Irish Hallmarks - An Irish guarantee of fine jewelry

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on April 22, 2018

Irish Hallmarks - An Irish guarantee of fine jewelry

Hibernia - hallmarked in Ireland The Dublin Assay Office was established in 1637 to supervise   the assaying of all gold and silver in Ireland. Located in Dublin   Castle, the office serves as a consumer protection agency,   and the hallmarks given are accepted worldwide. All Celtic fine jewelry from Celtic By Design bears these hallmarks as your assurance of quality and authenticity.
 
The Hibernia is the official mark of the Dublin Assay Office.  This mark features the profile view of a woman (Hibernia) in olden dress, together with a harp (the national symbol of Ireland).  All jewelry receives this mark in the form of a stamp, with the exception of very delicate pieces.  For those, laser marking is sometimes used, or the hallmarking stamps may not be used at all.

This mark has changed over the years, but the Hibernia is the current standard of all pieces hallmarked in Ireland today.

Additionally, the grade of metal is stamped on the piece.  So 0.925 sterling silver would receive a hallmark that looks like this:
 
 Irish Hallmark For Sterling Silver
 
Where “925” indicates the purity in parts per thousand (i.e. 92.5% pure sterling silver).    Gold would receive one of the following hallmarks depending on the karatage of the piece:
 
 Gold Irish Hallmarks

 


Where, for example, the “10” indicates 10K and the purity is 417 parts per thousand, etc.
 
Other marks may also appear on the piece, such as the maker’s mark, a fineness mark, or a letter indicating the year in which a piece was hallmarked.  The letter cycle assigns a new letter each year, but inclusion is optional.
 
Items are generally sent to be hallmarked before their final polishing.  This is done to protect each piece from the marking process itself.  This can sometimes make hallmarks slightly difficult to read depending on the amount of final polish needed.
 
Should any item fail the purity requirements for hallmarking, the piece is either hallmarked at the next lower grade or is returned to the manufacturer with no hallmark for recycling.

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on April 08, 2018

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring

Traditionally, Claddagh rings were worn in Ireland to show marital status – a tradition that still continues today. The hand on which the ring is worn, as well as the direction that the heart faces, will tell observers if the person is open to love, in love, or married.  There are a few different ways how to wear a Claddagh ring, depending on what you are trying to tell people.

 

How to wear a Claddagh ring on right hand with heart facing away from you.

Worn on right hand with heart facing away from you
When worn in this manner (heart closest to the fingernail), it means that a person is willing to consider love or a relationship. The person is showing the world that their heart is open to love, as it has not yet been won over. Claddagh rings can be worn by both the male and female.

 

How to wear a Claddagh ring on right left with heart facing towards you.
Worn on right hand with heart facing towards you

Once a person has entered into a relationship, the Claddagh ring remains on the right hand, but is turned so that the heart now faces the wearer. This is a statement that your heart is now taken, and no longer open to others. The Claddagh ring makes a perfect engagement ring.

This method of wearing is also used by those who are simply not interested in starting a relationship at the present time.

 

How to wear a Claddagh ring on right hand with heart facing towards you.
Worn on left hand with heart facing towards you

Once married, the ring is then placed on the other hand and worn with the heart facing the wearer. This shows that two hearts have now been joined together forever. In this manner, the Claddagh ring can be worn as an Irish wedding ring. Placing the Claddagh ring on the left hand is often a part of an Irish wedding ceremony for both the man and the woman.


Misspellings of the word Claddagh
Although very familiar to some, the term Claddagh is not the easiest to spell – particularly when the only experience might be the spoken word.  Even internet search engines do not always know what it is that we mean!  We often see very simple misspellings such as cladah , cladagh, or claddah, or claddaugh (very common), clauddagh or cladaugh. Sometimes, the misspellings are a little more inventive and we notice people searching for cladder, clatter, claudia or clauda rings. The important thing about the Claddagh ring however, is not how you spell it.  It is remembering the symbolism of Love, Loyalty and Friendship that the ring represents, and the heritage that it symbolizes.

