Nigel O’Reilly is a jewellery designer and goldsmith whose work is defined by the blending of ancient and modern techniques with vibrant and voracious quantities of coloured gemstones. His recognisable gold latticework is a signature of his brand, as are generous volumes and undulating shapes. Clients who enjoy these calling cards are those who return time and time again for bespoke pieces. O’Reilly works only to technical perfection, using innovative technology and ancient tradition to ensure that every angle of every piece is open to microscopic scrutiny.  

O’Reilly’s reputation for his artistic masterpieces has gleaned numerous accolades in previous years; from international features in publications such as Forbes US, The New York Times, The Financial Times, ELLE (USA) and Town and Country Magazine. Nigel O'Reilly’s high-jewellery collection has been worn by celebrities such as Maya Hawke, Julianne Moore, Saoirse Ronan, Hailee Steinfeld and more.  

Working with international bodies, his collections have been showcased at The Dubai Expo, The Florida Palm Beach Show, along with sales and exhibitions through Sotheby’s New York and Sotheby’s Los Angeles, and within the exclusive Jewellery Rooms of Bergdorf Goodman, Manhattan, New York, the pinnacle of US luxury.

Back at home in the west of Ireland, Nigel creates his pieces within his County Mayo studio and has one exclusive stockist in Ireland, Ashford Castle, where he is resident Master Goldsmith. O’Reilly meets guests at the Castle, and his masterpieces are available to view in the Castle Boutique.

Nigel O'Reilly pendant

What is it that has drawn you to work in goldsmithing and diamond setting and what sets you apart from others?

My approach was forged by the exposure to excellence. I started my professional life in engineering, but creativity moved me in the direction of jewellery. Following my formal training I worked closely with, and learned from, the late master goldsmith and gemstone cutter Erwin Springbrunn. Internationally recognised and highly influential, Springbrunn believed in the mystery and potential of each individual gemstone and carried each one on his person until he designed a piece that reflected its inherent qualities.

For me, the cut and colour of the stone is the starting point. I consider, understand, and then advance the potential of the gemstone. Each piece is unique, from the stone itself to my treatment of it in design and execution. In 2009 I founded my studio in the west of Ireland. I believe in working only to technical perfection, using both innovative technology and ancient tradition to ensure that every angle of every piece is open to microscopic scrutiny. Pushing for technical brilliance in the pieces I have created and the personal creative relationships I have with the world’s most discerning jewellery collectors, allows my creativity to flourish.  

I would say my work is defined by a bold use of colour and form and a passion for the advancement of design within high jewellery. I love working with vibrant and voracious quantities of coloured gemstones, generous volumes and undulating shapes of metal and precious stones. My clients love to return, time and time again for uniquely sculpted pieces and one-of-a-kind jewels. They sometimes bring their own existing heirloom gemstones, so that they can sit with me and we can reimagine these rare gemstones into new creations, at Ashford Castle.

Nigel O'Reilly design

For the past decade, you have been creating for some of the world’s most luxurious jewellery houses. When you could be anywhere in the world, why choose the west of Ireland?

I feel like I am driven by beauty, the beauty of our landscape in the west of Ireland, the rigorous beauty of a gemstone from nature. When you are gifted something as rare as a gemstone it is your duty to realise its potential. I can't help but be inspired living in a place like this; being in the west of Ireland gives you the freedom to be truly creative coupled with the luxury of having time. Time is the most important thing when you are trying to push the boundaries of what you are creating by hand.

Commissioning pieces from my studio is an experience out of time; it’s almost a pilgrimage, requiring clients and collectors to experience the land and atmosphere which motivates me and is so present in my work. When collectors travel from far corners of the globe, they stay at Ashford Castle as it truly immerses them within this landscape that so inspires what I can create for them. We develop a bond, creating precious memories using precious materials.

Meet Nigel O'Reilly

Your pieces are all so different, unique, and interesting. You work with many coloured gemstones, what draws you to them?

What moves me is the wealth of colour available in all natural stones, I have access to some of the best in the world, I want to challenge myself and my clients together and create beauty that hadn’t previously been imagined. Each piece should be electrifying. I have an unusual approach to pavé work (setting hundreds of gemstones or diamonds together in a paved pattern), I love unexpected colour combinations with gemstones. By pairing coloured stones with the sculptural aspect of what I do, I feel I provide something very rare for my audience of collectors.

Nigel O'Reilly Talisman

What has inspired your designs and helps you create your masterpieces?

Irreverent, couture fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy are major influences in my designs, along with Iris Van Herpen. Each of these designers are bold in their approach to fashion, and I glean a lot of their ‘devil may care’ attitude when designing, from their outlook. Music is another huge inspiration; I listen to a lot of jazz and David Bowie at my goldsmithing bench as I create.

My late mentor, goldsmith Erwin Springbrunn was “a Gandalf-like presence” whom I trained with for years. I use Erwin’s gemstones in a great number of my creations. Erwin believed in the mystery and potential of each individual gemstone and carried each rough piece on his person until he cut that stone so that it reflected its inherent qualities. There is a magic to each gemstone you choose, and that magic should permeate the piece and be felt by the wearer each time they put it on their person. Jewellery is for life, a holder of memory, I feel.

Nigel O'Reilly workshop

What is the latest piece you have created?

The Suminagshi Brooch of course! I recently developed this brooch with a client in New York. As designer, I wanted the brooch to look like it ‘grew’ on a different planet. The phrase ‘futuristic organic’ developed in my mind as I collaborated with my client on the design. I managed to source a 3-carat Colombian emerald with no oil. The shape and the colour were perfect for my brooch project, the emerald itself had an amazing history and it was important to use it in the design. I wanted the emerald to be ‘the seed’ from which bright blue titanium curves would grow over a shimmering sea of diamonds, and flowering at the top of the brooch would be a flawless pear-shaped diamond. It was an intensive project to work on but really tested my creative mettle and I really enjoyed the challenge and boldness of the concept. It’s wonderful to be brave when designing something truly original. As Bowie said: Always go a little further into the water than you think you’re capable of. When you’re out of your depth, that’s when exciting things happen”.