Master goldsmith who made his home in Ireland

Erwin Springbrunn: March 7th, 1939 - December 27th, 2016

Erwin Springbrunn, who has died aged 76, was a prizewinning master gold- and silversmith.

The National Museum owns one of his pieces and has expressed an interest in acquiring more. The London goldsmith David McCaul described him as “one of the finest gem-cutters in Europe” while former clients have referred to him as “inspirational” and “a man of total integrity with so many endearing qualities” whose pieces were “crafted with love and skill to mark happy occasions”.

Sprinbrunn was born in Bremerhaven in northern Germany, where his father, Wilfried, and his mother, Klara Felst, ran two cinemas.

He received his primary and secondary schooling locally and was apprenticed at 15 in the workshop of the goldsmith and jewellery shop Hornung in Bremerhaven.


Master silversmith

Because he was a dedicated and accomplished student, his employer afforded him a year at the Higher State Art School in Schwäbisch-Gmünd. Following experience in different German workshops, he did his final exam in 1965 in Aachen to get the prestigious title of master gold and silversmith.

From 1967 to 1984 he worked in Switzerland, first as a foreman in a workshop and then in his own studio in Hindelbank.

He had married in Germany and had two sons and one daughter with his first wife. Business was booming, but so was the pressure and stress. He got divorced and when he met Doris Selz, who was a divorcee with three sons, they decided to seek another life in another country.

Springbrunn had long been interested in Celtic art and history and the couple made Ireland their home, settling in Frenchpark, Co Roscommon.

They planned to become self-sufficient from their garden and then to open a goldsmith studio.

Participation in exhibitions in Dublin’s Mansion House led to Springbrunn being sent by Córas Tráchtála, the Irish export board, to exhibit in London. This led to further exhibitions in Europe and the US.

Unique pieces

Springbrunn created only one-off pieces, mostly in his own alloy of 18-karat gold. No design was ever repeated. His work changed dramatically when he came to Ireland, in that it became more flowing, shaped by a life of organic self-sufficiency. The energy provided by working on their organic farm greatly influenced and inspired his designs.

The piece bought by the National Museum, a golden brooch with an opal, may be seen in Collins Barracks.

He did substantial commission works for various churches and for Knock Shrine, where, in 2004, the new crown for the statue of the Virgin Mary was unveiled. Other “public” works include replicas of the Tara and Ardagh brooches and special pendants for presidents Robinson and McAleese.

As well as being a master gold and silversmith, he was a gemstone cutter and, apart from diamonds, he mostly imported the stones he cut directly from the mines. Size did not interest him but that the stone reflected all the light that he wanted it to.

He and Doris became Irish citizens in 1990 and he regarded his 32 years here as the best in his life. He is survived by Doris, sons Hinerk and Rasmus, daughter Wiebke and stepsons Dorin, Julian and Anjan.