Amazing Ethical Jewelry From A Surprising Source: Afghanistan

One of the more unusual things on the market right now is a line of high profile gold and gemstone jewelry from Afghanistan, being brought to market by London’s Pippa Small. Ms. Small works with a non-profit government agency in Kabul called Turquoise Mountain, to export stunning pieces made by a wide range of young men and women in the old city. Turquoise Mountain is the result of a project started in 2006 by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Prince of Wales, meant to revive an ancient tradition of crafts in the country that years of Taliban rule had almost wiped out. The involvement of Ms. Small has given a big boost to the project, as she’s sold the Afghan pieces to celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine and Eva Longoria. Pippa Small has worked on other “ethical” jewelry...

After 80 Years, There Will Be A Single Thatched Cottage Again In The Claddagh Village

The Galway City government tore down the last traditional cottage in the Claddagh some 80 years ago. Now, it appears that just one of the old style cottages is about to be rebuilt. The Claddagh (which translates as “stony shore”) was a fishing village located just outside the old city walls of Galway. After centuries of supporting a unique culture that fascinated Irish writers and artists, the village died out due to competition from modern fishing trawlers, deteriorating buildings and a tuberculosis epidemic in the late 20’s the decimated the population. By 1934, the Galway city council had ripped down all the old thatched roof cottages, to begin the process of building a wonderfully bland government housing development. But the Claddagh ring design, which emerged from the village in the 1700’s, has become a worldwide symbol that...

Fede Rings – The Absolutely Original Claddagh Rings

“Fede” rings, which were worn in many European countries in medieval and even Roman times, are inspiration for what we now call Claddagh Rings. The word “fede” is derived from the Italian “mani in fede,” which translates either as “hands joined in loyalty” or “hands joined together in faith.” As the name would suggest, this type of ring features a design showing two hands clasped together. They were given as engagement rings for hundreds of years across the continent. The Claddagh Ring we know today ads a heart with a crown on top to the old fede design. When this more complex mofit came into being, or even when this type of ring appeared in Ireland at all, isn’t something historians agree on. What they do know is that Claddagh Rings were being made in the old Claddagh village in Galway as far back as 1740....

3D Printing: The Next Big Thing In Celtic Jewelry?

By Mary Ware 3D printers are already creating everything from toys to medical implants. But what about jewelry? Well, a whole slew of new software products are gradually being adopted by jewelry designers, Celtic and otherwise, to create amazing new pieces. The good news for designers: they don’t have to be “techies” to create a ring, pendant or other bauble through a 3D printer. More Intricate Than Ever At London’s International Jewelry Design Exhibition this past September, one company called Delcam showcased an innovation that pushes the envelope on creativity and efficiency in jewelry design. It’s latest version of ArtCAM JewelSmith CAD/CAM software, created for “designers not engineers,” allows jewelry designers to craft intricate pieces on a computer screen and then manufacture them in gold, silver and just about any other...

Alternatives To Traditional Diamond Engagement Rings

All of a sudden, everyone’s talking about making a different choice when it comes to an engagement ring. And that’s not good news for diamond marketers whose products have, for years, been the automatic choice for lovers about to tie the knot. If you’re a guy about to propose to your lady love, will you look like a schnook if you offer her an engagement ring without the sparkle of a diamond? It may depend on how much importance your girl places on tradition -- or how much she discounts marketing messages. One of the main reasons women have always expected diamonds is that mega-diamond merchant De Beers has spent millions over many years on ad programs proclaiming that diamonds are “a mark of achievement” for a man and that “diamonds are forever.” It may not be worth dropping several months of your salary on a diamond if your girl...

Irish Landowner Certificate – A Wacky Way To Buy Into The Old Sod

We’ve seen gift ideas that include naming stars or planets after someone, so it’s little wonder that there's now a terrestrial gift for those who want their name on a piece of Ireland. For just 15 Euro, you can purchase a small plot of land on a farm in County Donegal owned by the McLaughlin Family. It’s a very small plot indeed: just one square inch of the old sod. At that rate, if you want to go to Ireland and stand on your plot of land, you’ll need to do it on a pogo stick. You have to love the McLaughlin family’s marketing intelligence. With a purchase, you receive a certificate of ownership with “traditional Celtic style writing” in a lovely collector’s box. Both items are significantly larger than your plot of land. The Landowner Certificate is offered as “a unique Irish Corporate gift,” a wedding or party favor...

Famous Wearers Of The Claddagh Ring

Claddagh rings have certainly found a place among the rich and famous, particularly in hollywood and in politics. Many Irish jewelers will tell you that one of the biggest boosts their trade has received in recent years is the prominent use of a Claddagh ring in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series, where both Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz sport the famous Irish symbol. But the Claddagh has popped up on many other famous hands over the years, even though some of them have no Irish heritage.Rock Star Jim MorrisonActress Julia Roberts (gift from Daniel Day Lewis)Walt Disney (who’s Claddagh ring is depicted on his statue in Disneyland)Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, King Edward VII and King George V of England. Curious, given the contentious state of relations between England and Ireland in their time.Bill ClintonMia...

One Famous Irish Matchmaker Still Plies His Trade

In 2009 I was staying with my wife and two young sons at a lovely B&B in Liscannor, Co. Clare. When we asked our innkeeper where to go for a horse trek, she directed us to the horse farm of one Willie Daly in nearby Ennistymon. “He’s also a famed matchmaker” she added. “Matchmaker?” We weren’t too sure what that meant in the modern world. Focused on having a ride, we located Mr. Daly’s horse farm in it’s secluded rural location, and found him to be a very amiable, quietly eccentric sort of fellow. I remember him wearing a horse riding helmet, cocked oddly to one side, as a way of showing us the importance of wearing protective headgear. Our lazy horse trek through the surrounding area was a pure delight. A Big ReputationWe never asked about matchmaking, but in the years since then I’ve realized that Mr. Daly enjoys an outsized...

What’s The True Meaning of Craic?

Any American who spends much time in Ireland is going to start hearing an awful lot of a word that may be a bit mysterious. “It was good craic.” “Where’s the craic?” “The craic was ninety!” What are all these Irish people craicing up over? Well, for starters, the word is pronounced “crack,” not “crayc” as the spelling might suggest. Imported From ScotlandIt’s a word that symbolizes camaraderie and a good time, things that are in pretty strong supply in Ireland. The word itself has an curious history. “Crack” seems to have been used in England and Scotland in the early 19th century to mean “news.” Asking a person “what’s the crack” would simply mean you’d be asking them what their news is or, more simply, how they are. In some books, crack seems to be used to describe simple “chat” or gossip.” In...