IT WAS a newspaper ad in the 1970s that ignited Brian Gleeson’s career as a succesful goldsmith. Son to a plasterer and grandson to a carpenter in Thurles, Co Tipperary, Brian spent many of his teenage years on building sites. Fast forward to the closing end of 2018, Brian Gleeson has been trading at the Ballycasey Craft & Design Centre, a unique shopping destination off Exit 7 of the M18, since 1981. The workshop and showroom is more than worth the visit, whether if only to browse or a few Christmas purchases.
Gleeson Goldsmiths set themselves apart from the high street shop by offering a unique, bespoke and handmade product. Five full-time goldsmiths are on hand to provide an expert service on all things jewellery and high quality is what they’re all about.
Brian tells The Clare Echo, “We make all our own engagement rings, wedding bands, bespoke jewellery, we do a lot of repairs, resetting, valuations, anything to do with jewellery, we do it and we can carry it all out here in our own workshop.
“A lot of pieces we do are one-off pieces that we’d never repeat and people love that kind of stuff. I think it’s coming back – people are moving away from the branded stuff on the high street. I think there’s an appreciation again for something that is handmade.
“For a frontal, one-to-one service. People come in and they’re speaking to the person who’s going to be making the piece. There’s something very special about that.”
Brian showed great ambition in his early 20s when he started the business. “I was fairly young alright,” he continues. “My father was in the building business actually, I spent my summers working on building sites but I myself was always interested in art and metalwork in school.
“So I saw this ad in the paper for an apprentice goldsmith in Kilkenny Design Centre – to be honest with you I didn’t even know what a goldsmith entailed – and I went for it and out of 200 people that applied only one was taken on and that was me, so I was quite privileged. I loved it.”
Brian carried out a four-year apprenticeship in Kilkenny and from there went to work for a design company in Dublin designing prototypes mainly for fashion jewellery. From there, the Tipperary native set up his own business in Dunguaire Castle, operated by Shannon Development at the time, before making the move to Ballycasey. “I’ve been here ever since. I love it here, it’s nice and quiet and you set yourself apart as you’re not on a high street.”
A destination store, Brian gives the example that Gleeson Goldsmiths are currently creating rings for a couple in Cork and recently did cuff-links for a retired judge in France. “We often get enquiries for people wanting bespoke pieces to be made up and we can do that.”
Despite offering a bespoke service, Brian insists that value is also a very important virtue when it comes to dealing with each specific customer. “If you compare it to manufactured pieces, we’re not any more expensive. We have rings for all price ranges and accomodate everybody. We do engagement rings starting for less than €1,000. We usually can do something for you.”
And there’s also plenty for the casual shopper. Gleeson Goldsmiths developed their own Burren Collection back when Brian was working from Dunguaire Castle and to this day the range continues to develop.
“When I was in Dunguaire Castle I was reading a book about the Burren – to be honest with you I didn’t know anything about the Burren until then – I was just inspired by it. The fact that you’ve these Mediterranian and Icelandic flowers growing side by side. It’s just an amazing place; the landscape, I was really inspired by it so I decided to do a whole range of jewellery based on it and we continue to do that today and keep changing it. We incorporate the Dolmen into cuff-links or wedding rings, if you’ve a Clare person living away they love the connection with home.
For anyone who is planning on making a purchase, Brian says that while nothing can replicate a visit to the workshop and showroom, gleesongoldsmiths.ie is a good place to start.
“People are always surprised when they see our shop, how warm, cosy it is and how friendly the service is and that you just walk in, browse around and leave without feeling this pressure that you’ve to buy something.
“People can browse on our website and that gives a good insight to what we are. All our profiles are up there, it’s a very open and friendly website.”
Visit Gleeson Goldsmiths at Ballycasey Craft & Design Centre off Exit 7 of the M18 or visit the website at gleesongoldsmiths.ie.