When we founded The Irish Store, it was important to us to partner with traditional craftsmen to guarantee that the clothing, jewelry and homewares we ship around the world is both authentically Irish and of the highest quality.
The jewelry set with Connemara Marble by the third generation of the J C Walsh family is a special favorite from our collection. So we went to meet Stephen at their workshop in Rathfarnham, County Dublin, to learn more about the master craftsmanship that forges the beautiful Irish pieces our customers love. Like the Connemara Marble they have crafted for generations, we learned that the Walsh family story is one of a kind.
Can you tell The Irish Store community a little about yourself and the family business, Stephen?
Of course! My family have worked with the beautiful, green Connemara marble for three generations. Since we entered the business in the 19th century, we’ve taken huge pride in crafting Irish jewelry and gifts.
Can you tell us a little about Connemara Marble? What makes it so special?
Connemara Marble is special for a few reasons. It is unique to Ireland and Ireland is unique to it. Connemara Marble is Ireland’s only natural gemstone. Every piece is also unique. You won’t find the same shade and pattern in any two pieces. Its color is that uniquely Irish blend of green and grey, from pale green to sage and moss. Connemara Marble is the color of the Irish landscape, really! The gemstones we craft into jewelry was formed in Ireland over 900 Million years ago. Imagine wearing a piece of Ireland that’s millions of years old around your neck or on your finger! I think that’s why it’s so popular as a gift – you are giving someone a truly one of a kind piece of Ireland.
How did the Walsh family come to work with Connemara Marble?
The story of the Walsh family is the story of Connemara Marble! We own and the oldest marble quarry in Lissoughter, Co. Galway. The quarry opened in the 19th Century and in 1903, it was visited by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra during their royal tour of Connemara. Connemara marble is still extracted from there and transported to our workshop in Rathfarnham Village to be crafted into the jewelry we sell on The Irish Store.
Some of our favorite pieces from the Connemara Marble collection on TheIrishStore:
What do these pieces from your Connemara Marble collection mean to you?
The green hills of the west of Ireland come to mind when I hold these unique cubed Connemara marble rosary beads. I can see the view from the quarry in Galway where the gemstones were mined. When you hold the bracelet, you feel that it was handcrafted by a master of his trade. It has that extra special Irish religious significance. When you view these pieces together, you appreciate how unique each piece of Connemara Marble really is.
What’s the Irish connection with rosary beads?
Rosary beads have a long history in Ireland, pre-dating even the Walsh family! I’m very interested in the history of these things, given we’re continuing the tradition today. The rosary was widely said by medieval monks. The first Irish rosary beads were made by monks from monasteries in Cashel, Clonmacnoise and Glendalough. The monks used the horns of animals to fashion beautiful beads that would last. This quality, the beauty and strength of the beads, created a huge demand in medieval Europe. Quality, strength and beauty, are the most important things to us when we design and craft Connemara Marble rosary pieces today.
It sounds like you have a great interest in your job!
I love my job! I know the team at The Irish Store also appreciates how rewarding it is to deliver quality Irish jewelry to people who are passionate about Ireland. For me, the most satisfying thing about our business is seeing the marble in the ground and then watching what it becomes. In our workshops, we transform it, almost by magic, into the most beautiful jewelry. As I walk through the workshop here, I see pieces that are absolutely one of a kind. That’s nature’s gift to us. I get deep satisfaction from seeing a beautiful piece of nature come to life, crafted into something that will be worn around the world. I think it’s magic.
Why did you choose to sell your jewelry on The Irish Store?
The Irish Store is great for us. It brings our pieces from the workshop here in Rathfarnham Village to such a wide audience. The Irish Store offers a huge range of jewelry, clothing and homewares. It gives the customer the opportunity to find something really special and authentically Irish.