In about 500 B.C. the Celtic culture and influence reached the Irish borders. On arrival, they proceeded on to making productions of their artwork that was later called La Tene in honor of the area in Switzerland it was found during research. This fashion of handiwork was all about curves, spirals, and any geometric shapes known to man at the time.
As a people with deep culture and many gods, the Celtic’s jewelry was heavily influenced by their experiences and their everyday lives.
Celtic Jewelry Meaning
Celtic jewelry was more than just practical but decorative as well. Some pieces would be used to adorn statues of gods or to create sacred shrines.
Their artistic pieces were for more than just ornamental reasons as even gods were spotted adorning or having in their person a torc. These were symbols of prestige and prosperity and kings, gods, and noblemen wore them.
There were different types of signature Celtic jewelry designs and they all had a special meaning behind their creation.
· Claddagh Ring
Originating from the village of Claddagh, these rings were instantly famous because of their build and significance. Depicting two hands holding a crowned heart up, these pieces are great symbols of love, friendship, faithfulness. Not surprisingly, they have been used as wedding bands on several occasions.
· Celtic Triskele
Though the triskele is not originally a symbol from the Celtic people, they came across it and loved it so much that it now features in their top pick of traditional Celtic pieces. It is believed that their brief interaction with the Vikings exposed the Celts to new symbols they hadn’t explored. The triskele stands for the sea, sky, and land and helps you keep in mind this ever-present relationship.
· Celtic Torc
While it is still arguable who made the torq more popular between the Irish and the British, they have been worn over time and across the gender and generational gaps. Set aside for royalty, they are made of gold, silver, or bronze.
· Celtic Knotwork
This product of the insular style adopted by the Celts in Ireland and Britain symbolized an endless knot with no ending or beginning. Depending on why you get it, this piece represents the infinity of whatever it is you believe in. Be it love, nature, people, or life. It was a popular buy in the post-Roman era.
· Celtic Cross
A ring surrounding the intersection of a cross is the Celt’s twist on the Christian Jesus’ Cross. This circle makes a halo shape that seems to be acting as a protective shield. These crosses have long been a form of Celt jewelry and were used in the conversion of pagans into Christianity.
· Four-leaf clovers
You will find them handing as pendants, as ring crowns, and as earrings. They represent good luck and success and remind you to keep your faith, hope, and love.
· Wild Irish Rose
Picked to symbolize the tenacity and beauty of women, the Irish Rose fits perfectly as it thrives in very harsh conditions.
Getting their name from the ‘locked booths’ along the Royal Mile in Edinburg from which these intricates were bought, they represented gestures of affection, love, devotion, and friendship. It featured one or two hearts intertwined with a crown on top to symbolize love and royalty.
· Celtic Stag
This symbol held a mystical and special meaning in the hearts of the Celt people. While much of the Celt’s life was in nature and around animals, they had a special affinity for the white stag believing that a sighting of it meant good fortune on your part. They also held the faith that it was their gods’ way of communicating with them.
· Celtic Owl
A representation of hidden knowledge and revelation of the truths. The owl was believed to be a guide into the dark world as it could see clearly in the dark and it is a swift hunter. Wearing this symbol could help you avoid or escape the tricks placed in your way by those who wish you evil.
Celtic Jewelry History
Around 1000 B.C. was the beginning of the Iron Age over the Celtic nation. Most artifacts from this time were found in a horde at an archeological site discovered after a lake’s water levels dropped.
The findings revealed a ton of jewelry with beautiful geometrical designs boasting of diagonal lines and spirals all along the curve or twist of the interlaced metal. Heads of unsightly creatures decked the tips of these torques and had their “bodies” woven together with incredible mastery.
Celtics were deservedly admired for their intricate designs that dotted every inch of these gorgeous and regal metal pieces. Though we do have modern designs that claim to be replicas of the original, the Celtic level of skill and precision remains unmatched till date.
This Celtic style was known as Insular and it picked around the 4th and 5th centuries. It is evident in the Christian artwork like in stained glass windows of churches, old church walls, and ancient tombstones. The debate is still ongoing about who really popularized the Insular style of metalwork. Was it the British or the Irish?
Some scholars believe that the Book of Kells answers this question outrightly. This ancient manuscript made of calfskin contains in it the Latin version of the four New Testament gospels and has clear and detailed patterns that we presently attribute as being Celtic.
Contrary to previous writing that made no difference in size in their notes, the Book of Kells made an obvious distinction between small and big letters. It is instrumental and very significant to the present and future as the oldest reference available of the symbols and patterns that represented the Celts.
The Iron Age was the birth era of the Celtic culture. Though the Christians had adopted a contraption of their shapes and patterns of decoration, they were never really the Celtic decorations that were found on jewelry.
Working with steel and iron opened up possibilities and increased ways or working in the Celts sense of representation. Having to work the metal and forge designs into it as opposed to the much easier casting, gave rise to a variety of items, ornaments, and weapons.
This is the Celtics most iconic creations in terms of jewelry in the Iron Age. This is the true original Celtic necklace that was worn across the society. With some plain and heavy designs for the men and twisted, light-weight, and artistic pieces for the women. Male children of nobility wore their own torc and it is suggested that men handed it down their lineage.
Snettisham Great torq which was made of electrum metal, a natural alloy of gold and silver, and was found in 1950 in Norfolk. It was made of eight uniquely twisted strands that had been wound together and turned into a finely decorated tip.
Brooches and Bracelets
These were also popular in the Celtic society. Brooches were particularly household and personal items because of their fastening functionality. Worn on one or both shoulders, these beautiful ornaments of old were made of silver, gold, iron, or bronze. To easily fasten your garb, they had been designed into a safety-pin.
Bracelets were worn on the ankles and wrists all the same and armlets were unique to the Scottish Celtic. They took the shape of a bracelet but were mostly made of bronze with colored gems or enamels embedded in them.
Celtic Style Jewelry
Their specific style was called Insular and it had such a great impact that when the Christians came through the nation, they adopted some of their artistic expressions and blended them in with Christian symbols and art.
The common theme of most artistic designs in and around the Celtic age centered around people and nature. The Celtic designs, however, are missing significantly the factor of humans or things. They did, however, incorporate unseen figures of snakes and birds.
The level of craftsmanship when it came to the interlocking patterns, geometric lines, and spirals was like none witnessed before, and considering their limited access to resources and technology, their attention to detail is nothing short of mind-blowing.
The entire piece was decked with complex and never-ending patterns that so skillfully treaded the curve with acute precision.
The Book of Kells is found to be the best source of knowledge in all matter’s Celtic symbols and designs. It rests in a library in Dublin, Ireland after they claimed ownership of it based on the resonance with their culture.
With detailed hand-drawn pictures clearly depicting the intricate Celtic insular designs, it contains the Latin version of the Gospel of the New Testament.
Every day at the Trinity College, a different page of the book is on display.
Celtics are generally perceived as Irish, Scottish, or Walsh of today. Their beautiful designs in jewelry stood out in the old iron Age and they still do so now. While the current designs may not be three dimensional like those of the Celtics, it still feels good to have a replica of the original especially if you treasure the meaning behind it.
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