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Aidan J.Breen -- Latest News







modern-history-of-celtic-jewelleryI would like to mention a new book on Celtic Jewellery entitled The Modern History of Celtic Jewellery 1840-1980 by Stephen Walker with contributions from Tara Kelly, E.Mairi MacArthur and myself.

It is a lovely colourful book in which Steve gives an overview of the history of Celtic Jewellery and there are interesting articles by E.M. MacArthur on the Ritchie’s who operated an arts and crafts business on the island of Iona.

Tara Kelly writes about the making and marketing of very high quality reproductions of antiquarian brooches produced in Ireland in the period of the Celtic Revival.
I write about my life and times in the silver trade from 1959 until the present.

Available from Amazon - click on the image for further details




Please note, I am now setup to accept payment by Paypal.

Contact me for a price on any of the items on the jewellery page - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

You can also see some of my latest items on my Facebook page

Aidan Breen : Gold & Silversmith




Aidan explains how it came into existence and the significance of the subjects contained in each each panel.


In 1961 at the age of sixteen I started upon a traditional seven year apprenticeship in a silversmithing workshop specializing in chasing and repousse. I can say with all honesty that I loved the work I was involved in. I moved on from my first place of work and found employment in a number of other silversminthing firms before setting up my own workshop in 1978. In my new workshop I started making jewellery with a Celtic theme and doing contract chasing/repousse work for other silversmiths. My first love was always repousse commissions that I could get my teeth into, these were not always available, and to keep the wolf from the door, from time to time I would do some carpentry work. I knew a bit about wood working because my father was a joiner and whatever about St. Joseph, my father could not abide being called a carpenter, he insisted he was a joiner. I also found as the years went by, that I was doing more jewellery work than chasing commissions, even though I was using my chasing skills to enhance the pieces of jewellery I was making. I was not greatly troubled about being unable to pursue the chasing/repousse work, but I did miss not doing it. Whatever work I got I appreciated and was glad to have it. When I work on a piece no matter what it is or how small, I try to give it my full attention and do the best I can on the piece because I am aware that it’s going to a particular person, as a gift from a loved one or to mark a special occasion.


So as you can imagine, I was delighted when at the start of 2005 Ronald Le Bas, Assay Master of Dublin Assay Office , commissioned me to make a piece for the Assay Offices collection. The brief was to produce something I had always wanted to make but never had an opportunity to. They wanted me to follow my heart’s desire and produce a masterpiece in silver featuring my chasing/repousse silversmithing skills.


My idea was to make a piece inspired by James's Joyce's Ulysses' it was something I had always wanted to do. I had been interested in Ulysses for a long time I used to work with a fellow chaser who used to recite Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. Ulysses has as its main characters Leopold Bloom a Jewish Dubliner, his wife Molly, Blazes Boylan, Stephen Dedalus and the city of Dublin. The book spans roughly twenty six hours in the life of these figures plus a host of other memorable characters. It is set in Dublin, on the 16th of June 1904.


I came up with the idea of a Moorish Tower inspired by the fact that Molly in the Penelope episode describes her first sexual adventures under a Moorish Wall, so I said to myself why not a Moorish Tower wall. That then gave me a jumping off point, a tower would suit my purposes. The Tower is set in a bed of blooms. On top of the main Tower are two smaller towers decorated by my version of Moorish interlacing, the Tower is topped off with a potato, (Bloom carries a small potato in his pocket all through the day for luck.) which holds a representation of the sun another star of Ulysses'. Around the main Tower are 18 panels or blocks one for each episode of Ulysses the episodes spiral their way around the tower from the bottom up to the top. Each panel features my take on the particular episode. The overall height of the Tower is 22" the base is 11" wide each panel is approx. 3"sq. It weighs 5 kilos.


The base features some of the flowers mentioned in Ulysses, by no means all. There is a PhD. in the number of blossoms mentioned in Ulysses and also the plants and trees and substances made from plants that blossom. The Llily and the Poppy lie together in harmony on the base .Among some of the other flowers which are, the Jersey Lily, Jessamine, Sunflower, Daisy, Wild Irish Rose, The Rose of Castile, A Common or Garden Rose, Bramble, Orange Blossom, Rhododendrons, Clematis, Forget me Not, Wood Anemone. The Violet and a Cactus Blossoming from Molly's Gibraltar and Blazes Boylan's Carnation.


The inspiration for my pendant - from the book " Ireland and Insular Art A.D. 500 - 1200. Edited by Michael Ryan and published by the Royal Irish Academy. Dublin 1987

connemara-marble-pendant-inspiration connemara-marble-pendant





Added some new items to the jewellery and married metal metals galleries......

Jewellery Gallery

celtic-bangle floral-brooch-gold-tourmaline spiral-brooch-connemara

spiral-brooch-silver sword2

Married Metals

carndonagh fourwinds



Article now updated in the reviews section.

