Susan Rumfitt can trace her love of antique jewellery back to when she was just 10 years old.
“Growing up we had a family friend who owned a small boutique which had a jewellery room and I would go in and spend hours looking at the fabulous pieces, and I suppose that must have started my fascination with jewellery.”
Little could she have imagined that decades later she would have her own jewellery business giving valuations, talks and workshops on the subject as well as appearing every Sunday night on the Antiques Roadshow as their resident jewellery expert.
“It’s a great honour to be on the show,” says Harrogate-based Susan. “It’s very exciting but also very nerve- racking. It is lovely to see how the public react to you and the information you give them.”
It isn’t just the physical jewellery which attracts Susan it is the history and the story about the pieces and their creators which fascinates her.
“I did History of Art A-level at Harrogate Tutorial College and then studied it further at university and started off being very interested in portraiture, which of course does include looking at the jewellery. But I always thought that I would end up being a painting specialist.”
It was doing her masters’ degree at Christies in Glasgow that started to change her mind about the direction she wanted to go.
“At the end of my course I was offered a traineeship at Christies in the silver department and we shared an office with the jewellery specialists and I found myself drawn more and more to jewellery.
“I think it is the intricacy and craftsmanship that interests me but also the background and lifestyle of the artist.
After running the silver and jewellery department at Phillips in Edinburgh for three years, Susan moved to the firm’s prestigious Bond Street offices in London.
“I was travelling to Geneva and New York twice a year as an international jewellery specialist,” recalls Susan. “It sounds glamorous but it was hard work and involved hours of cataloguing and valuing.
“I would travel to France and Belgium to do valuations and came across some very unusual Austrian and Russian pieces during my visits to Europe. There were a lot of coloured diamonds that weren’t often seen in London at the time although that has changed since and London is now seen as a place for coloured diamonds.”
Susan’s introduction to the more affordable jewellery market came when she was asked to head up a groundbreaking new Phillips retail outlet in Bayswater specialising in affordable pieces. On her return to Yorkshire she worked with Tennants as a jewellery consultant while developing her own private client and valuation business.
She hand picks jewellery on behalf of clients or to add to her retail collection. In 2009 Susan joined the Fine Art Auctioneers, Anderson and Garland, who are based in Newcastle, as their jewellery consultant and area representative for Yorkshire.
She loves all jewellery – antique or contemporary, but has a special interest in Art Deco and Victorian. And while some carefully-chosen pieces could well be an investment, the most important thing is to buy something you love.
“And most importantly,” she adds, “wear it.”