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The specialist insurers say the number of thefts has risen noticeably in recent weeks and advise the trade to be especially vigilant at the moment.

Their six-point guide to reducing risk is as follows:

• Check your physical and alarm security – ensure all devices are fully operational.

• Where possible, increase staff numbers in the gallery. Thieves often work in twos or threes. While one works to distract you, another can be operating behind your back.

• Keep doors closed and locked wherever possible. Pay particular attention to this as clients leave your premises. Thieves have been seen to put doors on the latch while browsing, only to return later to take stock.

• Exercise extra caution when taking deliveries and ensure that all items are received by you and taken into the gallery by you.

• Be especially vigilant during open evenings and private views – the sheer volume of visitors to these events provides the ideal shield for the opportunist thief.

• Ensure that your premises are properly secured and alarmed over the weekends and remove any stock from vulnerable doorways and windows. Certain streets in central London are very quiet at weekends and this gives burglars extra time and space to calculate serious attacks on your property.