If you are looking for vintage Ola Gorie jewelry, then you have come to the right place. Here you will learn about the history, materials, most collectible pieces, and where to buy.
Ola Gorie is one of the founders of the modern craft movement in Scotland, as well as one of Great Britain’s leading jewelry designers. Her designs are a brilliantly creative union of ultra modern and ancient traditions.
Brief History of Ola Gorie Jewelry
Ola Gorie was born in 1937 in Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. Her parents were grocers and wine merchants. Ola, however, was drawn to a career in the arts and attended Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen and, in 1960, was the first graduate of its jewelry department. She returned to Kirkwall and was inspired by her native islands and their Norse, Pictish, Scottish and Celtic influences. Her jewelry found quick acceptance locally (three jewelry shops in Kirkwall sold her designs), and by the end of the 1960s, was popular across the United Kingdom. Later, she opened her own shop and gained international recognition.
Ola’s designs broke new ground and influenced a generation of designers. Her jewelry comprised clean, sculptural pieces with the subtle highlighting of brilliant sterling silver, and 9- or 18-karat gold. She used the “lost wax casting” method, a technique developed by early Celts, and finished by hand.
The islands of Orkney that are Ola’s inspiration have a magical landscape and evidence of a rich and varied history with folklore that has been handed down through the ages. Monuments and standing stones dating back to Neolithic times and the natural world of seaweed, thistles and pearls are all seen in her collections. In addition, the islands have been a hub of international trade and travel so that Ola’s designs reflect fashion developments from around the world while always maintaining customary meticulous craftsmanship and high quality associated with the British.
Ola retired in 1997, and her daughter, Ingrid Tait, an internationally recognized designer, continues to run the business, although a much scaled down model, where her ancestors’ grocery and wine business stood since 1859.
Since 2007, Ola’s jewelry can only be bought in her shops, via a catalog, or from the website. Ingrid ceased all distribution to third-party vendors.
In 2010, the Orkney Museum held a retrospective exhibition, “Celebrating 50 Years of Ola Gorie,” with her early and iconic designs, original drawings, her tools and some of the ancient artifacts that inspired her.
In 2012, Ola was awarded an Honorary Degree by Robert Gordon University, the first Scottish jeweler to be so recognized.
Ola still lives in the Orkney Islands.
- “OLA” is a very early hallmark, around 1959-1963. Only very rare vintage pieces will have it.
- “OMG” was used from around 1963 to the 1990s.
- “OG” has been used since the 1990s when “Ola M. Gorie” changed to “Ola Gorie.”
- Gold, platinum, and some larger silver pieces are hallmarked with the castle of the Edinburgh Assay Office.
Favorite Collectibles: Vintage Ola Gorie Jewelry
1960s. Handmade silver necklace in a Celtic design, the nautilus shell that is considered “sacred geometry,” a shape that is found all over nature: the galaxy, hurricanes, sunflower seeds, spine cones, etc.
1970s. Handcrafted sterling silver necklace with a central stone that is a real or glass tiger’s eye. It measures 16 inches long. Brutalism was popular in mid-20th century as an architectural style. It was deliberately plain and austere, somewhat crude, sometimes seen as menacing.
1960s – 1990s, made during the “OMG” period. The sterling silver brooch or pendant is the Luckenbooth, a romantic Scottish symbol of love, dating from the 17th century. It is given as a token of betrothal, affection, and friendship and is very similar to the Irish Claddagh. Measures 1.3 inches by 1 inch.
1960s – 1990s, made during the “OMG” period. Sterling silver (92/1000) drop/dangle earrings with leverback fastenings.
Vintage. These rare Art Nouveau-style gold drop earrings are stunning re-creations of tiger lilies. They are for pierced ears and have a butterfly fastenings.
1960s – 1990s, made during the “OMG” period. The thistle is sacred in Scottish folklore and is the country’s national emblem. The legend is that a Viking preparing to attack during the night stepped on a thistle and yelled out in pain, alerting the Scots who could then defend themselves.
The necklace is 20" long, the pendant 1.25" X 1.25". The round purple amethyst measures approximately ¼ inch.
Tips for Buying Vintage Ola Gorie Jewelry
- The Ola Gorie Company has an extensive record of old pieces, and you can contact them for advice on the date of a piece and the price.
- It may be helpful (as well as fun) to learn about Scottish symbols in The Story of Scottish Design by Joanna Normal and Philip Long before shopping.
- If you enjoy auctions, you are competing against dealers and retailers who have a lot of money to invest in collectibles. Two things can give you a bit of a leg up: Attend close to Christmas. The “big guys” have already bought their stock and/or they may have depleted a good deal of their budget. Also, any time of year, try attending the auction late in the evening when the crowd has thinned out.
- See if you can find a dealer who is an expert on Ola Gorie (as well as one who is honest). Not only will you be able to feel at ease buying, but you will have someone to consult about pieces you find other places.
- If you are just starting out collecting Ola Gorie (or any designer), buy what you love. If you do not sell it, you will have it for yourself to wear.