Meet the Irish man who has made his mark in the world of ‘Haute Joaillerie’
Nigel O’Reilly describes his native Mayo and the West of Ireland as a ‘well of inspiration’ for his creative process. It may seem like an odd location for someone who is at the very pinnacle of ‘Haute Joaillerie’, but it only takes a visit to this rugged and magical county to understand why you might not want to live anywhere else.
“International collectors travel to Ireland to sit with Nigel and create luxurious pieces of fine jewellery”
International collectors travel to Ireland to sit with Nigel and create luxurious pieces of fine jewellery, the personal interaction is paramount to his approach. O’Reilly offers a discreet and confidential service to his clients, meeting remotely or by appointment to co-create these small masterpieces: “I am driven by beauty, the beauty of the stone, beauty of my landscape in the West of Ireland. I find great satisfaction in the union between the piece and the person who wears it. When you are gifted something as rare as a gemstone it is your duty to realise its beauty.”
In 2020, Sotheby’s chose O’Reilly as their ‘Designer in the Spotlight’ for the annual ‘Important Jewels’ auction, noting his technical brilliance and his ability to form creative relationships with his clients, some of the world’s most discerning collectors.
“O’Reilly’s work is defined by the blending of ancient and modern techniques”
O’Reilly’s work is defined by the blending of ancient and modern techniques, his pieces are recognised for their vibrant and copious quantities of coloured gemstones. His distinctive gold lattice work is part of his signature, as are the generous undulating shapes. Clients who have been enchanted by these small works of extreme beauty include Julianne Moore and Saoirse Ronan.
Each item of O’Reilly’s is designed and created in-house, sourcing only the highest quality certified gemstones and fair-mined gold. The company has trained its own staff in areas of goldsmithing and diamond-setting, making his Castlebar studio one of the best in Europe for its level of in-house expertise.
“Each item is designed and created in-house, sourcing only the highest quality certified gemstones and fair-mined gold”
Nigel started his career in the world of precision engineering, creating vascular surgical devices and that career developed into a love for shaping metals and creating unusual pieces of ‘wearable art’.
O’Reilly’s work has the spark of genius, but like all great craftsmen, he acknowledges those who he learnt from. Firstly, the late master goldsmith and gemstone cutter Erwin Springbrun. Sprinbrun trained in Germany and spent many years in Switzerland. His interest in Celtic art was one of the reasons he found himself in Ireland, becoming an Irish citizen in 1990. Springbrun was particularly well known for his ability to reveal the innate luminescence of his gemstones.
Another important influence was Berlin-born Rudolf Heltzel. Heltzel developed his craft in Germany, then Sweden and was invited to Ireland in 1966 by the Irish Export Board (An Córas Trachtala) to establish a jewellery and metalsmith workshop training many of Ireland’s goldsmiths.
To find out more about O’Reilly and maybe even book an appointment – www.nigeloreilly.com
Photographs by Richard Foster and John Mee