Jewelry seems as if it has always been part of human culture. Some of the earliest traces of jewelry date back to 3,000 to 400 BC. However, they were simple and made out of stone. Jewelry has always acted as a means of symbolizing various things.
Some jewelry pieces carried spiritual meanings, and others implied different aspects such as love, loyalty, luck, friendship, status, and more. Regarding Irish or Celtic jewelry, they often have the most profound hidden meanings, and you can find out more information here.
To understand the various purposes of jewelry in Irish and Celtic traditions, let’s take a look at some jewelry examples and their meaning.
The Claddagh ring is one of the most powerful symbols of Celtic romance and Irish jewelry. In the 17th century, pirates kidnapped a man named Richard Joyce from his home village of Claddagh.
The man was taken overseas and sold as a slave. During his time as a slave, Richard Joyce learned the goldsmith’s art and crafted one of the most known symbols of Irish jewelry, the Claddagh ring.
This ring consisted of a heart representing love, hands representing friendship, and a crown, representing loyalty. Once the man gained his freedom, he presented this ring as a gift to his true love, a woman that had waited for him.
The trinity knot is an ancient Celtic symbol often depicted in many antique jewelry pieces, and the meaning has often changed throughout history. In many cases, it symbolizes eternal life, love, strength, or dedication.
Also known as the “triquetra,” one of the oldest symbolizations of the trinity knot is related to a woman’s three life cycles, strongly tied with the moon’s phases. The three points of the knot symbolize and honor the Mother, the Maiden, and the Crone. The unbroken interlaced lines indicate eternal life, spiritual growth, and undying love.
The Gaelic Ogham script predated the arrival of St. Patrick and was carved on stone monuments around Ireland. The script contains a system of lines that represent letters of the alphabet.
Those letters are commonly found in ogham jewelry and are even used today. For example, phrases like “Mo Anam Cara” carved on jewelry means “my soul mate, ” often present in Irish or Celtic wedding rings.
St. Patrick Christianized Ireland, and around the 8th century, Celtic crosses became a typical pendant or necklace worn by people to showcase their Irish heritage or Christian beliefs.
Tara Brooch & Luckenbooth Brooch
The purpose of this next type of jewelry, the Tara brooch, acted more as a ceremonial insignia of high officers directly under the orders of the high kings of early Irish medieval society. The Luckenbooth Brooch has a different meaning.
It is a heart-shaped brooch often depicting a crown above one heart or intertwined hearts. It is a traditional Scottish love token usually found in many jewelry pieces and has similar motifs to the Claddagh ring.
Celtic Tree of Life
The Celtic Tree of Life is a common Irish symbol in jewelry with a powerful meaning. It represents eternal life, rebirth, and growth. Often associated with family, the Celtic tree of life is displayed with spread branches that reach for the sky and roots spreading out to the earth below.
The Celts regarded trees as being sacred, representing the source of all life, balance, and harmony.