Silver and gold ornaments play a central role in Irish jewelry. This stems from the fact that in both Pagan and Christian times, legendary tales seem to find a way to mention them as extraordinary pieces of individual décor and ornamentation. Yet, these unique pieces were worn mostly by the upper classes, and evidence of this has been found in several regions of Ireland. You can find an extensive collection of these beautifully designed ornamental pieces in the National Museum of Ireland, where you might be amazed by their loveliness and creativity. It is common to have pieces combine precious metals with fine stones and to have them go from the simplest to the most elaborate. Click here to shop or to read further on the beauty of traditional Irish jewelry pieces.
In these pieces of jewelry, it is easy to appreciate the Irish interlaced work, which reflects the long history of the Irish people. They are a true representation of the way both designers and artists poured their hearts into every item in which metals and stones were so artfully combined. You can easily confirm this by observing how even the simplest pieces include parallel lines, circles, zigzags, and spirals, figures tracing back to Pagan times, long before Christian influence reached Irish land.
Due to the abundance of mines, the Irish have produced many kinds of precious stones. Traditionally, these gems were worn both in personal ornaments as well as in more elaborate objects used to decorate their homes and places of worship. Gems were cut into attractive shapes and were also engraved with elaborate patterns. Mentions of pearls, topazes, sapphires, garnets, emeralds, and amethysts have been found in ancient Irish documents.
Necklaces seem to have been some of the earliest pieces produced, even earlier than jewels like rings or bracelets. In prehistoric times, necklaces tended to be fashioned out of shells, but as production developed, necklaces became much more expensive as they started being made out of precious metals like gold.
In ancient times, the upper classes wore torcs to decorate their necks. Torcs were made from gold or silver and were formed into a single bar that could be square or triangular. Since they had hollows along one side, ribbons could hang from them and be twisted into braids to be tied around the wearer’s neck. Sometimes these colorful ribbons were longer, reaching the wearer’s neck, back, or shoulders.
Rings and Bracelets
The upper classes enjoyed adorning themselves with rings and bracelets made of white bronze, silver, or gold. These jewelry pieces were worn on arms, forearms, thumbs, fingers, legs, and ankles and both men and women enjoyed showing them off. Some of these jewels were worn to signify the wearer’s social standing, while others were carried around to bestow upon musicians, artists, storytellers, or anyone else who practiced any form of art