Popular Symbols On Celtic Jewelry
The symbols found on authentic Celtic jewelry have existed for thousands of years; each special pattern or motif tells a story about the spiritual and cultural lives of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh.
Since the sixth century, when a special style of art, known as Insular Art, was developed by Irish monks and other Christian artists.
A particular type of woven pattern, known as interlace (or knot work) became an important part of Celtic designs on rings, pendants, brooches, and other pieces of Celtic jewelry.
These intricate knot work designs would often feature spirals and Trinity Knots motifs.
The Medieval Irish Were Master Artisans
In particular, the Irish were known for their artistry as Celtic jewelry makers during the early medieval period. Skilled artisans would craft veritable masterpieces, including the stunning Tara Brooch (now housed in the National Museum of Ireland), for noble clients. Often, these pieces of precious Irish jewelry were worn as status symbols; large brooches covered in mystical Celtic symbols would be used to fasten cloaks, or mantles.
Ancient Celtic jewelry was sometimes adorned with careful filigree work, cloisonné enameling, and cabochon gemstones that added richness and a layered, detailed effect to engraved and embossed symbols and patterns. Silver, bronze, and gilt were popular materials for medieval jewelry designs; often, two or three types of metal would be used on one piece.
Today, Celtic jewelers borrow from the techniques and symbolism of the past, honoring Irish, Scottish and Welsh ancestry with Ogham rings, Celtic Cross pendants, Trinity Knot engagement rings, and warrior shield earrings.
Women who revere their own Celtic ancestry usually wear these traditional pieces every day; they may feel more connected to their heritage when they choose jewelry decorated with Celtic symbols. Men may also enjoy wearing unisex Irish Claddagh rings (a more modern Irish symbol) or Celtic wedding bands.
Common Symbols On Ancient And Modern Celtic Jewelry
Symbolizing spiritual growth (from birth to death to spiritual rebirth), the gentle lines of the Celtic spiral have appeared on dolmans (prehistoric stone artifacts), rune stones, and ancient manuscripts. These symbols may predate Christianity or even Paganism – however, they are most commonly connected with these forms of Celtic religion and spirituality. According to some historians, Celtic spirals may symbolize life-force and energy, with each turn of the spiral indicating a new stage of the life cycle.
Ancient Irish Ogham Script
The mysterious vertical and horizontal markings found in Ogham script are part of a unique and ancient written language. The Irish used these tracings to post messages on tree trunks or stone – it is believed that this secret language was created so that invaders could not understand the meaning of what they were seeing (enabling the Irish to make plans without detection from enemies). Over time, the use of Ogham script spread to Wales and Scotland. Today, Ogham script appears on tattoos, wedding rings, and other types of Celtic handiworks.
Symbols of the Holy Trinity, these special, three-part symbols represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This simple and striking motif may also have represented the Triple Goddess in pre-Christian, Pagan times. The sacred beauty of the three planes (underworld, earth, and celestial) was also celebrated by the Druids, who may have used the Trinity Knot to illustrate the three different realms. Today, this symbol appears in many different places…from Led Zeppelin album covers to popular television programs (Charmed) to handmade Irish engagement rings…
Leigh Maher writes for the online store Irish Celtic Jewels. On his blog, he gives tips and information about all things Irish, including weddings, history, culture, symbolism, jewelry and the Claddagh ring.