Grafton Street loses some of its sparkle


West jewellers in Dublin will close today. As they look in the windows for the last time, shop customers share some of their memories with ROSITA BOLAND

TODAY, WEST jewellers on Grafton Street will close its doors for good. On Thursday, The Irish Timestalked to a few members of the public who were stopping to look in the windows; only two of the six had a display in them. The interior was empty of anything for sale, and just before 12.45pm, the door was locked, and a sign went up saying it was closed for lunch until 2pm.

“I should have imagined if they wanted to shift everything that was left they wouldn’t have closed for lunch,” observes one woman, wistfully eyeing diamond earrings in her own lunchbreak.

Everything still for sale is displayed in the two windows fronting on to Grafton Street (everything is half the marked price). They range from a large and rather startling gold and enamel brooch in the shape of a horse, which looks more like a mantelpiece ornament than a piece of jewellery (marked €4,200), to a diamond bracelet (€10,860) and a pair of gold cuff links resembling slabs of butter (€3,700).

The cuff links are briefly the subject of discussion with four teenage boys in school uniform, who have stopped to stare at them. “They’re €37,000!” one marvels. “Jaysus, no wonder they’re closing,” says another.

Rita Gallagher removes her leather glove to show off a large seven-stone diamond engagement ring in white gold, bought for her in West’s in 1975. “My mother’s ring was bought here, and so was mine and my sister’s,” she says. “Ever since then, West’s have cleaned and overhauled it, for free, as part of the service. I’m here today to ask their advice about who to go to now.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t have anything from West’s,” admits Kathleen Watkins, “but I do like those earrings.” (If her husband, Gay Byrne – interviewed on page 7 – is reading this, they are the only heart-shaped diamond earrings in the window, and they cost €3,800.)

Marie, who did not want to give her surname, is wearing four diamond eternity rings on one finger alone. She is on a mission. “It’s 45 years since I was in West’s,” she says. “I went in with my mother, who wanted to buy an emerald ring. She picked out one, and it was very expensive; Daddy was always very good at buying her jewellery. And the assistant – I will never forget this – said: ‘Modom, ladies only wear that sort of thing when they’re digging the garden.’ He made it clear she hadn’t chosen one that was expensive enough. I haven’t been back to West’s since, but I’ve come back to tell them that I now have plenty of emerald rings, and I happily wear them to dig my garden.”

A woman in a fur coat who declines to give her name is in search of “little gold bracelets at half price for First Communion presents”. She is not looking for anything for herself.

“My husband died last year, but not before he gave me the biggest diamond ring ever,” she declares briskly, flashing a solitaire with the diameter of an eyeball.

“I have my eye on those cuff links,” says Billy Morrison, indicating in the direction of the gold slabs the schoolboys thought were 10 times their actual price. “It’s sad to see the shop go. It’s another bit of the old Dublin traditions going . . . But at the same time, I never bought anything here, so I’m part of the fault that it’s closing.”