I have always had an interest in jewellery – well, that is, I loved wearing it! I remember being a teenager and having rings on almost every finger. Yellow gold was definitely my preferred choice of precious metal back then, but with time and age my preferences changed along with my style. Now, the only rings you’ll catch me wearing are those on my wedding finger, which were designed by my husband, Darren, and made by my uncle and godfather, Vincent.
Vincent O’Neill, or Vinny O’Neill as he is affectionately known, was a well-established goldsmith based in South Anne Street, just off Grafton Street, in Dublin city centre. When I was younger, any time that my family and I were in Dublin either visiting relatives or shopping, I always popped in to see my uncle because I was fascinated by what he did. People would see something they liked, whether it was in a magazine or a shop window, and they’d bring a picture of it to Vincent. He not only would make it for them, but he would make it so much better. This is exactly what happened when it came to my turn to have a piece of jewellery made. Darren, after months of getting my friend, Lisa, to interrogate me (subtly) about what type of engagement ring I would like, unbeknownst to me, finally went to Vincent with a picture of what he wanted to propose to me with, and Vincent, of course, made it far better than Darren could ever have imagined. See that is the thing about Vincent; not only is he a very talented goldsmith, he is also one of the nicest and most generous human beings you could ever meet – nothing was ever too much for him.
Growing up in a family of 11 children, Vincent was placed as an apprentice at the age of 16 – by his tutor in technical college – to O’Connor’s Jewellers in Dublin where he spent four years learning his trade and developing his craft. At the end of his apprenticeship, he – along with two of his colleagues – set up their own wholesale jewellery business in Dublin which was a great success. A few years later, he married his lovely wife (who also happens to be my godmother) and they decided to emigrate to Canada. There, he continued working in the jewellery business and was quite in demand.
Having spent ten years living and working in Canada, Vincent and his wife returned to Dublin where he, again, set up his own wholesale jewellery business – Goldfinger – which, of course, was a great success. Vincent had a great reputation in Dublin, and he had a great clientele who came back to him time and time again. I am one of over 30 nieces and nephews of Vincent’s and, for those of us who got engaged or married before he retired, we were lucky enough to have our jewellery made by him. At the age of 71, having spent 55 years in the jewellery business, he made the tough decision to sell his business to a colleague and retire.
I know that I am only designing my own jewellery and not making it myself, unlike Vincent, but a little part of me feels that I am doing him proud in following down a similar path to his. I do regret, however, not taking the opportunity to go into the field of jewellery making. After all, I loved studying metal work in school and I was actually pretty good at it, but now, at 36 years of age and with two young children to rear, I think that my days of studying are well and truly over – well, for the foreseeable future anyway.