St. Valentine’s and the Irish

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on February 15, 2018

St. Valentine’s and the Irish

Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is not a day most people associate with the Irish. And it’s true that the people of the Emerald Isle have no special Irish way in which to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Yes, our Irish Valentine’s flowers, cards, and candy are still red, not green, just like the rest of the world!
Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

But, it turns out there is an Irish connection to the original St. Valentine! Before we go into that, it’s important to understand that very little in the way of confirmed facts are known about St. Valentine, even such widely accepted things as why he was made a saint or why he is associated with love.
Celtic Knot Sterling Silver and Gold Heart Pendant

What we do know is this: he lived and worked during the 3rd century AD, his feast day is February 14th (which has been celebrated since 496 AD) and that he was laid to rest on the Via Flaminia north of Rome. Everything else is shrouded in mystery.
Sterling Silver Claddagh Knot Heart Locket Pendant

There may even have been as many as three Valentines who were saints and all associated with the February 14th date; the Bishop of Interamna, a Roman priest, and a man who died a martyr in the province (not the continent) of Africa. Some say these were all the same person and so he would have been born and lived in Interamna, worked as a  priest and later became a Bishop.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

He was imprisoned and tortured in Rome under the order of the cruel Emperor Claudius and executed on February 14th for illegally marrying Christian couples so the men would not have to go off to war. Claudius’ army was in short supply of soldiers and he had canceled all marriages because of this, in the belief that married men were too reluctant to leave their families and join the army. But even under the threat of death, Father Valentine continued to carry out the Christian ceremony. Perhaps this is partly how his name became associated with a day of love.
Gold Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant with CZ

There are, of course, many legends surrounding the life of St. Valentine. One of the most touching involved a jailer and his daughter Julia. Before the priest was arrested, a jailer for the Emperor of Rome brought his blind daughter to see Father Valentine at his residence, having heard of his healing abilities, both medical and spiritual. The jailer’s daughter had been blind since birth and Father Valentine knew this would be a difficult case, although he assured the jailer he would do what he could. Father Valentine gave the child some ointment for her eyes and bade her come back for rechecks.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Earrings

The jailer, having perceived that his child Julia was of a quick mind, asked Father Valentine to teach her which he readily agreed to do. He taught her the history of Rome, lessons from nature, arithmetic and told her about God. A strong bond quickly developed between the two.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Love Pendant

On one of her visits with the priest, Julia asked Father Valentine if God really did exist. He assured her that He did. The child told him that she prayed daily that her eyes might be healed and her sight restored. Father Valentine gently told the girl to continue to have faith and that her future, whether she was physically healed or not, was in the hands of the Almighty.
Sterling Silver with Gold Bead Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant

Soon afterward, Father Valentine was arrested and awaited execution in his cell. On the evening of February 13th, he wrote a last note to Julia and gave it to the jailer to give to his blind daughter. He told her to remain close to God and signed the letter “from your Valentine.”
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

When the child was presented with the note she opened it, only to have a yellow crocus fall into her hands. She could see the brilliant color of the little flower as her sight had now been restored. Pope Gelasius I named February 14 as Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 AD and symbols of love and devotion are exchanged between couples all around the world in memory of his selfless devotion.
Sterling Silver Heart and CZ Pendant

So on to the St. Valentine and the Irish. Father John Spratt, an Irish Roman Catholic priest, who lived in the 1800s, traveled to Rome in 1836 where he gave a brilliant sermon. None other than Pope Gregory XVI took notice and the Pope bestowed a gift on him, a small vessel stained with the blood of St. Valentine along with a letter of authentication of the relic.
Mo Anam Cara Sterling Silver and Gold Pendnat

Father Spratt returned to Ireland and had the relic and the letter placed in a shrine to St. Valentine in the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street ( which is now Aungier Street) in Dublin which is still open to visitors.
Sterling Silver Claddagh Pendant with green Crystal heart

If you are Irish (or know someone who is!) there is perhaps a no better symbol of your love than one of our exquisite Irish heart pendants, in sterling silver or gold. After all, St. Valentine has a special bond with the Irish through Father Spratt and this is a lovely way to commemorate your love with that special someone. Happy Valentine’s Day!

