With so many people in the world claiming Irish ancestry, it’s not hard to understand the popularity of Celtic jewelry. Its traditional designs are some of the most intricate and beautiful in the world. These designs are also rife with meaning. Keep reading to learn more about what some of these famous designs mean.
The Claddagh is perhaps the single most popular piece of Celtic jewelry among those of Irish descent. Its most common form is as a ring, though the central image of a crowned heart held by two hands is frequently seen as a pendant and brooch as well.
Legend says the first Claddagh was given as a gift from an Irish prince to his beloved. The hands symbolize friendship, the heart crown symbolizes loyalty, and the heart symbolizes love. Tradition dictates that one wears the ring differently depending on their relationship status. Single wearers put the ring on their right hand with the points of the heart facing out, while those who are seeing someone put the point of the heart towards their wrists. Engaged or married individuals wear the ring on their left hand with the point of the heart facing their wrist.
To see a collection of Claddagh jewelry, as well as other designs, click here.
Three leaf clovers, also called shamrocks, have long been associated with the Emerald Isle thanks to stories about Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is credited with converting the people of the island from their traditional faith to the Catholic faith. Saint Patrick used a shamrock to illustrate the idea of the Holy Trinity: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.
The Triskele and The Triquetra
The number three is an important one in Celtic cultures. In addition to the three-leafed shamrock, jewelry featuring the triskele and the triquetra is very popular.
The triskele is a triple spiral. Each spiral symbolizes something different, and the trinities represented vary on interpretation. To the ancient Celts, each spiral represented a different element: earth, air, and water. Other interpretations have said the triskele represents past, present, and future, or life, rebirth, and death.
The triquetra, also called the trinity knot, is one of the most popular Celtic knots. Similar to the triskele, each point on the triquetra is supposed to represent a different concept, but also how those concepts are interconnected. Most meanings associated with the triquetra are ones it shares with the triskele and the shamrock.
The Tree of Life
Celtic and Norse iconography have a number of similarities, from their intricate knot work to specific images that they share. The Celtic Tree of Life is similar to the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil. The roots and branches of the tree represent all life and how it is connected. The branches reach into the heavens while the roots reach into the earth, representing how heaven and earth are connected.
The tree also speaks to Celtic beliefs in the never-ending cycles of life, as it dies each fall and comes back to life each spring.
The harp is an important symbol in Irish history and is the national symbol of the Republic of Ireland. In fact, Ireland is the only country in the world whose national symbol is a musical instrument.
The harp has been featured on many things throughout Irish history. The flag wielded by Irish rebels fighting for independence from the British featured a golden harp on a field of emerald green. Today, the harp appears on many official state documents and on the Irish euro.
While there are many more important symbols in Celtic culture, these are some of the most popular.