In our previous post we started to look into the rich history and the meaning of Celtic jewelry evolving from their origins as pagan symbols through to important elements of the Christian faith, and today as popular fashion accessories.
Previously, we looked at the meaning behind the Trinity and Celtic knot, the Celtic spiral and St. Brigid’s Cross when assessing the history and meaning of celtic jewelry. In Part 2, we turn our attention to the Celtic Cross, Tree of Life, Shamrock jewelry and the ever popular Claddagh ring.
According to popular legend the familiar symbol of the Celtic Cross was introduced to Ireland by Saint Patrick. What makes the cross so distinctive is that manner in which it is mounted on a circle, symbolising the sun and circle of life, which was adorned with various celtic knot work and symbols
It has been suggested that the combination of these two symbols was a way of Saint Patrick to convey the importance of the Cross of Christ to the pagan population of the island by creating a direct link between it and the life-giving properties of the sun. Over time, the Celtic Cross has become the principal symbol of Irish Christianity and has become recognisable throughout the globe.
Tree of Life
In a similar vain to the Celtic Cross, the Tree of Life is another ancient Celtic symbol used to illustrate the interrelation between all forms of creation. The importance of the tree in ancient Ireland can not be understated as it symbolised a source of basic sustenance, food, shelter, and most importantly fuel. Its religious meaning references the biblical story of creation, when God planted the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
The symbol of the Shamrock has become recognisable throughout the world as a the symbol of Ireland. The significance of the Shamrock to Irish heritage is often illustrated in the popular tale of how St. Patrick used the shamrock during his missionary work to signify the Holy Trinity doctrine. While other symbols already existed and were “baptised” by the saints and given new meaning that pointed to the Christian God. As a result, shamrock jewelry accessories have become renowned because of Saint Patrick.
Although not an ancient design, the Claddagh is one of the most popular pieces of celtic jewelry and ring designs today. Despite its relative infancy compared with other celtic symbols, it is still old enough to be considered an Irish tradition, dating back to the 17th century.
The Claddagh is a traditional Irish symbol of two hands clasping a heart, with the heart wearing a crown. The combination of the hands, heart, and crown represent love, friendship, and loyalty. You can find the claddagh symbol on all kinds of jewelry and many other Irish gift items, but it has become an especially popular ring design to be exchanged between friends, the affianced, and spouses.