St. Brigid’s Day - Celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on February 01, 2018

St. Brigid’s Day - Celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint

Although St. Patrick is undoubtedly better known outside the Emerald Isle, St. Brigid, along with Patrick and Columba, is one of Ireland’s beloved patron saints. As a leader of the early Celtic Christian church in Ireland, she is celebrated on her Feast Day, February 1st.


You will sometimes see the spelling of her name anglicized as St. Bridget and her Feast Day, also known as Imbolc, heralds the arrival of early Spring and the welcoming of longer and warmer days to come. Imbolc is one of the four major ancient pagan Irish “fire” festivals and according to Irish mythology, Brigid was a goddess of fire.


As you can see, St. Brigid stands at the doorway between the worlds of pagan rites, Druidism and that of Christianity. There is a charming custom that still continues in some Irish homes on St. Brigid’s day, the tradition of Brigid’s Bed. On January 31st, St. Brigid’s Eve, the unmarried young women of Irish villages create a doll made of corn which is called the Brideog (little Brigid or young Brigid). The decorate the doll with ribbons, shells, stones and other ornaments, then craft a bed for her. Afterwards, the young women gather as a group at one house and stay up all night with the Brideog.


Later in the evening, all the young men of the village come to visit the young women where they are gathered with the Brideog. They must ask permission to pass through the door into the home and they treat the young women and the Brideog with great respect. The next day the young women transport the doll to all the households in the village, where she is welcomed and honored.


The spirit of St. Brigid is believed to walk the land on the eve of Imbolc. In anticipation of her presence, each member of the all the village households will often leave an article of clothing or even a piece of cloth outside the door in the hope that Brigid will bless it.


Before retiring for the night, the head of the household approaches the burning hearth, smothers the smoldering fire and then makes sure to rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, she carefully examines the ashes, looking for a mark as a sign that Brigid has been among them. If the mark is there, the articles of clothing and pieces of cloth are retrieved from outside and are now believed to be imbued with powers of protection as well as healing.

 

 

Around 480 AD, Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare and is regarded as the original organizer of communal religious life for women in Ireland. Prior to this, women could be consecrated, but they lived in private homes. Brigid also founded an art school which included the working of metal as well as illumination of manuscripts.


She traveled extensively and as the story goes, she was visiting the bedside of a dying pagan chieftain. Sitting near his bed, she leaned over and picked up some rushes from the floor and began weaving a cross. The chieftain asked Brigid what she was doing, so she told him about Christ and explained the story of the cross. The dying man came to faith and asked to be baptized.


The cross of rushes, with its geometric spiraling arms, came to be known as St. Brigid’s cross and is customarily made on her Feast Day. The cross is then blessed with Holy Water and with these words: May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost be on this Cross and on the place where it hangs and on everyone who looks on it.


Once the cross is blessed, it is given a place of honor on the front door and is left there all year long, until the next St. Brigid’s Day when it is burned and replaced.


If you or your family are of Irish heritage (or even if you’re not!) these unusual crosses are fun to make, for children and adults alike. Here are simple instructions from the Irish Peatland Conservation Council: 


Brigid is the patron saint of many: “babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; brewers; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; children with abusive fathers; children born into abusive unions; Clan Douglas, dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers;  and watermen!”

 

 

Brigid died in AD 525 at her Kildare monastery. In her memory, her Sisters tended a fire at the convent, which burned continuously for centuries and was not extinguished until AD 1220. At some point, it was rekindled and burned for another 400 years!

