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Barron's Jewelry That Shouldn’t Sit in a Safe. Designer Nigel O’Reilly Makes Six-Figure Sparkles People Should ‘Wear and Love.’

Born in rural Ireland to a farming family, the master goldsmith Nigel O’Reilly—one of the great talents to emerge in fine jewelry circles over the past decade—has a background like none of his peers.

“I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia when I was younger, so college wasn’t something I was interested in pursuing,” O’Reilly says. 

Instead, he opted to enter the workforce, apprenticing as an engineer where he made molds for vascular surgery and honed his technical skills. 

It was love, as O’Reilly puts it, that made him make the jump from engineering to jewelry. 

“I met an art student named Tracy, who is now my wife, and she introduced me to the world of creativity. I started making rings to impress her and, with her encouragement, I left the engineering world to pursue it full time. You never know where life will take you,” he says.

With a teacher and farmer as parents, O’Reilly never considered getting into the professional world of jewelry, but ultimately made the fateful decision to sign up for a jewelry-making class through Design & Crafts Council Ireland.

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“Suddenly, I was one of the best in the room, as opposed to the worst. It’s important to know that there are several paths one can take through life, and avenues you might not even consider,” he says.

After training under the late master goldsmiths Rudolf Heltzel and Erwin Springbrunn, O’Reilly worked for several jewelry houses, including Van Cleef, Stephen Webster, Boodles, Garrard, and Fabergé.

Despite taking the jewelry world by storm, O’Reilly—who in 2020 became the first Irish goldsmith ever to be sold at Sotheby’s New York, and in late 2022 was the subject of a solo exhibition at Sotheby’s Los Angeles—has chosen to remain based far from the world’s premier showrooms and auction houses.