Obituary michael john marsh (mike) of p.a jewellery jewellery focus

Mike didn’t intend on a career as a jeweller and came to the industry by luck. In 1976 whilst working in insurance he visited a potential client who was a silversmith, manufacturing silver ingot pendants. Seeing an opportunity he struck a deal to start selling the ingots. Marketing them through adverts in national newspapers he managed to sell a few hundred of them in that first year, just enough to keep him interested but not enough to be anything other than a sideline. In 1977 an extra mark was added to hallmark for the Silver Jubilee and this really caught the public’s imagination. With an oversized feature hallmark the ingot pendants were a perfect souvenir and in that year alone Mike sold around 20,000, all sorted, packaged and dispatched by Mike, his wife Pam and Mike’s father from a makeshift office set up in the loft at his home.

Thus PA Jewellery was born, and Mike was able to switch from insurance to selling jewellery full time. The business had outgrown Mike’s loft and proper premises were needed. A disused branch of the Midland Bank, complete with bank vault was purchased in 1978 using the profit from the ingots. The same Old Bank building still houses our showroom and workshop to this day. Since then PA Jewellery has grown and expanded to be a highly successful jewellery retailer and manufacturer with customers across the UK and beyond.

It’s cliched to say that a company feels like a family, but that truly is what Mike build in PA Jewellery. Mike was a father to us all, he lead the business with kindness and love but also a dose of reality that only family can give you. Mike wanted all of his “work family” to flourish as jewellers. He encouraged everyone to be the best they can possibly be, funding further education such as diplomas in gemmology or specialist training for our goldsmiths. Rather than micro manage he believed in giving everyone space to develop, find their niche and become invaluable to the company. Thanks to the amazing family atmosphere he created Mike enjoyed tremendous loyalty, nobody wants to leave! Only three out of our current 18 employees have been with us for less than 10 years. When somebody has “left the nest” it has generally been for a career change rather than another role in the industry.

Mike was equally committed to his customers and was always willing to go “the extra mile”. One time he took this literally, when a customer asked for a particular diamond bracelet a couple of days before Christmas and we were unable to find something ready made he sent our Financial Directors son down the M1 to meet a supplier at a service station to collect the components needed, then we set and finished the bracelet just in time for collection at 5pm on Christmas Eve! This was typical of Mike, if he could make something happen and not disappoint a customer he would. He could find common ground with anyone, prince or pauper and every customer was treated the same and appreciated, whether they were spending £5 or £50,000. This ethos is the backbone of his company.

His hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed in the industry and beyond, winning a number of accolades. Most notably PA Jewellery was named independent retailer of the year at the UK Jewellery Awards in 1993 and then in 1997 won sales team of the year at the same awards. Additionally PA Jewellery was the first jewellery workshop to achieve an ISO quality assurance accreditation, something Mike was always very proud of.

Mike was always well recognised and highly regarded by his industry peers. Despite not visiting trade fairs for many years and leaving the buying to his colleagues who in his own words would “have a better idea of what will sell”, when meeting suppliers or other jewellers the first question would always be “how’s Mike” – even if they hadn’t seen him for 20 years. He stuck in people’s memory.

Mike also enjoyed success as a landlord, he established PA Properties in the mid 1980s with student, residential and commercial properties. Despite PA Properties becoming the more lucrative business and occupying much of his time PA Jewellery was his love, his baby and was what established him as a businessman – he considered himself a Jeweller first and foremost.

Above all Mike was honest in everything that he did. Sometimes even brutally so-he was always willing to tell you a difficult truth. Whether he was reviewing an idea for the business or critiquing a new tie nothing was sugar coated. However his honesty was never cruel, he always wanted the best for everyone, even if that meant he had to seem like the bad guy to give a much needed dose of reality. You knew if something got Mike’s seal of approval then it was good. If Mike made a promise he would go out of his way to ensure he delivered, it just wasn’t in his nature to let someone down.

Outside of his working life Mike was well known in Sheffield and beyond, it was impossible to go anywhere without him bumping into a friend and he seemingly knew everyone. He was charming and effortlessly stylish, the best dressed man I have ever met and my sartorial guru. He loved to tell an anecdote, though he never strived to be centre of attention he would end up holding the room when he was talking, drawing people like a magnet. He was a great listener too and would always lend a sympathetic ear. When meeting someone he would often ask “what do you know”, this wasn’t a simple greeting or small talk, he was genuinely interested in hearing what people had to say and wanted to know everybody’s story.

His practical jokes were legendary. On one stand out occasion he convinced the vicar and his wife that they had volunteered to host a group of 35 boys for four hours football training including full catering each saturday for 6 weeks, starting in a few days time. It was some hours later when the vicar checked the date of the letter, April 1st and unjumbled the signature J M Sharm that he realised that he had been taken in. At some time most of his friends and colleagues have fallen foul to the same alter ego!

Other than family and his business’ Mike’s great love was music. He enjoyed nothing more than listening to live music, it didn’t matter whether he was listening to a start up band in a pub or an international star at a huge venue, if they could sing and play he loved it. He loved to dance and had some amazing moves, once the music was playing and he was in the groove there was no stopping him. He knew how to throw a party too, whether it was on behalf of the business or a family celebration his parties were always the place to be. He never considered himself a natural speaker, yet his speeches were always amazing- achingly funny, kind, insightful, charming and eloquent.

For everyone at PA Jewellery he will always be our leader. Though he’s no longer with us his words of wisdom will guide us in the years to come. No person could hope to fill his shoes, but with my co-directors Suzanne and Geoff, and with his beloved “work family” we will ensure that Mike’s legacy lives on in PA Jewellery.