The Origin Of The Wedding Tiara

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on December 11, 2017

The Origin Of The Wedding Tiara

The Origin Of The Wedding Tiara Today, the word ‘tiara’ evokes elegance, beauty and feminine splendor and is used to mean a jeweled, ornamental crown worn by women, especially during a formal occasion, such as a wedding. Actually, the term is thought to have originated in Persia (somewhat equivalent to present day Iran) and was the the word used for the high peaked headdresses of Persian kings.
By the late 18th century, the tiara was exclusively a female ornament, exemplified by Napoleon, who gave his wife Josephine many of these bejeweled gifts. Many of the world’s most beautiful tiaras have been owned and worn by the queens and princesses of royal families. The largest and most valuable collection of tiaras in the world belong to Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and she often wears one of these heirlooms on state occasions.
There is a lovely story of the Queen’s first tiara, as this favorite piece was a gift from Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s grandmother, on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding in 1947. Queen Mary herself had received the tiara as a gift from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland for her wedding in 1893 to the Duke of York, later George V. The Royal Family of Sweden also has a magnificent collection, as do the Royal Families of Denmark and Spain as well as the Dutch Royal Family.
In the United States, tiaras gained popularity among wealthy women who were not of royal lineage, including Mrs. William Astor, Mrs. George J. Gould and Mrs. W.K. Vanderbilt. The 1920’s then ushered in the ‘flapper’ era which enhanced the popularity of tiaras, this time made of costume quality jewelry, and they were widely embraced as the fashion of the day.
But personally, I think the popularity of the tiara as a wedding headdress was sealed when Princess Diana wore the Spencer tiara, from her own family lineage, in her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. Even after the wedding, Diana was quite fond of the Spencer tiara, and wore it often to events. So naturally, after her untimely death, the tiara became a symbol of sorts, for beauty and grace and a lovely woman whose time was tragically cut short. Kate Middleton also wore a beautiful tiara on the occasion of her wedding to Prince William, which was later placed on display in Paris as part of Cartier exhibition at the Grand Palais.
For Royal weddings, the custom was for the bride to wear a tiara from her own family for the ceremony. According to Geoffrey Munn, the foremost expert on tiaras, the tiara symbolized the coming of age and the loss of innocence to the marital bond. There was a definite tiara etiquette for wearing the headdress; the time of day, which events were acceptable and so forth. The wedding of Charles and Diana marked the end of the era of this unspoken tiara protocol.


Today’s brides can easily find replicas of the Spencer tiara as well as replicas of the Cambridge Love Knot tiara, which was given to Diana by the Queen on her wedding day. Many modern wedding tiaras feature sparkling Swarovski crystal flowers, leaves, and other designs.

If you are an Irish bride to be, there is no better way to honor your heritage than a beautiful wedding tiara, such as this 18K gold plate Irish Wedding Tiara graced with Irish Celtic Trinity Knots and filled with Austrian crystals. Or choose an Irish Wedding Crown with this delicate Irish Bridal Tiara graced with Irish Shamrocks and Celtic Trinity Knots. Even if you don’t have a drop of Royal blood, you’ll be the Queen of your wedding day!

Blue Topaz - December’s Icy Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on December 07, 2017

Blue Topaz - December’s Icy Birthstone

With the winter season comes ice and snow. The beautiful golds and muted browns of fall are gone now, and in their place, the blue of the sky is reflected on frozen ponds. This icy color is reminiscent of this month’s birthstone, the blue topaz.

 

Celtic Knot Birthstone Pendant - December


The name ‘Topaz’ comes from Topazios, which is the name given by the ancient Greeks to St. John’s Island in the Red Sea. Yellow gems were mined on this island but in all likelihood, they were not topaz. However, the name soon became applied to all yellow gems. Topaz is mentioned in the King James Bible as well as in ancient Greek texts, but it’s not at all certain that these texts actually referred to true topaz or to other yellow gems.