Curious Offerings....



I've added some hi-res images of the base of the Ulysses Tower - click on the link below to go to the gallery(scroll to the end of the page to see 'em)



New article added to the reviews section

Curious Offerings....


Commemorating the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.

cross1 cross2

















I've added a video to the media page,for McCormack’s Jewellers,Grafton Street, Dublin........take a look.

Enjoy !


Hi there,and welcome to my new website.......I really hope you like what you see.

It will be a constantly evolving site that will showcase my work - both past and present.Please peruse the many galleries that are now uploaded - from Ulysses Tower to small jewellery items and eveything else inbetween.

I enjoy making presentation pieces and welcome both personal & corporate commissions...or if you'd like to purchase an item of jewellery,please contact me by email or phone for more details or to organise an appointment.


THE GAA is undertaking a secret project to create exact replicas of the iconic All-Ireland hurling and football trophies to satisfy unprecedented demand for “appearances” of the silverware at social, sporting and marketing events.

The plan to create “twins” of the trophies began last year and is nearing completion.

Some of the country’s leading gold and silversmiths have been confidentially engaged to create copies of hurling’s Liam McCarthy Cup and football’s Sam Maguire Cup. The cost, which has not been disclosed, is likely to be significant as both trophies are made from solid silver and require painstaking and intricate metalwork.

It is understood that the duplicates are being made to satisfy the growing and often conflicting demands for the trophies to appear at a range of sporting, social and promotional occasions. The winning All-Ireland team in each code (currently Kerry for football and Kilkenny for hurling) is entitled to retain the trophy for 12 months. Both cups are frequently borrowed for social occasions ranging from christenings to funerals as well as regular visits to schools and GAA clubs. But the trophies are also increasingly used for commercial promotions by the sponsors of both championships.

GAA headquarters yesterday declined to comment on the project.


The original Liam McCarthy Cup, based on the design of an old Irish drinking vessel, cost £500 and was made in 1922 by Edmund Johnson, a Grafton Street jeweller. It commemorates the memory of Liam McCarthy, born in London to Irish parents in 1851, who was prominently involved in the establishment of a GAA county board in London in the 1890s.

Gaelic football’s Sam Maguire Cup is named after a native of Dunmanway, Co Cork, born in 1879, who emigrated to London, worked with the post office, was prominent in GAA circles and reputedly initiated Michael Collins into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Often simply referred to as “Sam”, the original cup was modelled on the Ardagh chalice, cost £300 and was made in 1928 by Hopkins and Hopkins of O’Connell Bridge, Dublin.


Over the ensuing decades, both trophies endured considerable wear-and-tear. Following one Kerry All-Ireland victory, the base of the Sam Maguire was reputedly “cracked” during its tour of the county as a result of babies being placed in the cup for “photo opportunities”.

Eventually, the GAA authorities deemed that both trophies had been “worn out” and they were retired, put on permanent display in the museum at Croke Park, and replaced by identical new copies of the Sam Maguire Cup, in 1987, and the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1992.


Article reproduced from the Irish Independant Newspaper,May 15th,2011........

Every now and then we hear of wonderful historic precious metal Celtic artefacts being discovered, buried since time immemorial, from torcs to bowls, coins to amazing objects like the famous Ardagh Chalice, discovered in a potato field and now on display in the National Museum of Ireland.

The Celts arrived in Ireland around 500 BC and were wonderfully creative jewellery makers, using the glorious metals of gold, bronze and silver, to create ornately inscribed bangles, collars, torcs and brooches which, even then, were traded successfully across Europe because of their distinctive styles.

The earliest coins used in Dublin apparently originated in England but about 997 AD King Sitric of Dublin started making his own silver pennies.

Moving down through the centuries Ireland has had a very distinguished pedigree when it comes to the world of silver, be it ecclesiastical, domestic, or decorative, and there are many famous names whose work is sought after and is highly valuable.

Think of the magnificent Georgian silver teapots, cutlery and trays, which you see in Antique Shops or Auctions – or maybe you are lucky and Granny has a few in the attic! The standard of Irish silver has always been maintained strictly by the Irish Assay Office in Dublin Castle.

One of the most distinguised craftsmen and artists in the world of silver today is, Dublin born, Aidan Breen, whose work has been recognised widely, and who has created jewellery and other fine pieces for many famous people, including Presidents. Breen’s fine work and standing is such that he was recognised and honoured by being commissioned by the Irish Assay Office to create a piece for their permanent collection at Dublin Castle.


The ultimate accollade in this profession. “They wanted to have something in their collection to display my skills in chasing and repousse (the ancient art of embossing or pressing shapes into metal) and they asked me to do something that I would love to work on, a piece I would love to do but that no person would ever be able to afford to pay me for.

I’d had this vision for a long time involving James Joyce and I came up with this idea, from his famous masterpiece Ulysses, where Molly, who was from Gibralter, was talking about her first ‘court’ against a Moorish wall, so I thought why not a 2 ft Moorish Tower wall.

