activity. We are focusing here on the stone which, for many, represents the ultimate expression of love.

In an average year, the diamond industry is valued at an astonishing £13bn, producing over 27 tonnes of diamonds. This makes it a prime target for crime.

Currently, the industry-accepted standard to ensure a diamond's authenticity is through a security code on its outer edge or girdle. However, external engravings like these are not completely secure as they can be polished off or forged by criminals.

Manufacturers are now working on a new technology that allows engraving of a unique code on the inside of the diamond instead. This is designed to last forever, making these engraved diamonds secure from forgery.  

Currently, the internationally-recognised means to ensure authenticity of a diamond is the tamper-proof ledger system used by suppliers, which tracks a stone from the source mine through processing to sale. This authentication method is supported by many of the largest retailers.

The International Gem Society has published this helpful guide to assist in identifying whether a diamond is real.

Mined or made?

Staying with the theme of the diamond, Pandora – the world's largest jeweller – recently announced that it will now only sell manufactured stones due to rising environmental concerns around mining and shipping processes.

Pandora claims that these diamonds will be both more affordable and sustainable and that the processes used to make them will focus on renewable energy resources. This marks a departure from existing methods, which are reliant on large amounts of fossil fuels, particularly those made in China.

The jewellery giant expects that sales of the stones will increase both its relatively small current market share and the wider interest in diamonds among younger customers.

“Have you been involved in an accident…?”

We have all been on the receiving end of those calls. For those of us who have spent the last year or so working and educating at home, the volume seems to have increased – or perhaps this is simply due to being at home more often.

While it is relatively easy to block numbers and to prevent unsolicited calls through the Telephone Preference System (TPS), some of these scams are harder to spot than others.

The latest reported scam is the 'number spoof', where fraudsters use a familiar number to bypass caller ID. This is then used to convince you that the caller is genuine, before the scammer follows the usual method of persuading you to divulge personal or financial information.

Lockton's Global Cyber & Technology division has expended on this and you can read more here.

Vaccine Passports on the NHS App - Beware the Airport Wi-Fi

Many of us log-in to public Wi-Fi on our phones when out and about, despite the risks of the networks not being secure.

As we gear up to take advantage of overseas travel in the wake of Covid-19, now is a good time to revisit our stance on the use of public Wi-Fi networks.

The government is proposing that the NHS app be expanded to include information on vaccine passports. The medical information that is uploaded to the app could potentially be intercepted by cyber criminals as it passes through unsecured networks.

Further, it is possible for fraudsters to set up their own public Wi-Fi connections, imitating legitimate networks, again with the intention of capturing data traffic, including login information, and health records. While health information in itself may not be of particular value, according to Peter Yapp, former deputy director of GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre “the problem is that attackers are trying to build up a picture and they're trying to monetise it”. Such information might also include a date of birth, postcode and email address to create a victim profile.

While the Department of Health and Social Care is keen to ensure that security and privacy are at the centre of their approach, it is incumbent upon the user to be vigilant also. It is recommended that the NHS app is downloaded and information saved only while connected to a secure network, and well in advance of travel.

One small step for a grape

One of the key attractions when collecting passion assets is rarity, and a bottle of wine that has spent time orbiting the earth has to rank amongst the rarest.

Christie's Auction House is selling a bottle of Pétrus 2000 that has done just this. This bottle was just one in a case of twelve that was sent to the International Space Station in 2019 as part of a study on the effects of zero gravity on food and agriculture. The bottle spent 400 days in space and covered more than 186 million miles.

Experts who were invited to taste the wine after its trip reported that the side effects appeared minimal, with the characteristics present in Petrus seemingly unaffected by its exposure to the conditions.

A regular bottle of Pétrus will be sold alongside the 'space-aged' version, allowing the buyer to compare the two.

Christie's expects a sale price of up to $1,000,000 (USD) with proceeds funding further research into how food responds in space.

From space, to spoon (or even fork)

How to keep the fizz in your champagne or sparkling wine – it's an age old debate. Many use a spoon or fork in an opened bottle to ensure that the bubbles don't disappear, but does this method actually work?

Researchers have found little evidence to show that either a spoon or a fork is effective as a sparkle-maintainer in a bottle of bubbly. In fact, research has shown that an open bottle of champagne will keep its bubbles if kept in the fridge for several days – spoon or no spoon.

Sparkling wine is created by adding an additional fermentation step to the wine-making process, which introduces CO2 into the wine, creating bubbles. Champagne is fermented in the bottle and other sparkling wines like Prosecco are fermented in a tank and then bottled. Once opened, the CO2 is released and will begin to fade over a period of time.

Experts recommend that the best way to prolong the life of your sparkling wine is to use a good quality champagne stopper and keep the bottle as cold as possible.

The alternative is, of course, to ensure that as little wine as possible is left in the bottle!

Home invasion

For many, the onset of spring means a return to the garden and readying borders for new plants. It also marks the arrival of an unwanted visitor to many gardens – and one that could devalue your property: Japanese Knotweed. Unfortunately, the cost of damage caused and removal of this plant is most often excluded in home insurance policies.

Japanese Knotweed is the most invasive plant in the UK. It can grow through cracks in concrete, drains and brickwork and cause extensive damage, reaching heights of up to three metres.

Homeowners can spot the weed by its purple or red shoots resembling asparagus emerging from the ground. These grow quickly into green shrubs with heart or shovel-shaped leaves and pink-flecked stems.

Help is as hand as invasive plant specialist Environment has created a tracker, enabling you to identify by postcode the risk to your home and surrounding area and to spot the signs of a potential invasion.

Damage caused by knotweed would not be defined by an insurer as a 'sudden and unforeseen event' so it is important that if it is discovered, immediate steps are taken to remove all trace to mitigate any damage this highly invasive plant can cause

From weeds to wheels

You can read our regular roundup of all things motoring related over at the Lockton Performance website, where you will find news ranging from motorsport to new car releases.

We are excited to be able to confirm that Lockton is returning to Salon Privé in September, this year as a Gold sponsor, and our team will be at Blenheim Palace for the duration of the event from 1-5 September.

We will also be sponsoring the Salon Privé Club Trophy event, the largest car club-only event in the UK. On the day, we will be presenting two awards per club, as well as a top prize given to the most exceptional car on the day.

If this must-attend event, combining the world's greatest cars, food, drink and luxury goods, is in your diary, then please come and say hello to us at our marquees.

This is our first monthly roundup and we would love to hear your feedback. What else would you like to see and hear about? Please do get in touch to let us know.