Topaz, in its pure state, is actually colorless. Like so many other birthstones, it’s the presence of impurities in the stone that give it color and life. Topaz ranges from a brownish orange to a yellowish color, with the most sought-after color being imperial topaz, which is a vibrant orange with undertones of pink.

Although blue topaz has become increasingly available, it’s rarely found in nature and is usually produced by radiation treatment of common colorless topaz. A light blue variety of topaz is found in Texas, and although it is not commercially mined, the blue topaz became an official gemstone of Texas in 1969. Utah has also honored blue topaz as its state gemstone.

Most topaz comes from South America, with Brazil the largest producer. The stone is also mined in Nigeria, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, Germany, and Mexico. Topaz is also found in the United States, mostly in New Hampshire, Utah, and California.

Russia was a leading producer in the 19th century and a pinkish orange topaz was mined in the country’s Ural Mountains. This topaz was given the name ‘Imperial topaz’ in honor of the Russian czar and not surprisingly, only members of the royal household were allowed to possess it. In 1740 what was originally thought to be the largest diamond ever found, at 1,640 carats, was found in Brazil and eventually set in the Portuguese crown. The stone is now believed to be, not a diamond, but a colorless topaz.

Topaz is relatively hard compared to other gemstones, with only diamonds, corundum, and chrysoberyl being harder. Although it’s a hard stone, there is a peculiarity in its cleavage that makes it subject to chipping or cracking if it is not cut correctly.

Topaz has a long association with healing powers. African shamans employed it in their rituals, using it for healing. The Hindus believed topaz to be sacred and thought wearing a topaz pendant would bring both longevity as well as wisdom to the wearer. In the European Renaissance, many people thought topaz could calm anger and break spells, cure madness and dispel nightmares. Another popular association, most likely because of the stone’s golden color, was to wealth, with many people believing it had the mystical power to attract gold. Blue topaz is a stone that evokes peacefulness as it soothes, aligns and heals.

Besides being the December birthstone, topaz is given as a gift on the fourth and nineteenth marriage anniversaries, as the stone has often been seen as a symbol of love and affection. Nothing will cheer her this winter like a beautiful sterling silver Irish Claddagh ring with a blue topaz stone set as the heart. Matched with these gorgeous Claddagh earrings with simulated blue topaz stones and this Claddagh pendant with a simulated blue topaz stone set as the heart, this is a gift that will melt the thickest winter ice!

Mo Anam Cara - The Meaning and History of Soul Friend

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on December 04, 2017

Mo Anam Cara - The Meaning and History of Soul Friend

In 1997, Irish writer, poet, and former Catholic priest John O’Donohue burst onto the international literary scene with his first published work, Anam Cara. The book quickly became an international bestseller and brought the Gaelic phrase ‘Mo Anam Cara’ into popular culture.

 

 Many people believe that the phrase is translated ‘my soul mate’ but it’s more accurately translated as ‘my soul friend’ as anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara the Gaelic word for friend. O’Donohue attributes the term to the ancient Irish monks, who used anam cara to refer to a monk’s spiritual guide, teacher and companion. Other scholars believe the term is older than that and may actually go back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers and whose teachings were preserved and transmitted by the Christian monk, Saint John Cassian and whose works are celebrated by both Western and Eastern Christianity.

Men's Mo Anam Cara Wedding Band Ring 

 

The early Celtic church was completely independent from Rome and thrived in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Northern England, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man from the 5th through the 12th centuries. And although eventually, the concept of ‘soul friend’ came to be associated with Roman Catholic priests, these early Celtic Christians opened the role to both women and men, lay and clergy.

 Large Gold Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant Necklace

 

Today, the words ‘anam cara’ evoke more than someone who is a spiritual guide. In O’Donohue’s words, the term has come to mean a deep and special friendship, one that cannot be broken or wounded or limited by distance, as these two individuals have been united at the level of the soul. Your anam cara is someone to whom you can reveal yourself as you truly are, without any pretense. And as O’Donohue emphasizes, this soul level love is “anything but sentimental...it is the most real and creative form of human presence.”

