NAJ News

Meet the valuers; Melanie describes her jewellery valuer journey

17 Aug 2020

Meet the Creatives Header IRV Image: Melanie Chater FIRV of Michael Jones Jewellers.

We spoke to valuer Melanie Chater, FGA DGA FIRV, of Michael Jones Jewellers in Northampton and Banbury, who describes her valuing journey.

Belinda Morris, Editor of The Jeweller, The Association's in house seasonal journal took some time to explore what entry routes into valuing look like for jewellers and jewellery assistants, and what a typical 'day in the life of' a valuer looks like.

Belinda: Hi Melanie. I've spoken to many valuers a the Annual Valuers' Conference before, but I think this is the first time we've spoekn. I'd really like to understand your entry into the jeweller industry?

Melanie: I fell upon the jewellery industry purely by accident. I’d just left school at 17 and was looking for a job. I asked local jewellers if they had any job vacancies and as luck had it they were looking for a retail jewellery assistant. I had an interview and was offered the job at Michael Jones Jewellers. That was 30 years ago and I’m still here!


B: Did you take any courses when you first started working in the store?

M: Michael Jones was passionate about training and encouraged his staff to learn as much as possible about the jewellery industry. Therefore, as soon as I could I studied the Retail Jewellery Diploma ‘RJDip’ as it was then, which is now the JET Certificate. As I progressed with my career on the shop floor, looking after the silver jewellery and the diamond/coloured gem department, I decided to do the Retail Jeweller Gemstone Diploma ‘RJ Gemstone Dip’. This is where my passion for gemstones and diamonds really took hold and this course opened up a whole world of new opportunities.


B: Please describe Michael Jones Jewellers.

M: Michael Jones Jeweller is a small independent company, which has been trading since 1919 – our 100th anniversary last year. Michael took the business over from his father Claude Jones, who started it as pawn brokers. In 1970 Michael converted the business to a cooperative, which meant that he no longer owned the business but the people who worked in the company became co-owners.

We have three showrooms; two in Northampton and one in Banbury, two of which are Rolex boutiques. We stock a large selection of designer jewellery from Ti-Sento, Rachel Galley and Shaun Leane, to Fope, Chiampesan, Portfolio of Fine Diamonds, Ungar & Ungar. Watch brands include Citizen, Bering, Longines, Omega and Rolex. We like to think we have something for everyone. We also have a jewellery workshop with three goldsmiths who make bespoke jewellery and two watch workshops with three watch-makers.


B: What prompted you to become an IRV valuer? And has it been very hard work to get fully qualified?

M: Once I’d passed my Retail Gemstone Diploma, it opened up the whole new world of gemmology. I was offered the opportunity to move to the larger showroom and learn to become a valuer. I attended a three-day practical valuation techniques course, which was taught by the late, very talented Michael Norman and I studied for the FGA. I was also very lucky to have the help and guidance of my colleague/mentor Robert White, who is also an NAJ Registered Valuer. After years of gaining experience and qualifications I became an NAJ Registered Valuer. 

It is essential that you continue to refresh your knowledge as things are always changing. I attend the NAJ Valuers' Conference, GEM-A conference and as many day lectures as I can every year. I have attended an IGI diamond grading course in Antwerp and recently I passed the DGA. It takes many years to become an experienced valuer and therefore we feel it’s very important that we are recognised as extremely qualified and professional people.

Attending the Valuers' Conference is where I received the most support. Michael, Rosamond Clayton and Brian Dunn have given many invaluable lectures and practical sessions over the years. This is where I’ve also met many other highly experienced valuers, who are always happy to help if you have a question or query. This also applies to everyone within the trade, manufacturers, gemstone dealers, watch specilists and auction houses, who are always willing to share their experiences and help you where they can.


B: Why is it useful for a business to have an in-house valuer? What kind of valuing do you mostly do?

M: Being an in-house valuer offers a service that is a great selling point for us; it means we are not having to send items away or wait for an independent valuer to come in. I also think it shows great professionalism having such highly skilled and knowledgeable staff. This can only help put customers minds at ease and enables us to advise customers and staff with many jewellery and insurance issues.

I mainly value customers’ own jewellery and watches, occasionally some silverware and pocket watches. The majority of valuations carried out are for insurance replacement purposes, however I also do probate and occasionally family division. I also produce valuation certificates for items of stock that we have sold, which is an extra selling point and can only help promote our company.


B: Describe your typical day in the shop?

M: We have three shops, so the staff are trained to take the items in for valuation from the customers. These items are then kept in the safe until I am ready to start valuing them. Firstly I inspect each item for any damage or repair work that may be required. Items are then cleaned and photographs are taken. Each item is appraised, full descriptions applied, researched to ensure the correct replacement price is arrived at and finally a valuation certificate produced.


B: What are the main tools of your trade?

M: There are many – computer/internet, 10X loupe, presidium gauge, measuring calibres, scales, light source, refractometer, polariscope, UV light, metal testing acids, Chelsea & Hanneman-Hodgkinson colour filters, CZ colour comparison set, pricing guides eg The Guide, Rapaport… and many, many books.


B: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself – or to someone setting out on a career in valuing today?

M: I have been very fortunate to have worked in many different departments within the retail environment, including silver jewellery, diamond and coloured gemstone merchandise controller, and service manager. However, I have not had much experience within other areas of the jewellery industry. I would have liked to have spent some time working in areas such as manufacturing and auction. Therefore, my advice to any new valuer would be to obtain experience in as many different areas of the jewellery industry as possible. Expanding your knowledge to as many areas will only ever be an advantage when you become a valuer.

Find out more about Melanie Chater


Find a Jewellery Valuer

Whether you're searching by specialism, or by location. The NAJ's Institute of Registered Valuers is the industry standard for Jewellery, Watch and Silverware valuations.

Find a Jewellery Valuer

Source: The NAJ