Wicklow-based Danish Goldsmith and jewellery designer Mette O'Connor has been living in Ireland for 24 years. Opening a small gallery/workshop in Greystones in 2007, she’s been happily working there ever since. Recently recognised as the only licensed brand in Ireland to sell and craft with Fairmined Gold, here she takes us through what exactly that means and why it’s so important.
What is Fairmined Gold?
Fairmined is an assurance label that certifies gold as being from empowered responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organisations that meet world-leading standards for responsible practices. It means that, thanks to the Fairmined standard, anyone who buys gold and associated precious metals can support responsibly managed community mines.
Tell us about your business
I started out on my own and wanted to create a unique jewellery brand with a shop that included a workshop. It’s important for customers to see and know that process too. The actual creation of a piece is not as sparkly as the final product that appears in the window. You would be surprised how dirty the materials and gems are initially along with all the tools we use. It is a busy workshop. I now employ four people – three traditionally trained goldsmiths and one shop manager. I design the pieces and together we create them from sketch to finished jewellery. All my pieces are handmade with a huge passion for design, artisan goldsmithing and natural gems. My shop, Amoc Jewellery, in Greystones, Co Wicklow, is a treasure trove of jewellery. I recently renovated the shop and it now feels completely like home. My pieces are organic, flowy, timeless and, sometimes, a bit quirky. Recently I became the first registered Fairmined gold jeweller in Ireland through Fairmined.org. I am so proud to be able to sell some Fairmined gold and silver pieces from mines across the world in my little shop.
What is your mission?
I would like to share my passion with my customers. I think we should be more excited about small things in life, and appreciate what we have and each other. If I can bring joy to my customers by creating something beautiful, while still feeling good about its origins, then that’s a win-win – both for me and the person who gets to cherish the piece I created. I want to create awareness around the origin of metals and gems. It is possible to source ethically even if it’s only on a small scale at the moment.
Did you always want to make your own jewellery?
YES! I have always been very creative, and my passion most definitely lies in making one-off pieces. At the age of 14, I got the chance to work in a small beading company – that was the beginning. I didn’t know it would bring me to having my own shop but I immediately took to the craft. After a few years of studying art in college, I received an apprenticeship with a jeweller and gemmologist in Australia and I knew that this was the right road for me.
What kind of items do you stock??
I have a large variety of stock – rings, earrings, necklaces, cufflinks. I have several different design ranges and many special rings with coloured gemstones. My designs evolve all the time and I’m always making new pieces. Many of these are one-offs and all are made in-house. I also make a lot of commissioned work and re-imagining of old jewellery. This is where people bring in heirlooms that are then remelted and re-designed. Recently I added the Fairmined pieces to my stock. They are very special and one-off unique pieces. Some have been created to participate in the Fairmined 100 challenge – a competition for Fairmined jewellers to promote the brand. I wanted to make something very special, using only sustainable metals and gems. The Fairmined Range is constantly evolving, and new designs come up all the time. My new Fairmined wedding rings are called “Rock Solid” and they are available in both silver or gold, with or without diamonds.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
Fairmined gold, Ceylon Sapphires, Marc H’arit Pearls. I’m simply so excited about this new venture and part of my new jewellery range. I’m constantly looking for new suppliers of raw materials for me to create from.
Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
Isn’t it always?! Being self-employed takes courage and money is always tight at the beginning. I was lucky to have great support from my family and the local enterprise boards. If you are solid in your thinking, support is always there.
Best business advice you’ve received??
Keep your overheads as low as possible and be true to yourself. I have survived recessions and Covid because I wasn’t in debt. I know what my strength is and that’s what I stick to. Outsource what you are not good at.
Favourite sustainable accounts to follow online
Fairmined, Ceylons Munich and Angela Damman.
Best jewellery purchase?
I have many! As much as I love creating myself, I also appreciate other goldsmiths’ crafts and ideas. My favourite earrings are from Ruth Tomlinson in the UK.
?Other sustainable Irish brands you love
Stable of Ireland – their 3-legged stool and linen selection is just gorgeous.
Most useful learning since setting up a business
Learn to adjust. Sometimes you might have an idea or plan but the timing is not right. Assess the moment and hold on to the idea until people are ready.
Proudest moment so far
Being the first registered Fairmined Gold jeweller in Ireland. It’s a very special thing to be part of. The people at Fairmined are very passionate about what they do and love making a difference in the world.
I want my brand to be remembered for… its detailed design and craftsmanship and for being the first to introduce Fairmined gold to Ireland. It is a real achievement for me and others who want to make a special purchase.
If I could make jewellery for anyone it would be… oh there are many people I’d love to design for! Helena Christensen, a Danish model and philanthropist. She has always been a naturally beautiful woman, a style icon and a good person. Saoirse Ronan (again!). She’s an amazing actress and has a quirky sense of style and often chooses brave jewellery pieces. I made a piece of jewellery for her in my earlier years. Judy Dench – I just think she is awesome! Queen Margrethe of Denmark. She is an incredibly wise and creative woman. She knows her style and appreciates creativity, and is not afraid to stand out whether that’s with diamonds or glass beads. Graham Norton – he makes me laugh. I love his cheekiness and bold fashion expression.