Diamonds are an Irish girl’s best friend

Seventy per cent of buyers at Dublin jewellery auctions are women and diamonds are the number one seller according to auctioneer

A 3.08ct diamond cluster ring, €24,000- €26,000

A 3.08ct diamond cluster ring, €24,000- €26,000


Irish women’s favourite jewellery is “diamonds, diamonds and more diamonds” according to Michael Jordan, managing director of O’Reilly’s Auction Rooms on Dublin’s Francis Street. And he should know. The family-run business, founded by his maternal grandfather in 1948, is the country’s biggest auctioneer of antique and modern jewellery with up to 5,000 lots going under the hammer every year.

Staff at the self-styled “people’s auctioneer” expect the usual “queues three-deep” when viewing begins tomorrow, ahead of next week’s monthly auction. Attendance has “doubled” since the economic crisis began and 70 per cent of buyers are women - mostly aged in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Solitaire diamond rings with “high-colour, high-clarity” stones are the most sought-after item but there’s also demand for bracelets, necklaces, earrings and brooches. Other gems popular with Irish buyers – although a long way behind diamonds – are, in order of sales: sapphires, emeralds and rubies.

Women are buying the jewellery to wear “for adornment” but also “with an eye to investment”. And, according to the auctioneer, there is “good value”, with prices up to two-thirds lower than for jewels of equivalent quality bought new in Grafton Street.

Many of the clients are, like the firm itself, “third-generation” but there has been a noticeable increase recently in new buyers seeking pieces, particularly gold items, for investment purposes. This trend bears out the findings of a survey by Barclays bank last year which showed precious jewellery to be the most popular category of fine art, antiques and collectibles among “high net worth” individuals. The report concluded that among jewellery’s attributes were that: it doesn’t require upkeep, won’t deteriorate over time and can be “easily transported in the event of an emergency”.

Among the highlights in next week’s auction are: lot 133, a diamond cluster ring, featuring old cut diamonds surrounding a central stone of “3.08 ct, J colour, VS1 clarity”, estimated at €24,000-€26,000; lot 168, an Art Déco diamond plaque bracelet (€22,000-€25,000); and, lot 128, a sapphire and diamond cluster ring, €5,000-€6,000.

So who is selling? Jordan said many of the items being consigned to auction are from executors and trustees, people de-cluttering and, sometimes, “women trading up, selling maybe 10 pieces of mid-range jewellery to buy one really good piece”.

Other consignments come from “people who need cash” and who are, he says pleasantly surprised when they come in to have items valued. People often buy gold and silver with an eye to the “rainy day”, he said, and “this is the rainy day”.

Despite a wobble in the price of gold on international commodity markets this week, the yellow metal is a big seller at O’Reilly’s and is primarily bought as “an out-and-out investment”.

Examples in the auction include lot 135, a chunky Victorian 18 ct gold trombone-link Albert necklace of a type becoming increasingly rare as “many are disappearing into the pot” to be melted down. The estimate is €2,200-€2,500.

And what about men? They buy jewellery as gifts for wives, girlfriends and daughters, said Jordan, but, if buying for themselves, they mainly buy watches. The prestigious international brands such as Rolex, Cartier and Patek Philippe are particularly popular and a “pre-owned” model at auction can be bought for “about one-third” of the retail price.

Among examples in next week’s sale is lot 266, a gent’s vintage Patek Philippe 18ct gold bracelet wristwatch, estimated at €3,000-€4,000.

Viewing at O’Reilly’s tomorrow, Sunday, April 21st from noon-4pm. Auction on Wednesday, April 24th at 1pm.