The origins of the Celts dates back to prehistoric times when they emerged as a group of loosely knit tribes with a common culture and language.
Celtic settlements stretched from Turkey and the Balkans right across Western Europe. But it was the rise of the Roman Empire that would expose the lack of cohesion between the various Celtic tribes and would lead to them being overrun, expelled from their territories and being pushed back to the western fringes of the continent.
Although the ancient Celts flourished across Europe, it is in Ireland where their traditions have been most preserved.
One aspect of this culture that still survives today is the artwork and this is most commonly seen in jewellery such as celtic wedding rings.
Their artwork was believed to be very symbolic often being based on nature using images of birds and animals and fish. The Celts believed firmly in the interconnectedness of all life and produced the familiar Celtic Knots, which are interlaced patterns with no beginning and no end.
Although perhaps the true significance of these patterns has been lost over the millennia, Celtic designs remain increasingly popular in our modern world.
The Claddagh is a traditional symbol of love and friendship and is thought to have originated from Claddagh in Galway as far back as the 16th century since when has been worn by many as a wedding ring and as a symbol of love.
The design of the Claddagh consists of a heart as a symbol of love, a crown as a symbol of fidelity or loyalty and the hands depicted friendship. Tradition states that if you are spoken to you should wear the Claddagh on your left hand facing inward but if you are unattached it should be worn facing outward on the right hand.
Celtic crosses, which predate Christianity, can symbolize the four quarters of the earth and or the four elements – earth wind and fire. They are equal armed crosses which are enclosed or backed by a circle. Following the introduction of Christianity, it became more common to see Celtic Crosses on top of a matching pedestal, which gave it a more elongated look. Celtic crosses are often worn as jewellery such as rings or on chains around the neck.
Geometric designs have always feature prominently in Celtic artwork with spirals, chevrons, scrolls and knot work. Many of these patterns can be seen decorating stone carvings or ancient manuscripts and religious books.
The Celtic spirals are very symbolic with the single spiral generally thought to signify growth expansion and cosmic energy.
The dual centred spiral found often on stone carvings signifies duality and nature and is associated with motifs from other cultures such as the Ying Yang symbol.
Celtic knot work designs remain popular today and can vary from single elegant knot patterns to complex intricate interlaced patterns.
Although the symbolism of celtic designs may have been lost, many of the designs remain popular today and will often be seen used in the design of jewellery and in particular Celtic Wedding rings.