With a tower, it meant I could put 18 episodes around this tower, each one representing my interpretation of that chapter.

The tower itself sat in a lot of blooms but two flowers I put on were lillies and poppies sitting in harmony. I also put a potato on top of the tower, as Bloom carried a potato all day in his pocket for luck, and the sun on top of that.”

 It is a truly incredible work of art and skill combined with humour, knowledge and insight. Breen has also completed another prestigious work, a 16” dish, chased and repoussed, for the Decorative Arts section of the National Museum of Ireland’s permanent collection. They wanted this work to show Collins Barracks, their Riding School and an historic fountain, and it can be seen on display at Collins Barracks.

Aidan Breen is a disarmingly simple and charming man who started out on his craft and career when, aged 14, he decided he was “sick of school” and had had enough of it and he would go and get himself a job! “My aunt had a friend, a Mr. Barnes, an Englishman, and he got me a job M.H. Gill & Son, Church Furnishers in Dublin, as a messenger boy. However, Mr. Barnes, was kind of my patron.


He saw that I could draw and paint, so the odd time he would get me to draw a chalice or something like that, and then a vacancy came in the chasing, which is a specialised area in silversmithing, I was asked would I like to do it and I entered into a 7 year Apprenticeship. This involved putting the designs on chalices, monstrances and tabernacles. It was Celtic design then.

We would do it with these little punchers and hammers and that was the start of my career – that was about 1960.” He completed his apprenticeship with silversmiths Alwright & Marshall, a Company founded by the unlikely duo then of a Scots Prysbeterian and and Irish man who had fought in 1916.

“We used to do a Dun Vegan teaset and every time President de Valera was invited to a wedding he would buy one of these because he knew Johnny Alwright from 1916 so he was a good customer!

Whilst learning his craft Aidan also attended the National College of Art & Design at night. He then worked with the Royal Irish Silver Company but “after Vatican 11 silversmiths were almost decimated because up to that there was the rubix of the Catholic Church where the Chalice cup had to be made of silver, and inside it had to be gilt, but the Church were in straightened circumstances in South America and places like that so they decided to change the rubix so you could say Mass out of a cup.


That was good for the Church but it was brutal for silversmiths!!” He laughs. However, Royal Irish Silver did domestic work also with cutlery and Champagne buckets, tea sets, salvers, and so on. In 1978 Aidan went out on his own doing contract chasing and repousse work and evolved into jewellery which “kept him going “ as he puts it modestly.

He was greatly interested and knowledgable on the art of Celtic design, frequently visiting the National Museum in Kildare Street for inspiration, and when his first range of decorative designs were shown at a Trade Show in 1979, his jewellery was snapped up. He also made a beautiful distinctive brooch of four swans illustrating the ‘Children of Lir’ legend for President McAleese when she was going for election.

She is frequently photographed proudly wearing this beautiful piece.

Since then he has specialised combining both arts involving specially commisioned larger pieces to maybe mark special occasions or events, and also jewellery which is absolutely beautiful.


There is a huge resurgence in the popularity of Celtic jewellery and demand for lovely pieces is very high both here and in the U.S.A. along with other parts of the world.

“I also work in gold, but generally goldsmiths work almost exclusively on very small pieces, whereas as a smilversmith I could be working on anything between 5/8” to 5ft. In America now people call themselves metalsmiths but I am archaeic and still call myself a silver and goldsmith.”

He laughs again.


“I am selling more in the last few years than in the height of the Celtic Tiger – the Celtic Tiger didn’t touch me – I think it brought a lot of imports in.” Aidan’s lovely designs can be found at R. & C. McCormack, Celtic Jewellers, in Grafton Street, The Irish Celtic Store in Nassau Street, Legends at Dublin Airport, and Bannon Jewellers in Bray or contact him directly.

You will also find him on Facebook. “I have a great relationship with these shops and they are great to work with. I am also involved with a Celtic Group in America who are really fascinated with the the ‘old countries’ who would look at Insular Art, as this is all called nowadays, from Galicia, Brittany, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.


Lots of Australians come to Ireland too looking for Celtic craft but some of the official crafts people here turn their noses up at it”.

“I just laugh at this, I do what I like to do. I was always interested in heritage because my Da took me to Museums and up to see the real Dublin.

I remember people like Hector Grey on the quay selling things on offers for maybe 1/6d. I was always fascinated too by Joyce and Nighttown and, whilst I was born in Drumcondra, I discovered recently that my Grandmother was born in Mabbot Street, which is mentioned in Ulysses, and my Great Grandfather lived on the edge of the Monto.”


Aidan Breen is truly one of our great artists. He can be contacted on (01) 840-8602.



Aidan Breen : Gold & Silversmith
Aidan Breen : Gold & Silver Art