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Don’t go Christmas shopping - go Christmas antiquing for gifts that keep on giving

Shop from the comfort of your home, or stroll down Dublin’s Francis Street, for the best vintage Christmas buys

Queues, overzealous sales personnel and repetitive jingles that chime in your head for days are reasons some of us find Christmas shopping tedious – not to mind the task of actually trying to choose a gift. The North American term “antiquing”, a word that has actually been around since 1728, is a much nicer way to seek out interesting pieces, rather than the mania of shopping centres.

If the thought of crowded streets fills you with dread, visit the Irish Antique Dealers Association (IADA) website. Representing 30 dealers nationwide, they have a section where you can find dealers in your area, many of whom sell online. Another resource is the Contemporary Art Gallery Association, representing superb modern galleries in the capital, should you decide to treat someone – or indeed yourself – to a work of art.

A ring to die for

It’s not something you see every day, but Weldon Antiques on Dublin’s Clarendon Street has a poison ring for sale in its antique collection (€45,000). From 1830, the gold ring has a natural, unheated velvety Kashmiri sapphire. Rings like this would have been used to carry poison hidden under the bezel and used to facilitate murder – or suicide in the case of ancient Romans captured in battle.

Over at Courtville Antiques in Powerscourt Townhouse, Matthew Weldon has some lovely art deco rings, including a nice cognac diamond-centred panel ring in platinum. Around the corner on Drury Street, it’s impossible to leave John Farrington’s shop without falling in love with something sparkly.


Lay the table

Francis Street is always great for a winter wander this time of year. O’Sullivan Antiques has some choice offerings for dining. Along with a heavy Wedgewood cobalt blue Jasperware domed cheese plate (€500-€1,000), is a fine 19th-century set of three cut glass whiskey decanters in original oak Tantalus, stamped Mappin and Webb, with a distinctive lock and key feature. Also, what would have been originally under lock and key, is a lovely 19th-century tea caddy with a cut crystal mixing bowl. Dating from about 1830, the quality suggests the piece was produced by Gillows of Lancaster.

Brian Behan Antique Galleries is a good place if you’re unsure, or just fancy a browse, as stock includes antiques, paintings and sculpture – including that of John Behan. If you’ve kept an empty space over the fireplace, waiting to find the mirror, Straffan Antiques in Kildare has a good selection to choose from, including a Victorian overmantel with rope twist detail (€4,750), a very elaborate Chippendale Rococo model, and an Irish 19th-century carved gilt wood mirror. There’s also a lovely 19th-century elm bobbin chair with a rush seat. Should you need a break, its Victorian tea rooms open all day.

Mid-century classics

Acquired has a super website paying homage to mid-century design. Its showroom, based in the Miller’s House in Stradbally, Co Laois, is on an appointment basis. A really cool cocktail set in parchment by Aldo Tura is in mint condition (€2,950), while also on offer are an Eileen Gray table lamp for Jumo (model N71), and a vintage Missoni wool rug.

Dress to impress

Keeping with vintage Missoni, Ella de Guzman of Siopaella, and Naomi Fitzgibbon of Vintage Finds You, are holding a pop-up shop, fusing their collections of vintage designer handbags, jewellery and couture. It takes place on Sunday from 1-6pm at Siopaella on Wicklow Street, and the pair will be on hand to advise on pieces from Chanel clutches, Hermès scarves and vintage couture.

Limerick arts

For the past eight years, a group of 16 artists and designers have been collaborating in Limerick, as the only arts and crafts co-operative in the city. Products range from jewellery, ceramics and knitwear to glass, wood, and skincare. Open Tuesday to Saturday on Lower Henry Street, the shop, Made in Limerick, is run by the designers themselves, so you can meet and chat with them if you’d like a special commission.

Presents of mind

Roger Grimes in Mayo is selling the late Vanessa Parker’s private library, which includes Seamus Heaney’s The Haw Lantern, first edition, signed as new; a very scarce edition of The Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker; and a whole lot more. For the season that’s in it, there’s A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, from 1845 (€1,850). As always, De Burca rare books in Blackrock has a dedicated Christmas catalogue so varied, it can be fun to just browse. From a rare photograph of Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley on the ice after the sinking of the HMS Endurance, to a signed first edition of John Millington Synge’s The Shadow of the Glen, Riders to the Sea.

The Georgian Society has Christmas gift suggestions on its website, with lovely books covering topics such as brickmaking in Ireland, botanical art, the history of Dublin and its mapping. Or you could just give the gift of membership – it’s a marvellous resource for anyone who’s bought an old house. Don’t forget the gift shop (and membership) at the National Gallery, which will run three new in-depth courses for 2024. As they’re online – you can gift to friends around the world – and they include a module on Art and the Irish in the Age of Decadence. Happy Christmas!

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

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