Above: Laura Jane Walsh
Linda’s of Kinsale has been in the jewellery trade for over 40 years. Run by mother and daughter team Linda and Laura Jane Walsh, the unique shop in Kinsale sparkles with treasures, ranging from fine diamond engagement rings and collectible one-off art deco and art nouveau designs to quirky affordable silver jewellery collections. Laura Walsh speaks to Mary O’Brien about the origins of Linda’s of Kinsale and current fashion trends in the jewellery business.
Laura Walsh’s upbringing was as eclectic and wonderful as the jewellery she’s surrounded by today. Growing up in a castle with precious gems to play with is every little girl’s dream. But as privileged as it sounds, Laura and her siblings were instilled with a strong work ethic by their parents from an early age.
Patrick and Linda Walsh bought Carrigacunna Castle, located between Mallow and Fermoy, in the early 1970s. Originally from Clifden, Patrick Walsh had a career in the RAF before going on start his own chartered airline company; he set up one of the first chartered flights between London and the US. Patrick had also worked in West Africa for many years and in the property market in New York but it was his passion for collecting art, in particular paintings, that brought him home to Ireland.
Much younger than Patrick, Linda was working as an air hostess when the couple met. Love has no boundaries and Patrick and Linda married and moved to Ireland, where together they built up a successful antique business and raised their family of four children out of Carrigacunna Castle.
“It was a retirement project really for my dad who loved old paintings and porcelain,” says Laura. “But mum was really interested in antique jewellery so she decided to study it and that’s how the jewellery side of the business started.”
Laura remembers all kinds of eccentric characters and antique dealers calling day and night to the showrooms. “It was great fun but hard work too. All of us children had a role in the business. I was entrusted with opening the door to guests at weekends, letting them into the showrooms, opening up all the big shutters to allow the light in and unlocking all the doors. There were 35 rooms, each with a different lock and even though I was only seven, I knew every key for every door.
“People used to travelled from near and far,” says Laura, who recalls Timothy Dalton and Angela Lansbury stopping by on separate occasions.
Every day Laura assisted her mum with the jewellery display and visited antique fairs with her. “That’s where my interest in jewellery started,” explains Laura, who went on to study History of Art and Design at University.
The Walsh’s opened a jewellery shop in Mallow and, later on, another in Kinsale. In the mid 1990s, once the children had flown the nest, Patrick and Linda decided to sell Carrigacunna. “Dad was a lot older than mum, he also wasn’t well and the house was too big for them to run on their own. They decided to keep just the shop in Kinsale.”
Laura left her job as a jewellery buyer for Brown Thomas in Dublin to join her mother in the shop in Kinsale.
Jewellery is certainly in the blood with this family as two of Laura’s siblings are professional gemologists.
Laura’s passion for designing and creating pieces of jewellery has brought many older pieces of jewellery back to life. “I’d take a beautiful 1920s art deco ring setting but set it with bright shiny certified diamonds,” she explains. “Old stones are cut by hand and made to be seen by candlelight. They have a very different look to today’s laser cut shiny stones. Old diamonds have a yellow tinge and are a much rougher cut.
“Or we might have found a ring that we loved the look of – for example from the 1900s Edwardian era when the style was light and delicate – but knew we wouldn’t ever see another, so we’d take the old setting and wax cast it and set it with beautiful new stones, creating a beautiful one-off piece.”
“It’s very important to us that the integrity of each individual piece is maintained,” emphasises Laura. “Antique jewellery is so unique; there is so much work underneath each piece, as well as what is visible to the eye.
“Sapphires are popular at the moment,” says Laura. “Not just because of Kate Middleton, but it helps,” she says laughing. “We love to take a rare coloured stone, like a Ceylonese sapphire, and set it with a row of high colour diamonds, just enough to make the colours pop. Too little won’t show off the stone, too much will make it gaudy.
“In the 70s, we sold sapphire and ruby cluster rings and rose gold and this trend has come right back around now. The fashion is for vintage, which is anything up to the 1960s. Everyone wants old rose gold at the moment and it’s so hard to find.
“If you want a piece of jewellery that will go up in value, you have to invest wisely,” advises Laura “whether that’s a large diamond of high colour, 1920s art deco diamond cluster or a rare stone like a pigeon blood red ruby.
We got one such ruby into the shop recently…a really rare find. We designed a double halo and yellow gold rim to accentuate the deep red of the stone. It’s a stunning piece.”
Lindas Of Kinsale has a large selection of platinum and gold ring designs, which are hand cast by its Boodles and Graff trained setters. These designs can be set with a diamond of choice to suit taste and budget. All diamonds are conflict-free and certified.
“We get a lot of people travelling to find a unique engagement, wedding ring or eternity ring,” says Laura. “Or women who have worked hard all their life and want to buy something beautiful for themselves.
“We have something for all tastes and budgets, our rings range in price from €500 up to €50,000.”
With three children of her own, a boy and two girls, Laura looks forward to the day when she can pass on her own jewellery to them. “My first piece of jewellery was a marvellous domed art deco Bombe ring, quite vulgar really but I loved it. It cost me two years pay but it was worth it as it’s gone up a lot in value since.
“Mind you, my seven-year-old says she’s she doesn’t want my rings, she’ll take the shop instead,” says Laura laughing. “She’s very like her grandmother, she’d sell ice to the Eskimos!”
Linda’s Of Kinsale, Main Street, Kinsale is open seven days a week. Appointments are recommended at weekends. Call 021 477 4754.