The area of Connemara is the very edge of Europe on the west coast of Ireland. The region of Connemara spans from the majestic Twelve Bens mountains, to the lakes of pre-historic bogs and bounded on the west, south and north by the Atlantic Ocean, taking in part of the amazing Wild Atlantic Way. This beautiful region is the essence of Ireland, with unspoilt and ever changing invigorating landscape, capturing creativity and imagination. The famous Connemara Marble is mined from various quarries of the Twelve Bens mountains. Often called Ireland’s national gemstone, known locally as the “green gold of Connemara”, Connemara Marble gifts are traditional among family and friends, bringing serenity and good fortune.
Dating to the Precambrian era, 600 million years ago, Connemara Marble is one of the rarest ancient marbles still available to mine. Connemara Marble is exclusive to the West of Ireland and is considered the world’s finest green marble. Connemara Marble is a metamorphic rock, which formed when limestone was heated under pressure, which produced a hard granular rock. It has a vast range of shades from creamy pale to dark green, sage, moss, sepia, cream and grey, veins of crystalline calcite, mica and dolomite run through this serpentine-rich rock. Connemara Marble is mined in various locations within the region of Connemara, the main colouring of the marble can also vary depending on which mine it is from. With such colouring and amazing patterns Connemara Marble lives up to the phrase “40 shades of green” and due to this natural shading each Connemara Marble piece is so different making each gift completely unique.
The mining of Connemara Marble is one of Ireland oldest industries, known to have been used for trading and bartering in Neolithic (New Stone Age) times. The first man-made exports from Ireland would have been decorative stone axes made from Connemara Marble. Carved green marble spearhead, dating back 2000 years ago, was excavated in Suffolk, U.K. Connemara Marble is extremely durable and is resistant to scratches and stains making it very suitable for jewellery and homeware products and it is the only marble sometimes used as a semi-precious stone.
The owners of the Connemara Marble mines are very fussy on who they supply their marble to and only the top stone masons will be provided with a supply of this unique marble. And for no wrong reason, Connemara Marble is extremely difficult to work with, to extract the correct shading of the marble to create a near consistent colour and pattern match for their pieces of craft and working along the lines of the marble to ensure pieces to use as homeware items remain robust.
The suppliers to Totally Irish Gifts of Connemara jewellery and homeware crafted gifts are:
A family run business established in 1946, who own and operate the oldest marble quarry, which was first opened in the 19th Century and visited in 1903 by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra during the Royal tour of Connemara. Quarried by hand at Lissoughter, Recess, Co. Galway, the marble is lifted from the ground and transported to the Walsh family’s workshop in Rathfarmham Village, Dublin, where it is crafted and polished by hand.
Hennessey & Byrne, Russborough House, Blessington, Co, Wicklow
Eric Byrne is a second generation master stone mason with over twenty years experience working with marble. Eric carefully chooses each piece of marble he uses to handcraft his designs of quality functional tableware and giftware. Eric captures the essence and beauty of this ancient Irish marble to create truly unique Irish gifts. Eric’s workshop is based in Russborough House and he sources his Connemara Marble from the quarries owned by the Joyce family, Recess, Co. Galway.
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