 Oxidized Women's Mo Anam Cara Wedding Band Ring

 

And soul friends may or may not be our husbands, wives or lovers but may simply be a friend of the same or opposite sex to whom we feel a deep, profound and lifelong connection. But being someone’s anam cara is more than ‘simply’ being someone’s friend. As Maria Popova, who in 2015 explored the concept of the anam cara in her marvelously erudite blog Brainpickings had this to say on what it takes to submit oneself to this role:

Mo Anam Cara Ogham Bracelet 

 

“But being an anam cara requires of a purposeful presence — it asks that we show up with the absolute integrity of intention. That interior intentionality, O’Donohue suggests, is what sets the true anam cara apart from the acquaintance or the casual friend — a distinction all the more important today, in a culture where we throw the word “friend” around all too hastily, designating little more than perfunctory affiliation. But this faculty of showing up must be an active presence rather than a mere abstraction — the person who declares herself a friend but shirks when the other’s soul most needs seeing is not an anam cara.”

 

Mo Anam Cara Two Tone Pendant Necklace

 

There is no better way to honor your anam cara than with this unique Celtic sterling silver and 18k gold pendant showcases that Irish phrase in the ancient Ogham script, crafted in Dublin, Ireland by true artisans. The front of the pendant showcases the Mo Anam Cara symbol in 18K gold script with the words ‘Mo Anam Cara’ inscribed on the back. Or you might prefer this beautiful sterling silver Ogham bangle, with the Gaeilc text Anam Cara as well as the Ogham script for the same term.

Mo Anam Cara Heart with gold bead

 

 

And if you are fortunate enough to be marrying your anam cara, there is no better gift for him than this stunning florentine finished men's gold Mo Anam Cara wedding band. Or for her, this gorgeous women’s Mo Anam Cara silver wedding band in an oxidized finish.

 

I’ll leave you with this poem from John O’Donohue:

 

May you be blessed with good friends.

May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.

May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love,

warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.

May this change you.

May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.

May you be brought into the real passion, kinship. and affinity of belonging.

May you treasure your friends.

May you be good to them and may you be there for them;

May they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,

and light that you need for your journey.

May you never be isolated.

May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam cara.

 

John O'Donohue

A Friendship Blessing, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stone-Set Celtic Warrior Pendants

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on August 05, 2017

Stone-Set Celtic Warrior Pendants

A wonderful new addition to the traditional Celtic Warrior pendant line is these beautiful stone-set Celtic Warrior pendants.  The are three different CZ stones available as the pendant shield - Swiss Blue CZ, Emerald CZ, or Amethyst CZ.  The shield stone is surrounded by smaller, clear CZ stones for a truly stunning presentation.

Celtic warrior pendant with purple amethyst CZ stone

This stunning pendant is presented in sterling silver and measures 20mm (0.79") in width.  Of course, the chain is included, and is a wonderful spiga design, measuring 18" in length, and crafted from sterling silver.

Celtic warrior pendant with green emerald cz stone

This beautiful Irish jewelry line is inspired by the Ardagh Chalice - one of Ireland's most treasured artifacts.  It was unearthed by two boys digging in a field and is now housed at the National Museum of Ireland.  Each piece is hallmarked at Dublin Castle's Assay Office.  The Irish hallmark is undisputed worldwide as a symbol of quality.

Phoenix Park - The Pride of Dublin

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 09, 2017

Phoenix Park - The Pride of Dublin

Dublin’s beloved Phoenix Park is one of the largest city parks in all of Europe, encompassing some 1,720 acres. The sprawling park, which turned 350 years old in 2012, was begun under the reign of Charles II as a royal deer park. Actually, the park was larger originally, as it reached across the Liffey River to the south, but was reduced in size when the Kilmainham Royal Hospital was built. I have a particular affinity for this magnificent park, as my husband’s grandmother once lived right across the street from this landmark.


