SFGATE | "Tuck away the trinkets in sleek safety"
While visiting an Australian cathedral on a college road trip, Sheela Murthy’s purse was stolen. Her money, identification, even a treasured pair of her great-great-grandmother’s earrings were gone in a flash.
“I thought the safest place they would be is with me,” she said. The sinking realization that this wasn’t the case motivated Murthy to start a luxury safe company. Founded in 1990, Traum Safe manufactures custom pieces made of high-tech materials that resemble those found in banks and other institutions – albeit lighter and far more fashionable.
Today, Murthy installs safes for movie stars, CEOs and international dignitaries from around the globe. But it’s the Bay Area that is her strongest market, although the discreet nature of her clients keeps her from revealing any details. Still, there is enough demand here that she says she is continually scouting the Union Square area for a future showroom.
For now, clients can visit showrooms in Beverly Hills or New York (or arrange a private in-home appointment) to choose from thousands of exterior lacquer shades and a variety of woods. They can also determine the positioning of the interior drawers, shelves and other spaces to accommodate their treasures.
Ryan Churdar, a Chubb Insurance property claims examiner, said keeping valuable jewelry and other heirlooms in a safe helps prevent opportunistic theft, which is the most common.
“It’s better than leaving stuff in a drawer, obviously,” he says. And many experts believe that a home safe can be a better idea than transferring items to and from a bank deposit box.
The convenience is likely a big reason behind the growing popularity of such luxury safes. Fred Brown also created a line of custom safes after years of installing what he considered to be less-secure versions for other companies. He saw a niche for luxury units that were as sexy to look at as they were lock-tight.
The line caters to men with watch winder safes that range from $40,000 up to $400,000, depending on the number of watches. The Brown Chronos series is designed especially for collectors and includes its signature Lamborghini-inspired model – made with quarter-inch- thick ballistic armor, four-way titanium locking bolts and emblazoned with the logo. The Chronos designs, which begin at $58,000, boast a multiple sensor alarm, GPS tracking system and James Bond-ish biometric finger-reading entry.
“These guys are concerned with security and very tech-savvy,” said Brown Safe’s Matt Goldstein. “They want the latest and greatest.”
The starting price for a Traum safe is $35,000 and can run into the hundreds of thousands. To date, the most costly safe they have made was for a family in Washington, D.C., with royal ties. The interior features an image of the family crest handcrafted with 64 natural woodcut pieces.
“That’s the fun part of it,” Murthy says. “They can pick combinations that reflect who they are and suit their tastes. … Not a gray metal box.”