Not many people know this but the Queen of England, the 24th President of America and I have something in common – we each have gifts of custom-made jewellery crafted by Irish goldsmith and jewellery designer Declan Killen.
Declan was first commissioned to create a brooch for Queen Elizabeth for her State Visit here in 2010 without actually knowing for whom he was creating it, but it needed to be light enough to sit comfortably on a dress or a jacket.
The commission had, in fact, come from the office of then President Mary McAleese and after some design concepts were sent for her approval, she selected a beautiful Newgrange-themed brooch made up of ten small panels. So taken was the Queen with the gift that she wore it the very next day (see below) at a concert in her honour at The Convention Centre in Dublin. Cuff-links for Prince Philip for the same visit were also part of the commission.
A year later, in advance of President Barack Obama’s State Visit, President McAleese was back to Declan again and the chosen gift was his creation of a Celtic-themed set of cuff-links with which Mr. Obama is reported to be highly delighted (although it was more difficult to get a picture of his sleeve, as you can imagine!).
My gorgeous husband clearly recognised Declan’s talents long before our former President did and has bought several pieces of jewellery for me over the years from the same man! If I ever meet Lizzie or Barack, I will be sure to tell them!
Current Irish President Michael D. Higgins maintained the connection with Declan’s studio by commissioning a number of silver and 18-carat gold hallmarked jewellery pieces to present to the Heads of State on recent overseas visits.
Declan started his journey as a goldsmith and jewellery designer back in 1967 as a teenage apprentice to Peter Morgan in Dermot O’Connor Jewellery on Grafton Street, then the best equipped workshop of its kind in Europe. He later joined West Jewellers under the watchful eye of noted expert Patrick Flood, all the time learning the various aspects of the craft such as cutting, soldering and finishing, then first utilising those skills on such items as promotional charms for Liptons Supermarkets.
A course completed at the National College of Art gave him the design skills that could then be successfully transferred into jewellery design. In the ‘70s, he attended the annual Showcase Fair with Patrick Flood and by 1978 his first designs were shown at the Fair within the Flood Collection.
In 1985, Declan took big step into self-employment and it has clearly proven to be a very wise move. Marketing is largely by word-of-mouth to date while Facebook and his own website – www.declankillen.com – are also important promotional tools.
Today, his jewellery can be found in around 20 selected shops around the country including the Kilkenny Shop and House of Ireland, while a special collection is on show at the National Museum of Ireland. He also ships his creations overseas to numerous locations, especially the USA and Germany.
Prices range from €25 for earrings, rings and pendants to rather more expensive custom-designed one-offs made from the highest quality metals and jewels. Not only are his creations superb but his packaging is also very impressive.
My ‘Declan Killen’ possessions
My lovely gold pendant, pictured below, was bought for a significant birthday.
And earrings to match came a year later for Christmas. I have managed not to lose them, which if you knew my record with those particular items of jewellery, is a flipping miracle.
GG also bought me gold rings. One is a Russian Wedding ring made up of three interlocking gold, white gold and rose gold bands for our 25th wedding anniversary and another ring in the same style as the pendant specifically made for me by Declan for my 50th birthday.
Hints for looking after your jewellery
While in with Declan recently to get my jewels cleaned, he told me off in the nicest way possible – he is a very softly spoken man – about looking after my jewellery. Seemingly, my wearing all my rings when playing golf was having a detrimental effect on them. I now have pouches to put them safely in my golf bag.
He also gave me the following tips:
- Never ever spray perfume near your jewellery because it will tarnish the items.
- Never wear your rings when baking – the baking materials can stick to the stones, harden and then prevent light enhancing the stones.
- Clean diamonds, rubies and sapphires by leaving in hot water and Fairy liquid for half an hour then clean the stones with a soft baby toothbrush.
- White gold can go dull so needs to be professionally cleaned every two years or plated to maintain its lustre.
- Avoid off-the-shelf silver cleaners to clean silver jewellery – use a product called ‘Town Talk’ and be sure to rinse off in cold water after use.