Arts&Antiques: Bling for the boys at Dublin jewellery auction

Cufflinks, tie-pins, watches and a diamond and sapphire brooch for the more daring

O’Reilly’s of Francis Street Fine Jewellery auction, which will take place in an online sale this Wednesday, February 24th, features a number of lots of interest to men.

Until Victorian times, men adorned themselves with jewellery as much, if not more, than women but their jewellery was rooted in functionality.

Pirates wore big gold hoop earrings, not as a fashion statement, but as insurance should their body be washed up on a shore, where the gold would pay for a decent burial.

Even gunners wore earrings, the function being that they held earplugs which were inserted as cannons fired to protect their hearing. Intaglio or signet rings were used as wax seals as well as to indicate position in society in ancient Rome.


Egyptian men believed that jewellery attracted the attention of the gods, so the more they wore, the better they stood out among their peers. In royal circles, jewels meant wealth and a symbol of power. Henry VIII had no less than 234 rings along with 324 brooches in his collection, and Sir Walter Raleigh's matching pearl earring and droplet that he wore on his cape, feature in most of his portraits.

But perhaps the 'king of bling' title goes to Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, who in 1928 commissioned Cartier to create a five-tier diamond and ruby festoon necklace. It was made from Burmese rubies and almost three thousand diamonds including a cushion-cut 235 carat yellow diamond, which the 34-year old wore together with diamond brooches and earrings.

Known as the Patiala Necklace, it disappeared from the Royal Treasury in 1948, and reappeared in bits and pieces three decades later. It is estimated, that if in its original form today it would be worth in the region of €25m.

In O’Reilly’s sale, along with a selection of cufflinks that range in estimates from €50–€80 for an antique silver set with blue enamel, all the way up to a pair of 14ct yellow gold in knot design (€500–€600), is a set of six gold-plated buttons in a leather case which would make a statement on a tuxedo shirt (lot 419, €100–€200).

Watches include an Omega Constellation quartz, stamped 10 carat gold (lot 445, €250–€450), an 18 carat gold Rolex Cellini with baton markers (lot 433, €3,500–€4,500) and a pre-1920s gold-plated Elgin timepiece with a military style strap (lot 456, €100–€150).

For the more daring, lot 58 is a diamond and sapphire brooch in the form of a rifle (€850–€950) and there’s a ruby and pearl brooch in the form of a rapier (lot 239, €230–€280).

If you are in search of a tie pin, lots 101 is a Victorian diamond and pearl model mounted in gold in an antique case (€500–€800) and the sale lists three men’s rings. The first is an 18ct gold Claddagh model by Lee Brothers Dublin from 1967 (€250–€350) followed by an unusual octagonal lapis lazuli set in 18ct gold (lot 195, €450–€550) and a vintage college ring with enamel decoration (lot 59, €260–€300).

Important pieces in the women’s section include a three-stone diamond ring with a total of 5 carats of diamonds (lot 260, €38,000–€42,000), and pair of diamond solitaire earrings weighing 2 carats each (lot 297, €18,000–€20,000).

Two really lovely lots are 149, which is an incredible gem set bracelet with sapphires, rubies and peridot (€3,300–€3,800) and lot 138, which is a smashing art deco diamond and emerald brooch (€5,000–€7,000) of which Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh would most certainly have approved.