The History of Celtic Jewellery

The History of Celtic Jewellery
The History of Celtic Jewellery
Image by Eva Hartnagel on unsplash.

The history of Celtic jewellery is ancient and interesting. Celtic jewellery in Wales dates back to between 2000 BC and 550 AD, when craftsmen used silver and gold to create striking pieces of jewellery that boasted various Celtic symbols. Over time, the Celtic jewellery-making processes have been refined significantly, although the historical and cultural integrity of the various symbols has not been compromised.

While Celtic jewellery can be crafted from an array of precious metals including gold and titanium, silver jewellery has a reputation not only for being durable, but also for possessing a timeless beauty. Of all the Celtic symbols that have been incorporated into jewellery design, there are three in particular that have been in high demand for a very long time.

Celtic knots

Knot designs are extremely popular in Celtic jewellery of Welsh origin, and often adorn silver brooches, pendants, rings and charms. The intertwined motif of continuous lines appealed greatly to the Celts and symbolised their beliefs pertaining not only to eternal life but to the complex relationship between humanity and the natural and divine realms as well. Among the most popular knots used in jewellery is the Celtic love knot, which symbolises the love two people have for one another. It was also commonly believed that the Celts exchanged love knots in a similar fashion to how wedding rings are exchanged in modern times. Other popular knots that frequently feature in Celtic silver jewellery are intricate sailor knots and shield knots. There is also the Dara knot. Although this knot is a more modernised creation, it was heavily influenced by traditional Celtic knots, and has become a popular symbol among Welsh jewellery lovers.

The Tree of Life

Apart from the Celtic love knot, the Tree of Life is one of the most renowned Celtic motifs and is used extensively both in jewellery design and other crafts. The Ancient Celtic Druids believed that the Tree of Life had special powers. As an area was cleared for the establishment of a settlement, a single tree was left in the middle. This tree became known as the Tree of Life. In present-day Welsh culture, the tree is symbolic of the balance that exists between heaven and Earth. The tree is also believed to be a symbol of immortality, with jewellery pieces that feature a Tree of Life often being gifted to individuals facing hardships. Although the basic silhouette of the tree typically remains intact, many variations have been incorporated into jewellery design through the ages. One of the designs whose popularity is increasing is one illustrating a tree growing from a pot. The pot symbolises Mother Nature, from which all forms of life originates. Sterling silver Tree of Life earrings and pendants specifically are in very high demand.

The Celtic Cross

One of the most common symbols used in Welsh Celtic jewellery is the Celtic cross. The very distinctive cross with the circle that surrounds the intersection of the two arms dates back to the 5th century, and is not only the most widely-recognised symbol of Celtic Christianity, but also a symbol of the Celtic culture as a whole. Welsh metalsmiths have been crafting exquisite silver jewellery depicting the Celtic cross for centuries, with modern-day jewellers mostly remaining true to tradition. Celtic cross brooches, pendants, earrings, and charm bracelets are often adorned with gemstones for a more lavish appearance, although unembellished silver pieces have their own timeless appeal. Celtic crosses frequently feature in the designs on Welsh love spoons and various decorative elements for the home.

Image by Maria Oswalt on unsplash.

Celtic silver jewellery has a very long and colourful history in Wales. Despite jewellery trends changing on an annual basis, the exquisite pieces of Celtic origin will continue to impress with their unmatched, timeless beauty.

The author’s views are entirely their own and may not always reflect the views of AC Silver.

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