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The Irish Silver Museum
Power, Politics, Piety and Pride.
Since the Viking period in Ireland, silver has been a most prized metal and a means of exchange. One of the seven precious metals of antiquity, silver has long enthralled and fascinated humans who fashioned it into beautiful and useful objects. Some of these objects in the museum feature the names and arms of their owners or unusual decorations and features – but all of them tell a story.
The first part of the museum takes the visitor on a journey through Irish history using beautiful, intimate and personal objects as a guide to the fascinating story of Ireland from the arrival of the Vikings to Ireland’s entry into the EEC in 1973. Highlights include the Waterford Kite brooch, a sword granted to the city by Edward IV, silver which belonged to the famous writer Jonathan Swift, pieces from the most famous houses and powerful families in Ireland’s history as well as medals and commemorative pieces from the biggest military conflicts of our past. The earliest pieces connect to Waterford’s Viking heritage and thanks to their role as expert seafarers the collection includes a silver coin made in modern-day Iraq in 742, which found its way to Waterford in about 850.
As Ireland is a nation of tea and coffee drinkers and lovers of chocolate, the second part of the museum charts its course through the elaborate ceremonies that surrounded these exotic luxuries when they were first introduced in the seventeenth century. Examples from the most talented Irish silversmiths show how even a simple cup of tea could be transformed into a statement of status, sophistication and wealth. The work of silversmiths from Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Youghal, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir are featured as well as pieces from some of Ireland’s rare female silversmiths from the eighteenth century.
Dining was the ultimate theatrical experience a celebration of extravagance and generosity. An eighteenth-century dining table groans under a glittering display of silver intended to strike awe into even the most sophisticated guests. Even a humble pint of beer became a luxury experience with heavy silver tankards and the elaborate toasting ceremonies of the period.
Step into the opulence of our ostentatious past at the Museum of Irish silver and see the story of Ireland told through the medium of this precious metal today.
This museum was made possible by the remarkable generosity of the Frisby family.