Whether due to a sense of kinship or simply for their beautiful designs, ancient Celtic jewelry has continued to gain popularity and mass appeal. The Celts were great at goldsmithing and all forms of metalwork. They possessed exceptional talent in the creation of all their elaborate and mostly geometric designs.
The Celtic necklace was an ornament of pride and status in the community. Often referred to as torcs or torques, it is an open-ended ring of precious metal that should be worn around the neck. The most durable material in the making of Celtic necklaces in either silver, bronze, or gold. Tough most are designed with an open end and are meant to be worn permanently, others have been found to have clasps and other types of fasteners.
Torques were made in several different fashions that suited a greater population. They had gold pieces that had been twisted up to form spiral shapes. Another of their kind was the plain types with animal carvings on them and yet another had stones or other metals fitted in their design. The ends often tapered into gold crescent shapes or simply stubbed out in intricate designs at the tip leaving a pliable gap in the middle.
Depending on who it was crafted for, the torque could be heavy and simplistic or light with much more intricate details. Women and noble children were also wearers of the torque in Celtic times.
Celtic Necklace Meaning
The ancient Celtic necklaces were truly heavy and their significance and regular use has not gone unrecognized with every new find of ancient jewelry horde.
Based on findings, it is clear that these necklaces were worn by wealthy and high-ranking individuals among the Celtic societies. They were a common reserve of the Celt warriors who wore this necklace to war or at customary rituals or traditional events.
Ancient Celtic necklaces weighed a couple of kilos and this transformed them from just an ornament to regalia for war. They were believed to possess some powers of protection. They believe in it so much so that great warriors of Celtic times were said to go into battle with nothing else other than their weapons in hand and a torque around their neck. Completely in the nude. Allegedly.
Celtic gods are depicted in numerous images from days gone holding the torque in one hand as a symbol of royalty, wealth, abundance, and authority. This also shows that there was a spiritual significance and power to the wearing of torques.
Scottish 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.
The Torq or necklace proves to be a very significant and eccentric piece of jewelry and symbol of posterity among the great Celts. While it could vary in terms of the size, design, weight, material, or pattern, and while the debate might still be on about whether males today can wear them, Celtic necklaces or torques could never lose their air of royalty.
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