The history of this parcel of land is fascinating and goes back much further than the reign of royalty. Archaeologists estimate that a community of Neolithic peoples lived some 5,500 years ago at the southern edge of the park on an elevated strip of land that lies between Knockmaroon and Islandbridge.


There is a Neolithic burial ground within the park boundaries as well, located west of St. Mary’s Hospital. Remains of three males, along with shell, bone and flint artifacts, were found interred there as well as four urns containing human ashes from the later Bronze Age.

In addition, Forty Viking graves have been found within the park, the largest Viking cemetery outside Scandinavia and include the skeleton of a woman who was buried with a pair of brooches made of bronze.

 


Phoenix Park is a showcase for both plant and animal biodiversity. A wide variety of deciduous trees such as ash and oak, sycamore and horse chestnut make up about a third of all the tree species in the park. A full 50 percent of all mammal species found in Ireland and 40 percent of all birds in Ireland are found in the park. Underscoring the public’s fascination with the Park’s natural beauty, nearly 1 million visitors a year enter the gates of the Dublin Zoo, located within the park.


In 1840, the Victorian People’s Flower Gardens were built, originally as a Promenade Grounds. The Flower Gardens encompass 22 acres and include picnic areas, a children’s playground, a large lake and of course, ever changing beds of beautiful flowers which showcase stunning Victorian era horticulture.


There are numerous monuments and buildings within the park and many of these structures were designed by famous well known architects, including Edward Lovett Pearce who designed the old Parliament building which is now the Bank of Ireland. Ashtown Castle, build in the 1430’s as a tower and later rebuilt with stone, is the oldest building in the park. One of the best known of the Park’s structures is the massive 116 foot Papal Cross erected for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979, when one and a quarter million people, including my future husband and his family, came to the park to hear Pope John deliver his sermon.

 


The southeast section of the park is the location of the Magazine Fort, originally the site of the Phoenix Lodge, built in 1611 by Sir Edward Fisher. Later, in 1734 when the Duke of Dorset ordered a powder magazine to be constructed for the city of Dublin, the Lodge was dismantled. In 1801 an additional wing was constructed to house troops.


Phoenix Park has a darker history as well. There have been several murders within its boundaries, including the infamous Phoenix Park Murders of May 6, 1822 when Lord Frederick Cavendish, the personal secretary to Prime Minister Gladstone, was stabbed on the very day he took up his new position as Chief Secretary for Ireland, along with Thomas Henry Burke, Ireland’s most senior civil servant. In 1982, the brutal murder of a young nurse named Bridie Gargan as she lay sunbathing in the park, led to national outrage after it was discovered that the murderer, Malcolm MacArthur, was hiding in the home of a former attorney general. Today Park Constables patrol the grounds and the police force of Ireland, the Garda Síochána, has its headquarters in the park.


As large as this park is, there is really no way to see it all in a day. In addition to the Dublin Zoo, the Victorian Gardens, the Papal Cross and other monuments, there are playgrounds, Segway tours, ice cream kiosks, the famous Victorian tea rooms and the Phoenix Cafe. The Cafe has been voted one of the top ten independent cafes in Ireland and is well known for its scones, specialty teas, coffee, lattés and cappucinos. The Cafe offers a variety of freshly cooked soups, salads and homemade cakes as well as quiche. Diners enjoy a beautiful setting surrounded by lush trees and there is an outdoor dining terrace as well.


In planning a trip to Ireland, especially if you visit Dublin, the Phoenix Park should be first on your ‘must get there’ list of places to visit. You will soon see why the Phoenix is one of my very favorite places in all of the Emerald Isle.

