For more than 80 years Newbridge Silverware has been one of Ireland’s leading producers of high-end metal products.

In recent months, the company has undertaken its most significant innovation since the 1990s, when it branched out from cutlery and started producing silver jewellery, with the launch of a new range of rose gold products. The new rose gold products include jewellery, giftware and homeware.

The new departure was the brainchild of Cliff English, the production manager of the Newbridge Silverware plant in Newbridge, County Kildare. “We saw that the consumer trend in jewellery worldwide was going towards rose gold items,” Cliff said, “In March 2015, we started the project of developing a capacity to produce rose gold items in our Newbridge plant. We spent several months learning the process and getting information on the production of rose gold plated items. “To aid us in developing the process we were assisted by Italian experts who specialise in the production of rose gold jewellery.

However, it was the expertise of our own workforce, in particular the electroplater Pat Kelly, and their willingness to develop their skills and knowledge which has made the production of our new range of rose gold products such a success.” Pat Kelly has worked as an electroplater – an expert in techniques for applying a thin layer of metal on the surface of another metal – for more than 50 years, and for nearly 30 of them he has worked at the Newbridge plant. He said: “I served an apprenticeship with my uncle who was an electroplater in Dublin but I’m still learning now. There are very few electroplaters now in the country, years ago it was quite a common occupation.”

Pat worked for several months perfecting the rose gold plating process in a system of small water and chemical baths before the new equipment for the commercial production process arrived in early November 2015. Showing Liberty around the rose gold production area in the Newbridge plant, Pat said: “This is a very detailed and precise process, you have to be very careful with it. If you get it wrong at any stage you have to start again.” He added: “The jewellery items firstly go through the same process as silverware products. This involves several stages of chemical treatments and cleaning.

“What we do then is put on a coating of rose gold,” Pat said. “The items then go through another cleaning stage, the water used has to be completely pure with no contaminants whatsoever. It is then coated with a nano ceramic resin and when this is dried and cured, it makes it more durable and abrasion resistant. “It’s a very exact process but once it is working well, between 300 and 400 items of jewellery can be produced each day.”

Cliff says the success of the new rose gold product range has been greatly welcomed by the workers in the Newbridge plant. “At the end of the day it is in our own interest to keep on developing our skills and the products which can be produced here,” Cliff explained. “We have been manufacturing here since 1934 and I would not like to be the last production manager. I hope that in 30 years time there will still be a manufacturing plant here and people from Newbridge will still be employed in making silverware and rose gold products.”

This first appeared in Liberty paper in May 2016.