Antiques Roadshow's Tony Greenway
PUBLISHED: 00:15 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013
Antiques Roadshow has its second Lancastrian presenter. Tony Greenway meets Susan Rumfitt. Main photographs: Justin Slee
SUSAN Rumfitt's childhood memories sparkle like precious stones when she recalls visits to Batley's jewellery department at their store in Nelson.
Once a year she and her dad Keith travelled from their home near Barrowford to choose jewellery for mum Dianne's birthday.
The impression of this small girl in an Aladdin's cave of gems stayed with her over the years and, no doubt, influenced her in later life.
'The Batleys were long-standing family friends and their shop in Nelson sold high quality clothes,' says 35-year-old Susan. 'But it also had this fabulous jewellery room and we were allowed in to pick pieces for mum. It was a very magical experience.
Sadly, the shop is no longer there but it's something you don't forget.' Susan was born in Burnley, grew up in Higherford and went to school in Blackburn. She fell in love with art history and architecture and she followed a glittering career path which took in the powerhouses of Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips before she was asked to join the team at the BBC's Antiques Roadshow last year.
She is now one of the regular experts who entertain millions every Sunday when they break the news that family heirlooms are worthless or 'junk' from car boot sale are priceless. It makes her the show's second Lancastrian - Eric Knowles comes from just down the road in Nelson.
Susan, who now lives in Harrogate with her black Labrador Rum, probably wouldn't argue with the clich about diamonds being a girl's best friend. 'They're such incredible stones,' she says with passion. 'Everyone wants them at the moment. They're easy to appreciate, yet they're also very complicated in many ways.
When I'm valuing them I have to consider clarity, colour, cut, carat size and a range of other factors. I certainly never get blas looking at them.'
And Susan spends a lot of time looking at them. Now running her own business in Harrogate as an international independent jewellery consultant, she travels the world searching for precious gems and unique pieces of fine jewellery for her clients. These range from people looking for gifts to serious collectors. On the surface, her job might look glamorous - but it's not always easy.
'People sometimes have a fixed idea about the kind of jewellery they like. But, when I track down the piece they've described, it doesn't automatically mean it will suit them. So my job is to open their minds to different stones, styles and colours.'
Susan watched Antiques Roadshow from being a schoolgirl.'It was such an honour to be asked,' she says.
It was copresenter and friend, Lars Tharp, who recommended her. 'They're always looking for new faces so Lars suggested they get in touch with me. He knew all about me and thought I'd be ideal - but I'd never been in front of a camera before.'
And that first screen test, she admits, was terrifying. 'Part of my job here involves giving lectures and running different courses - and I can regularly stand in front of an audience of 250, talking about jewellery. Now, that's a lot of people but it's not as nerve-racking as standing in front of a single camera with one person behind it! These days I forget about the cameras, but I never forget that millions watch Antiques Roadshow every week and that it's been an institution for 30 years. People love it.
'Of course, people are sometimes very upset because there's an emotional price attached to jewellery. This is difficult to get across sometimes, but just because something belonged to someone's granny doesn't necessarily add to its value although historical provenance might.'
One of her favourite 'finds' never made it to the screen. 'It was a wonderful neo-renaissance necklace from the 1850s,' she says. 'It wasn't so much the value as the design - it was quite remarkable.
'TV has increased my profile although not to the point where I'm recognised on the street. But my clients do realise where they've seen me. Some of them say: "Oh, you look a lot younger than you do on TV...!"'
Since joining the Antiques Roadshow team her diary has become a blur of nationwide trips to different locations, coping with long filming schedules. But she's still manages to get across the Pennines on a regular basis to visit her parents and friends.
'Barrowford has really come on in recent years with some stunning shops. I still love to come home to Lancashire.'