Celtic Jewelry A Beautiful Mystery Unravelled
By Sam Serio
Celtic jewelry like the Celts themselves has a rich history and a proud
tradition. Immensely beautiful with intricate Celtic symbols and delicate designs, Celtic
cross jewelry, Celtic knot jewelry, and beautiful Claddaugh rings have been admired and
desired for thousands of years.
Celtic Cross Jewelry
One of the most enduring, and coveted "gifts" of Celtic
culture is jewelry featuring the Celtic Cross. According to Irish legend, St. Patrick
created the first Celtic cross by drawing a circle over a Latin cross.
For an Irish Catholic, the circle in the Celtic cross may be a symbol
of eternity and the endlessness of God's love. It can even represent a halo emanating from
Some say the four "arms" of the Celtic Cross represent the
elements (fire, earth, air, and water). Others believe the cross denotes the four
directions of the compass, and still others feel it is a representation of human existence
mind, body, soul and heart.
The most distinguishing characteristic of Celtic knots is their
intricate patterns and design
and the debate as to the meaning of those designs.
While it is unquestionable that many of the ancient designs had some significance, those
meanings changed from tribe to tribe and location to location.
Many believe that the intricate looping in knots was a way to keep out
evil spirits. It is also generally accepted that the looping Celtic knot design denotes
eternity and interconnectedness. Still, there is no definitive guide as to the meaning of
Celtic knots which, adds, perhaps to their mystery and appeal.
Named for the town of Claddagh near Galway in which they are said to
have originated, Claddagh rings are beloved Celtic symbols of Irish culture and sentiment.
Unlike other Celtic symbols, the meaning behind the Claddagh ring is well-documented. The
Claddagh design has a heart (symbolizing love) topped by a crown (symbolizing loyalty)
held in two hands (signifying friendship). The phrase that is usually associated with the
giving of a Claddagh ring is "Let love and friendship reign."
It's not surprise that the Claddagh is a popular marriage band. In
Celtic times, it was worn on the right hand with the heart turned outward to show that the
wearer is unattached or with the heart turned inward to show he/she was "spoken
for." If the Claddagh ring is worn on the left hand with the heart turned inward, it
shows that two loves have been joined in marriage.
Celtic Then and Now
At one time, Celtic people could be found throughout Eastern and
Central Europe, as well as in the British Isles, where the earliest examples of Celtic
jewelry originate. The emergence of the powerful Roman Empire encroached on the lifestyle,
traditions, and homeland of the Celts who were forced to move to abandon their homes and
relocate in remote areas in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall in southern England.
Despite their hardships at the hands of the Romans, Celts endured,
and continued to produce Celtic jewelry. The tradition has remained strong
for centuries. Irish Celtic jewelry and Scottish Celtic jewelry have enjoyed a huge
resurgence in their homelands and with "ex-pats" around the world, as people
seek to rediscover and celebrate their cultural traditions.