Saturday, July 16, 2016

The O'Connor Jewelry Heist.

Kerry and I first met the very affable Jim O'Connor in 1995 at Showcase Ireland, the annual Irish trade show.  We had already been selling Irish and Celtic jewelry from his company since opening The Irish Gift House in July of 1994, but it was nice to finally put a face to the name.  O'Connor was our principal Irish jewelry vendor throughout the 90's and on one of his sales visits to us in Arizona, Kerry placed an order of over $90,000.00.  Jim told us it was his largest single order; we sold a lot of O'Connor Jewelry in those days.

 Jewelry form O'Connor sold well, and it should, as it was the then Thomas O'Connor and Sons that opened the Claddagh ring market in the US.  O'Connor became the largest manufacturer of Irish jewelry and was well known in the Irish market as well.  On more than one occasion we had Dublin customers in our store reminisce that "O'Connor's Diamonds" was the place to go for engagement rings.
On the surface O'Connor was strong, but the reality was O'Connor was fighting back from one of the largest gold and diamond thefts in European history.   In 1983, O'Connor was victimized by Martin Cahill, The General, when over €2.55 million in gold and diamonds were stolen.
Cahill's gang identified a weak point in O'Connor's security system as they forced their way into a boiler room which was not connected to the alarm system.  They waited overnight, and when the staff arrived they pounced and forced them to open the safes.  O'Connor was dramatically under insured and it forced them to reorganize with the loss of over 100 jobs.

The General was gunned down by the IRA in 1994 and  Jim confided that when he heard the news on his car radio he pulled over and "had himself a smile."

In 1998 a movie, The General, was released about the nefarious life of Dublin crime boss, Martin Cahill.  Jim didn't appreciate any notoriety for Cahill and refused when asked if O'Connor Jewelry, the site of the robbery, could be used in the movie.

After the theft, Jim took over his father's business, re-branding it James S. O'Connor Jewelers.  O'Connor produced a quality product, but their market share was eroding mainly due to their long turnaround time.   Not wanting to encourage another thief, O'Connor kept a minimal amount of precious metal, gems and finished product in stock; everything became made to order and the wait times for his jewelry became a two month endeavor.  Unfortunately this practice resulted in many lost sales.   On more than one occasion wedding bands didn't arrive in time for the ceremony.   Naturally, his customers, The Irish Gift House included, gravitated toward other suppliers of Irish jewelry who offered weekly shipments.
Sadly Jim passed away around 2005 and O'Connor Jewelry went into liquidation a couple of years later.

O'Connor didn't embrace the internet age and until now we never added our stock of O'Connor Jewelry to our site,  If you would like to take a look at what is probably the largest collection of O'Connor Jewelry in the world, we have finally published around 100 pieces; see them all in our New Irish Gifts section.

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