13 August 2015

Jewels at the National Museum of Ireland



Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

When I visited the Emerald Isle for the first time this June, much of my time was spent frolicking about the country's gorgeous landscapes -- including the famous Cliffs of Moher, pictured above. (Yes, the sky really was that blue the entire time I was there!) But, being me, I also had to take a bit of time to scout out some of the centuries-old jewelry on the island. First stop was today's featured location: the Decorative Arts and History branch of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

(Please note that all of the photographs in this post were taken by me and may not be used without my permission. Thanks!)


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

The museum is housed in Collins Barracks, which was previously a garrison housing first British and then Irish troops. Because the museum covers both decorative arts and history, there's a wide range of content inside, from exhibits on the Easter Rising to rooms full of silver and retrospectives on Irish fashion. Tucked away in a room on one of the upper floors you'll also find several cases full of antique jewelry. Here are some of my favorite pieces on display, including some with royal connections!



Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

Shell Cameo of the Duke of York

This shell cameo brooch was carved in Rome in 1827 by Paolo Neri. The cameo is believed to depict Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Frederick was the second son of George III and, from 1820 until his death in 1827, heir presumptive to the British throne. If the cameo does depict Frederick, it may have been carved as a memento after his death.


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

Victorian Claddagh Rings

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish piece of jewelry that is packed with symbolism. The heart represents love, the crown represents loyalty, and the hands represent friendship. The rings were apparently originally produced in the 17th century in Claddagh, a town in Galway. This pair of golden Claddagh rings was made in Waterford by Thomas Dillon in 1846. Sometimes the rings are used as wedding rings (as these likely were), but they're also often passed down from mother to daughter. Fittingly, my mom bought me a silver Claddagh ring at a market outside Dublin as a souvenir of the trip -- I think pieces of jewelry are the best way to remember a trip! The way you wear the Claddagh ring is also symbolic; since I'm in a relationship but not married, I wear mine on my right hand with the point of the heart facing toward my wrist.


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

Amethyst Hair Comb

This early nineteenth-century hair comb was one of my favorite pieces in the entire collection -- it definitely looks fit for a princess, and it would sparkle like mad in a candlelit ballroom! The comb features purple amethysts combined with paste stones. The metal features a finish called ormolu, which was achieved by applying an amalgam of gold and mercury to a bronze base and heating it in a kiln. You'll sometimes see the final product called "gilt bronze."


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

Amethyst Demi-Parure

The necklace, brooch, and earrings from this amethyst and gold demi-parure weren't displayed alongside the hair comb, but I'd definitely wear them as a married parure! This set was produced sometime between 1820 and 1830, and the amethysts are set in two kinds of gold work: filagree and cannetille.


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

The Queen's Brooch

In August 1849, Queen Victoria made her very first visit to Ireland, even amid the lingering trauma of the Famine. (Pretty questionable political timing, if you ask me, but ultimately the visit apparently went well.) To mark her visit, the administration at Trinity College commissioned a copy of the Cavan brooch, made around 800 AD and rediscovered in the nineteenth century in Lough Ramor in County Cavan. The piece is an example of a pennanular brooch, worn by both men and women to secure the fabric of their garments; here's an image that shows how they're worn with fabric. Victoria's brooch was made by Edmond Johnson for West and Son in Dublin, using Wicklow gold and a pearl sourced from Lough Eske in Donegal. After Victoria's death in 1901, the brooch was given to the museum by her son, the Duke of Connaught.


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

Bog Oak Bracelet

Wood buried for centuries or even millenia in peat bogs is known as "bog wood" or "bog oak," and in the ninteenth century, it was a fashionable material for jewelry. This carved bog oak bracelet features two important Irish symbols: the shamrock and the Celtic harp.


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

Irish Diamond Necklace

Dating to around 1860, this necklace of shamrocks with a central Celtic harp is made of "Irish diamonds" -- another name for pyrite (which is also sometimes called "fool's gold"). The "diamonds" here may not be genuine, but you would not believe the way they sparkled under the display lights! I'd wear Irish diamonds any day of the week.


Image © The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce without permission.

Irish Diamond Bracelet

And even better, there's a matching bracelet! Irish diamonds for everybody!


Have you been to the museum at Collins Barracks? What were your favorite pieces?