Alexandrite - June’s Color Changing Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 08, 2017

June Claddagh Birthstone Pendant Alexandrite Birthstone

Alexandrite, the beautiful June birthstone often described as ‘emerald by day, ruby by night, is named in honor of Russian Czar Alexander II. Legend has it that the future Czar came of age on the same day in 1834 that Alexandrite was discovered in the emerald mines of Russia’s Ural Mountains. Adding to its rich history, the stone’s rich red and green tones were a match for Russia’s military colors and alexandrite was shortly crowned the official gemstone of the Russian Czars.

The astute observational powers of the French mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld who discovered the jewel are responsible for determining that indeed this was not an emerald but a unique gemstone. Only one of three birthstones that can change color (the others being garnet and sapphire) alexandrite is bluish green in natural daylight but under incandescent light appears purplish red. The reason this stone has the ability to change color under differing light conditions is due to the presence of trace amounts of chromium in its makeup. This color change phenomenon is known as the ‘alexandrite effect.’


The presence of chromium perhaps doesn’t seem so surprising since alexandrite was originally discovered in the emerald mines of Russia and emeralds also have trace amounts of chromium. But actually, it’s very unlikely these two elements would combine under just the right conditions to form this gorgeous gem. This makes alexandrite very, very rare, and equally precious.


Although the most vibrant, beautiful and expensive alexandrite originated in the now exhausted mines in Russia, today most stones come from Brazil, Sri Lanka and East Africa. Even diamonds and rubies, popularly considered to be the world’s most expensive gemstones, pale beside the value of the rare and beautiful alexandrite. Because of its rarity and expense, there is a market for synthetic alexandrite. Synthetic alexandrite stones grown in a lab exhibit the same chemical and physical properties as natural alexandrite, the only difference being the stone was made in the laboratory, not in the earth.


Most large alexandrite gemstones are found in old period jewelry belonging to museums and private collectors, as current large stones are extremely rare. Some English Victorian pieces feature relatively large alexandrite stones, but it is the antique Russian jewelry designs that have the largest specimens. The largest cut alexandrite stone is housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and is 66 karats. In fact, any alexandrite stone over 3 karats is quite rare and most cut gems weigh less than one karat.


Alexandrite is a durable, hard stone and can be worn daily without worry, but it’s still important to care for this beautiful gemstone properly. Your alexandrite jewelry can be easily cleaned by using mild soap and warm water and can be wiped down using a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush. As always, when caring for fine jewelry, avoid any strong, harsh chemical cleaners and never use bleach. After cleaning, be certain to rinse the piece well to get off any remaining soapy residue. Keep in mind that alexandrites are much harder than many other gemstones and can scratch other softer stones such as spinel, quartz, and tourmaline. Be sure to wrap your alexandrite jewelry pieces in a soft cloth and store them separately from your other jewelry.


In addition to being the June birthstone, alexandrite is the official gem for 55th wedding anniversaries. Good quality alexandrite has clarity and few inclusions, although occasionally needle-like inclusions can create a cat’s eye. Alexandrite is a member of the chrysoberyl family, which not surprisingly, includes two of the most important gem varieties in the world, alexandrite and chrysoberyl cat's eye. So it’s interesting that alexandrite can exhibit two unusual properties in one stone: color change under differing light conditions and the cat’s eye effect from inclusions.

 


The mythology surrounding alexandrite is quite fascinating as the stone is associated with discipline and self-control. It is said that the wearer of alexandrite will strive for excellence and is thought to bring peace of mind and clarity of thinking as well. Russian legend says that the owner of an alexandrite gemstone will possess good luck, good fortune and love and is believed to be a bridge between the physical and spiritual world. Alexandrite’s purported qualities include strong healing energies and are associated with the crown chakra.


Alexandrite has a fascinating history and a piece of jewelry featuring this intriguing stone would make a fine gift for anyone on your list, including those celebrating June birthdays, 55th wedding anniversaries or for anyone who needs a little clarity of thinking as well! A beautiful Irish claddagh ring, in either silver or gold, and set with an alexandrite stone or a lovely claddagh pendant with matching earrings makes a fine gift for a loved one or even for yourself!

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