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The Art of Celtic Jewelry

Celtic jewelry designs have a very ancient heritage. The history of Celtic Art is fascinating, rich with myth, folklore and mystery. One of the most identifiable representations of Celtic Art is the Celtic Cross, a symbol that combines a cross with a ring surrounding the intersection. There are many legends related to the origin and history of the Celtic Cross, including those of religion and tradition.

The Celts were a powerful race of nomads who first emerged in Central Europe. From the Celtic artifacts found in Central Europe, to others of a later date in Western Europe, you can find a progressive evolution of a style which will influence Western Art long after the Celts themselves lost their authority over the ancient world. The characteristic intertwined lines of their metalwork found a new Christian theme from the 7th century AD in the interlacing patterns of Irish manuscripts and stone Celtic crosses.

But the tradition of Irish metalworking dates back to the Irish Bronze Age (c.3500-1100 BCE). Irish craftsmen produced a range of simple shapes in bronze, copper and gold, as well as the more intricate torques (neck ornaments consisting of a band of twisted metal, worn especially by the ancient Gauls and Britons). In the Late Irish Iron Age (400 BCE – 100 CE), these Irish and Celtic metalworking traditions fused to produce a number of outstanding jewelry pieces of fine art metalwork, of which only a few survive today.

Celtic craftsmanship in metals continued to develop in the early Christian Art period (c.500-900 CE), producing such jewelry masterpieces as the Tara Brooch, the Ardagh Chalice, the Moylough Belt Shrine, and the processional crosses like the great 12th century Cross of Cong.

The Celtic Cross shape has been widely used by ancient people long before the arrival of Christianity. In some cultures the four arms of the cross are interpreted as the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), the four directions of the compass (north, south, east, west), the four parts of man (mind, soul, heart, body) or four ways to ascension (self, nature, wisdom, god/goddess). Celtic Christians describe the circle on the cross as a halo or an eternity symbol. As per some ancient scriptures and philosophies, circle symbolizes the moon and a cross and circle together represents the sun. According to Irish mythology, Saint Patrick created the cross during his time converting the pagan Irish by drawing a circle around a Latin cross to represent the Pagan moon goddess.

Nowadays, the Celtic Cross is worn by people all over the world whether as a symbol of ethnic heritage, faith or simply because of its beautiful design. There is a modern line of Celtic cross designs that combine materials such as silver and leather to create innovative and unique jewelry pieces suitable for both men and women.

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