Tangled up in jewellery and art

Prints from renowned singer Bob Dylan, as well as jewellery from the trailblazing Marika Murnaghan for auction this week

Though her life was cut tragically short, the influence silversmith Marika Murnaghan had on the 1960s jewellery scene in Ireland was quite incredible.

Born on the Swedish island of Örebro in 1940, she studied jewellery design and silversmithing at Konstfack in Stockholm from 1963 until 1965.

That same year she wed Denis Murnaghan, who she had met a few years previously on holiday in Cork. She then began her foray into the world of Irish jewellery design, joining Seabhac in Sallynoggin, where she took the 1968 National Craft Jewellery Award at the RDS, after which she embarked on a solo career on Dublin’s South King Street.

By the time of her death from Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1988, aged just 48, she had employed 40 people at her studio, with her covetable eponymous works for sale in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Airport, Grafton Street and London. She was one of the first business in the country to cast precious metals, and was the first person in Ireland to have a piece hallmarked in platinum.


The Hallmarking Act of 1981 brought into effect a standard and platinum hallmark for the first time in Ireland, and, to mark the occasion, the Dublin Assay Office organised a public ceremony and design competition for the first piece to bear the stamp of authenticity.

The piece, a platinum comb Murnaghan designed, is now on display at the Dublin Assay Office, while her designs also form part of the collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks.

She is described in Irish Craft Heroes – the book marking the 50th anniversary of the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland – as “a breath of fresh air in the world of Irish jewellery design”, while her employment of 40 people as a “unique achievement for a modern jewellery company in Ireland”.

An exhibition of her life’s work was held at Hendriks Gallery (now Shanahan’s on the Green) where a Marika silver seal was presented to former taoiseach Charles Haughey, followed by a tribute to her on The Late Late Show.

Forty-five pieces from her estate form part of the 277 lots at O’Reilly’s of Francis Street online design sale, which will take place from October 26th to 28th.

The top lot is a silver bowl bearing her MM initials, hallmarked Dublin 1980 (€800–€1,200) and a selection of her signature sterling silver collar neckpieces range from €150–€300. Works by George L’Enfant for Hermes, Bvlgari, Boucheron and Fred are also represented. oreillysfineart.com

John Weldon of Temple Bar says the Tiffany & Co diamond ring in his auction on Tuesday, October 18th is “one of the best three stone rings we have ever offered for sale”. Set in platinum with a 1.5 carat centre stone flanked by two side diamonds (estimated to weigh a carat each) the piece is listed at €15,000–€25,000.

Another nice lot with the wow factor is an art deco ‘important diamond and emerald bracelet’ dated Christmas 1930, (€8,000–€10,000).

The news of the Cartier Cheich watch having achieved a cool $1.1 million (€1.1m) last week, appears to be having a knock on effect within secondary markets.

Weldon’s sale has a selection of Cartier watches on offer: an 18ct gold Panthère Ronde (€3,000–€4,000); an 18ct gold Ellipse (€1,000–€2,000); and a tank watch, also in 18ct gold priced at €500–€800. Larger gents sized watches include a Cartier Santos 100 automatic at €3,500–€4,500, while the sale also lists a Breitling Bentley GT (€2,500–€3,500).

This Monday, October 17th, Whyte’s has a number of well-priced works in its online auction. It’s a great place to begin a collection, with paintings starting at €50–€70, while a selection of books and catalogues on Jack and John Butler Yeats, and Thomas Ryan – which is signed by the artist as is Kenneth Webb’s A Life in Colour, by J Walpole – would make nice Christmas gifts (€100–€150 each).

A number of oil landscapes by Fergal Flanagan are listed at €150–€200, while Vincent Sheridan’s etchings, Delegation, and Tribunal (both €150–€200), will bring a smile, as will the comical ink and pencil drawings by Rowel Boyd Friers (€150–€200 each).

While it can be a risk to purchase a work of art as a gift, as the old adage different strokes for different folks always (and thankfully) holds true, there are four works in the sale by one of the world’s most influential cultural icons, Bob Dylan, so for some, their value goes beyond the aesthetic.

The four giclée prints, all from The Drawn Blank Series 2008, are printed on museum quality Hahnemüle etching paper, to mirror the texture of the sketchbooks in which Dylan originally drew them. Unframed, all four are listed at €1,500–€2,000 each, signed by the Nobel laureate and Grammy Award-winning musician, and are accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Washington Green Fine Art. whytes.ie

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables