Irish Gold

In America, where the grasp of Irish culture—even among those of Irish descent—ventures little past St. Patrick’s Day and claddagh rings, the debut of Galantas jewelry is surprising even the most jaded of consumers and retailers. The Irish company boasts something better than folklore’s pot of gold at rainbow’s end: a gold mine in Ireland’s County Tyrone. Though the mine was discovered about 14 years ago, Galantas—a full-scale jewelry company with its own mine and jewelry manufacturing facility—began operating only last fall. After debuting on a small scale and finding a receptive audience in Ireland, the company crossed the pond and set up an office in Boston. Though it’s still researching the U.S. market and is not yet prepared for full-scale trade operations here, Galantas is finding itself the subject of inquiry and interest.

To boost its American and international profile, Galantas recently donated a ring to UNICEF Ireland for a celebrity-studded auction held at Sotheby’s in New York. The event, hosted by actor Liam Neeson, brought Galantas its first public spotlight here.

According to marketing executive Eugene McLaughlin, the company’s exclusive access to Ireland’s only mine and the only true “Irish gold” is both its biggest asset and most cumbersome liability.

“They say they already have Irish jewelry, and I tell them it’s Irish gold. They just look at me and say, “What do you mean, Irish gold?”

Galantas is one of many companies looking to spread Irish culture abroad and blast through some of the stereotypes about Ireland. The jewelry it produces, for example, transcends the traditional jewelry associated with the country. “In Ireland, we wear creative designer products, and that is what we want to bring to America,” McLaughlin says.

Not that the company or its jewelry stray from the strong ties of ethnic pride. The designers and the designs Galantas hopes to foster are derived from the classics, but with the same high design standards found in other countries around the world. That, along with the romance of the only gold mined in Ireland, is what Galantas hopes will help it capture not only jewelry fans around the world but also a lucrative consumer base of Irish descendants looking for ties to their heritage.

The jewelry is primarily 18k yellow gold, designed in house and manufactured by Galantas, and officially hallmarked in Dublin.

While still in its infancy, the company has already hit upon the power of celebrity. Along with the ring auctioned for UNICEF at Sotheby’s (where it was viewed by such stars as Lauren Bacall), Galantas also boasts President Bill Clinton as a fan. During Clinton’s last official visit to Ireland, the company gave him a shamrock pin as a sign of gratitude for the outgoing president’s history of support for Ireland.