Valentines Day is fast approaching and what better way to surprise your loved one than with some high-quality Celtic jewelry.
Celtic Jewelry is thought to have dated back to between 2000 BC to around 550 AD.
Around this time craftsmen were using silver and gold to create exceptional jewelry decorated with Celtic Symbols, that held significant meaning within their community.
When it comes to symbolism in art, the Celts had a very different viewpoint to neighbouring cultures such as the Greeks and Etruscans.
The Celtic civilisation was far more enamoured with imagination than reality when creating their symbols.
You may wish to learn more about each of these Celtic symbols. The Celtic cross, Celtic tree of life and the Triquetra are a good place to start.
Rather than just telling you to buy this and buy that in this article I have broken down the meaning behind each piece of Celtic Jewelry and why your loved one would appreciate it.
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For this article, I have gone with the American English spelling of Jewelry. Which I am sure you will have already noticed.
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Okay let’s start with these Celtic jewelry Ideas:
1. The Claddagh Ring
Ah sure you know this was going to come up first! The Claddagh ring or in Irish: fáinne Chladaigh, is arguably one of the most famous pieces of Celtic jewelry out there. It has been worn by some incredibly high profile celebrities over the years.
The Claddagh was once a busy port for merchants and noblemen alike and today still pulses with activity from locals, tourists, fishermen and even water polo players!
But what is the story behind it?
The Claddagh ring in its current form has been in use since the 1700s, and as for its origin, that is a matter of great debate.
What we do know is that the style stemmed from the European fede finger rings which used hands as a symbol of loyalty.
However, the Irish Claddagh ring is unique in its usage of the hands, heart and crown.
The hands symbolise friendship, the heart is for love, and the crown is for loyalty, hence the reasoning behind it being a popular friendship and engagement ring since its creation.
Nowadays it is worn by men and women alike, whether single, engaged or married as a tribute to their Irish heritage.
The Story of Margaret Joyce.
It is of no surprise that the tales telling of the origin of this ring come with a notable mythological weight and we’ll let you decide which one feels truer to your heart.
The first tells of Margaret Joyce who was wed to a wealthy Spanish trader called Domingo de Rona in the late 16th century.
Sadly, shortly after their marriage de Rona died and Margaret returned to her native Ireland. In 1596 she had found love again with the Mayor of Galway, and they were married.
Using the fortune left to her by her late first husband, Margaret funded the construction of several bridges in Galway and then one day, as she was reading in the garden, an eagle flew overhead and dropped the Claddagh ring in her lap as a symbol of gratitude for the love and loyalty she had shown to her beloved Galway.
The Story of Richard Joyce.
The second origin story tells of a Galway man, Richard Joyce. Joyce was engaged to marry a local woman, and during the plantations of circa.1675, he sailed to the West Indies seeking fortune.
It was an ill wind that carried him overseas as his ship was intercepted by pirates and he was sold into slavery to a Moorish goldsmith.
It was here he learned the craft of goldsmithing, and during his fourteen years in captivity, he fashioned the Claddagh ring as we know it today.
Eventually, Joyce was released and upon his return to Ireland, found his fiancée waiting for him and gave her the ring he had carried with him all that time.
They finally were able to marry, and Joyce became a successful goldsmith in his own right.
Final points on this incredible piece of Irish Celtic jewelry
In all of the stories about the Claddagh ring, there is an unbreakable thread of love, friendship and loyalty and it is this that has led to the ring being known across the world.
Irish people have always been travellers and whether it was mothers giving it to their daughters when they set sail for America in the 1840s or 1920s or even today, or lovers separated who gave each other a ring as a sign of their fidelity when they would one day be reunited.
It is a symbol of belonging, a symbol of place, history and connection to those before us and those who will follow us.
2. The Trinity Knot Also Know As The Triquetra – Celtic Jewelry
My personal favourite Celtic symbol and an excellent Valentines day gift. The Trinity knot has made it into many major motion pictures over the years.
The Trinity Knot is a much-treasured symbol of Irish and Celtic history and instantly recognised by its infinite tri-spiral form symbolising everlasting life, everlasting love and everlasting connection.
Due to their timeless nature, jewellery displaying the Trinity Knot often become heirlooms adored by families for generations.
But what is the story behind the Trinity Knot?
Stemming back farther than we can truly grasp, as much of Ireland’s history has been passed down orally leaving it difficult to pinpoint exact dates.
What we do know is that the Trinity Knot has been in use since at least the 7th Century AD.
Celtic knots and spirals in various incarnations have been in use in Ireland for over 5,000 years, and they have been embellished, refined and simplified numerous times over, so suffice to say, these symbols are rooted in the very core of our history.
Given this prominence, it’s only natural for us to wonder what the triangular, three-cornered knot means so allow us to tell you a little about its roots and growth in our history.
The Book of Kells and the Trinity Knot
The most famous appearance of the Trinity Knot is in the pages of the Book of Kells, the oldest book in the world, and a source of great pride for the Irish.
The pages of this book are littered with vastly intricate knots and spirals, seemingly unending as they weave their way to form letters and take the shape of animals and plants, only to continue on to create more knots in an unending visual spree.
This piece of Celtic jewelry in today’s age
It is truly adaptable, as the Trinity Knot has also been embraced in pre-Christian and neo-pagan times as a symbol of the mother goddess, the innocent maiden and the wise elder woman.
For the Celts, it was important to them to have things come in three and so it is believed to have symbolised earth, sea and sky as well as the three stages of life: childhood, adulthood and maturity.
Today brings new meanings to the Trinity Knot. Perhaps the most popular being as a symbol of eternal love which gave it the modern name of the Celtic Love Knot.
In this role, it has been used to adorn engagement and wedding rings, and also jewellery for special occasions and anniversaries so that these pieces are not only beautiful but due to their timeless nature become heirlooms adored by families past and present.
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3. The Celtic Cross – Celtic Jewelry
One of Ireland’s biggest contribution to Western European Art of the Middle Ages is the Celtic High Crosses.
Their design imitates the wood and metal crosses before them, and although much of the inscriptions and imagery have been lost to the ravages of time.
Some examples still bear some impressive Celtic knotwork, images of saints and scholars, pilgrims, animals and some older examples bear Ogham carvings also.
The cross is rich in powerful representation and an ideal reflection of the hopes and ambitions of the Celts.
While the Cross is certainly a Christian symbol, it has its roots in ancient pagan beliefs at the same time.
It is a remarkable fact how widespread the distinct shape of the Irish Cross is in the modern era.
Originally they were not carved out of the rock – they were inscribed on the rock.
In the mid-19th century, a Celtic revival led to an increased use of the ringed cross in Ireland, and the Celtic Cross became not only a religious symbol but an emblem of Celtic identity.
A true piece of Irish heritage and you can see some incredible Celtic Cross pieces here in this Celtic Jewelry section.
Final points on these Celtic jewelry ideas:
I hope this post has helped you get a bit more of an insight into the various types of Celtic jewelry out there.
I will do a follow-up post on this depending how much interest it gets.
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The quality of these metals ensures longevity in your jewellery, enabling you to pass these treasures on to your children and grandchildren for generations after you to keep your roots alive.