When you hear the term Celtic Jewelry, one of the first things you’ll probably think of is the Claddagh Ring. After all, the Claddagh Ring is by far one of the most popular Celtic jewelry designs both in and outside of Ireland. Celtic jewelry is usually very symbolic, with the Claddagh ring being a prime example, as it symbolizes both love and friendship. However, there is so much about Celtic jewelry and its history that is left to be explored. In today’s blog post, we’re going to discuss the top 8 things you should know about Celtic jewelry design. Let’s get started.
1. The Word “Celtic” Is Used to Describe the Iron Age
Well, sort of. The term Celtic is used to describe the Celts, a group of people who lived in Northwest Europe during the Iron Age, which is when many of the Celtic designs we have today first emerged. The Iron Age, which took place between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C. was a time when weapon-making flourished across Europe and other parts of the world. During this period, people started making tools and weapons out of steel and iron. Before the Iron Age, many weapons were made out of copper and bronze.
As new materials such as iron began to be used in weaponry, they also began to be incorporated in Celtic art, such as the Book of Kells and in the jewelry designs we know today.
2. The Celts Loved to Wear Jewelry
Not only did the Celts like making jewelry, but they also loved wearing it. The Celts were known for wearing brightly colored clothing that was full of embroidery, however, they were also known for wearing jewelry such as the neck ring. The Neck Ring, or Torcs by its formal name, was one of the most important pieces of jewelry worn by the Celtic people. This design usually featured beads and red enamel and was commonly worn as a symbol of someone’s societal status. As such, torcs were used as a symbol of someone’s wealth, royalty, or high-ranking military status. It was worn by both men and women.
3. Celtic Jewelry Can Be Recognized By Their Specific Design Elements
What often separates Celtic jewelry from other types of jewelry on the market is that they contain very unique and specific design elements. One such example is the Celtic knot. Celtic art that predates Christianity commonly featured geometric designs such as spirals and key and step patterns, which are referred to as maze designs due to their complexity.
Today, most pieces of Celtic jewelry can be recognized by their use of woven lines, circles, knots, and spirals. The symbolism for these designs vary. The Triskele, for example, is a triple spiral that holds several meanings such as the land, sea, and sky and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
The most common designs found in Celtic jewelry include:
- Step patterns
- Basic knot patterns
- Knotwork interlace
- Celtic spirals
4. Celtic Jewelry is Full of Symbolism
While we briefly touched on the symbolism of the Triple Spiral and Claddagh ring above, they are only two examples. Celtic jewelry is known for its symbolism. For example, the Square Knot – also sometimes, referred to as a Box Knot because of how it’s made – features two overhand knots that are turned in opposite positions. This type of knot most commonly symbolizes the four earthly elements: fire, wind, earth, and water.
The Celtic Cross, on the other hand (another popular Celtic design), holds a lot of symbolism, especially depending on who you ask. Some historians believe that the Celtic Cross is a continuation of the former wooden cross designs, while others believe it represents both the Pagan symbolism for the sun and St. Patrick’s use of the cross to convert the Celts into Christianity. Regardless, the Celtic Cross remains one of the most popular symbols of Irish culture.
5. They Hold Special Meaning at Weddings and For Families
Another interesting fact about Celtic jewelry is that they hold special meanings at weddings. Going back to the Claddagh ring we mentioned earlier, this is used to describe different phases of a couple’s relationship. If someone single is wearing a Claddagh ring, they should wear it on their ring hand with the crown facing outward. This symbolizes that the wearer’s heart is open to finding love. When they are dating, they will flip the heart toward them to show their heart is taken. Once engaged, the wearer will place the ring on their left finger with the heart turned outward. During a wedding ceremony, the ring will be turned inward to show that their heart has been forever taken.
Not only is the Claddagh ring a very important symbol in many Irish couples’ marriages, but it has familial ties as well. In Ireland, it’s a tradition for mothers to hand down Claddagh rings to their eldest daughters.
6. The Power of Three
Some of the most common designs in Celtic jewelry feature elements that come in threes. For example, the Shamrock features three leaves and the Trinity knot features three knots. This is because the Celts believed that everything important in the world came in threes. We mentioned the reference to land, sea, and sky and the life cycle earlier, but other common meanings of the number 3 in Celtic culture include a few of the following:
- Mind, body, and soul
- Past, present, and future
- The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Christianity
- Faith, hope, and love
Many of these stories have been passed down from generation to generation, ultimately paving the way for Celtic jewelry to symbolize a myriad of things that can be considered important in one’s life. In many cases, individuals might wear a Trinity Knot as a symbol of strength, family, and protection.
7. The Celts Influenced Existing Designs
The use of knots and spirals were nothing new, however, the Celts breathed new life into them. For example, these patterns were found in the Newgrange Megalithic Tomb, which was constructed in Ireland before the Celts’ arrival. So, while the Celta didn’t originate the use of these design motifs, they updated existing patterns to become more complex and intricate. Because of this, they remain a popular symbol of Celtic art and jewelry.
8. There are Many Types of Designs Available
When it comes to Celtic Jewelry designs, the most important thing to know is that there are several beautiful pieces you can choose from. Here are the most common Celtic jewelry designs and their meanings:
- Celtic Tree of Life – a symbol of the link between heaven and Earth
- The Harp – a symbol of a soul’s immortality
- Saint Brigid’s Cross – a symbol of eternity
- Claddagh ring – a symbol of love and friendship
- Triskele – a symbol of the natural flow of life
- Shamrock – a symbol of Ireland’s national flower
- Celtic knot wedding ring – a symbol of life and eternity woven together
- Shield knot – a symbol of protection, often used to reference the Celt’s use of this design to ward off evil spirits
- Dara knot – a symbol of personal strength
- and many more
Wear Your Irish Pride Anywhere
If you’re in the market for a beautifully intrinsic Celtic jewelry design, look no further than Celtic DNA Jewelry. We sell an array of beautiful and traditional Celtic designs, including Sterling Silver Celtic Cross earrings, Trinity Knot earrings, Ogham necklaces, Celtic Crosses, and much more. We offer free shipping to both the United States and Canada. You can browse all of our Celtic jewelry here.