Borro: Inside the vaults

Borro: Inside the vaults

From diamond-encrusted Cartier watches, to an actual tank, borro's unusual assets have always been a curiosity of ours, so we decided to explore the depths of the vaults at Chancery Lane….

From diamond-encrusted Cartier watches, to an actual tank, borro’s unusual assets have always been a curiosity of ours, so we decided to explore the depths of the vaults at Chancery Lane.

Once arriving at borro’s walk-in valuation desk, we were ushered down an everlasting spiral of stairs to meet with one of the company’s three stock room managers, who had been managing the vaults at borro for four years.

He led us through the small flocks of tourists, who were taking pictures of the antique silver and gold trading area, which is open to the public every day. It was like walking through a small Dubai gold market – without the haggling.

After wandering around the market maze, we ended up outside the vaults, where a hefty vault door was locked to guard the area every night. Once through, we were led down one of three reasonably narrow corridors, lined with glossy black painted doors, adorned with silver plaques. 

Out of the 90 vaults at Chancery Lane, borro only rents out eight, but we were informed the company is in the process of hiring more. This will include a much larger ‘three-in-one’ vault as well as more singular ones in response to business expanding for the lender. Silver traders, private jewellers and merchants own the rest, where some even use the vaults as meeting points to showcase jewellery to potential buyers.

The vaults are extremely secure, as everyone has to sign in and out and a security guard walks through the premises daily. We were surprised to discover, that the vaults had survived two world wars – which would be an interesting fact to use in reassuring clients their prized possessions are safe.

We were then lucky enough to be given the chance to have a snoop inside. The door was unlocked from three different points and after much anticipation, a heavy door to one of the vaults creaked open. We can’t deny a slight feeling of  disappointment. In the taxi ride there, we had imagined stepping into a Harry Potter-inspired cave, brimming with a mountain of gold coins scattered with ruby-encrusted chests and diamonds. What we infact stepped into was a rectangular room lined with shelving and plastic storage boxes containing wrapped and boxed items – think of a much more expensive IKEA showroom or a royal Tupperware party.

We were informed that every item was barcoded and sealed in a bag, as they do a thorough stock take once a month, which takes two days to go through everything.

Currently, borro has around 1500 loans down there, which means there are thousands of assets, all small items such as silver, gold, loose stones and designer handbags, kept safe behind its vault doors.

We were shown another safe inside one of the vaults, which was used to keep the most high-end products, all anonymous of course. One of the items in the safe was a diamond-encrusted silver Cartier watch, encrusted by Cartier themselves, worth about £80,000 on a second-hand basis. There was also a gold diamond ring that at that time was worth £200,000 - the most expensive individual item they held in the vaults. When asked if the stockroom team ever comes in from time-to-time to try on the assets, they said no – through nervous laughter.

When we asked what happens to the larger assets, such as paintings and cars, we were told they are stored at Anthony Ward Thomas. They explained this was a fine art remover who takes the artwork to their vaults with the storage facilities needed and at the right room temperature, to keep the paintings in perfect condition. If anything, it’s probably getting better service then it was with the client.

The cars are also stored outside of borro’s vaults, where they are taken to Store-A-Car; a car storage company with a racing track situated right next to it – how convenient!

When asked about some of the weirdest items they have had come in to get valued, we were told: “someone bought in a gold tooth once, but borro didn’t end up giving out a loan”. The staff member mentioned that his favourite items that came in were a pair of boxing gloves and a signed t-shirt by Ryan Giggs, after winning ‘Player of the Year’.

Most of the assets in the vaults consist of jewellery or precious stones, however he said that they have had very different items, such as a miniature railway station, a Star Wars mould mask, prestigious awards and a stamp collection. 

After visiting the vaults and seeing how looked-after and secure they are – we wouldn’t feel worried about our possessions ever being used as an asset there. For a place that has never had an attempted break in and has the same response time as the premises securing the Crown Jewels, I would personally feel reassured to leave a diamond encrusted Cartier watch in borro’s hands – if I could ever afford one.


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