A short step along St Stephen’s Green from the Merrion Hotel, Grafton Street and its environs is the place to go for gold, silver and precious stones. Established in 1869 Weir and Sons is a Dublin institution, and fanning out from Grafton Street are places to discover everything from antique pieces, to Celtic Claddagh rings, to cutting edge diamond gems.
Ireland has a rich heritage in gold and silver design. The famous Ardagh Chalice and Tara Brooch, which are on view at the National Museum in Kildare Street, date from the seventh to eighth centuries, and are masterpieces in the intricate use of gems, glass and filigree work. You can see their legacy in classic Celtic designs, such as the ubiquitous Claddagh ring, in which two hands hold a crowned heart. These were, and still are, given and worn to represent love, loyalty and friendship, and custom dictates that when worn with the point of the heart towards the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship, and when it points away, the owner may well be looking for love.
What fewer people know is that there is an exciting new generation of jewellery designers making their mark with some very want-able contemporary pieces. Some makers, such as Alan Ardiff, Juvi and Chupi Sweetman are already well known in Ireland, while international collectors have long been lusting over, and snapping up Angela O’Kelly’s pieces, which are almost sculptures in their own right.
The strength of Irish jewellery design is in part thanks to the Design and Craft Council’s Jewellery and Goldsmithing course, which encourages students to push boundaries, while mastering the practical and traditional skills. So, what better souvenir of your trip to this beautiful city than something to shine alongside you, all the way home? Here’s a selection of sparkling shops to get you started:
At Stonechat in the Westbury Mall, goldsmith Ann Chapman believes that jewellery is both an emotional and an extremely personal purchase. “People don’t always realise that you can own a piece of jewellery, handmade in Ireland, from just €60,” she says. “They forget that high street brands come with a matching price tag: 50% of the price can be just for the logo.” Find a selection of Ann’s own designs, as well as work by other contemporary jewellers in her friendly shop, where you can also see the pieces being made. Bespoke work is a speciality too.
Featured earlier this year in the New York Times, MoMuse in the Powerscourt Centre stocks the work of its owner, designer Margaret O’Rourke, alongside choice finds. Expect classic styles with a contemporary twist, restrained elegance, plus witty touches. Tiny Swarovski crystal skull earrings hanging by a delicate gold thread anyone? And while you’re in the Powerscourt Centre, do take a look in to some of the antique shops there, and on the adjacent Johnson’s Court, for pieces with a history.
At Barry Doyle Design in the Georges Street Arcade, you’ll find traditionally inspired designs from his Modern Celtic range, which includes entwined gold and silver hearts, Claddagh rings, and Celtic twist designs, alongside more contemporary classics such as the sweetly seductive gold vermeil and silver bowl collection – scooped silver earrings and pendants that glow with gold.
Lovers of the complete cutting edge should head to Om Diva on Drury Street. Behind the bright pink façade, and alongside the vintage treasures, the real finds in this one-of-a-kind Dublin shop are in the Atelier 27 selection – where the work of the best and most exciting new Irish designers are showcased. Find perspex treasures from Capulet & Montague, that are guaranteed to turn heads and start conversations; as well as statement pieces by Kayleigh Forsythe, Aliquo and Dee McKiernan.
Trained in New York, Louise Stokes of Loulerie on Chatham Street also stocks her own designs, a recent collection having been inspired by the sea, with gentle, feminine curves. As well as stocking a range of other exciting designers, Louise can also help you set a stone you love, or transform a piece of jewellery that just isn’t sparkling for you any more.