Secrets of Celtic Knotwork Jewelry

While Celtic knotwork jewelry design had it’s roots in the spiral and trumpet designs of the ancient Celtic and Neolithic past it emerged in the form with which we are now familiar in Celtic knotwork jewelry masterpieces such as the Tara Brooch and in the magnificent Celtic Insular Gospel manuscripts produced in Irish monastic settlements during the 6th and 7th century AD.

While the rest of Europe was in the dark ages Ireland was experiencing a golden age.

The Roman Empire had collapsed and Europe had entered the dark ages of mayhem and illiteracy, overrun by barbarian hordes of Angles, Saxons, Goths, Vandals and Visigoths who destroyed libraries, schools and everything else in sight.

In contrast Ireland was at peace, producing fine jewelry and was rapidly spawning the monastic universities and scriptoriums that would eventually save European culture.

The Book of Kells, the Book of Armagh, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Lichfield Gospels, the Book of Durrow and the St. Gall Gospel Book are just some of the great artistic creations of the period.

The Book of Kells is regarded as one of the pinnacles of this cultural achievement, which is now known as the Ultimate La Tene and is one of the sources that modern artists draw upon in the creation of designs for Celtic knotwork jewelry. Others include the Celtic high crosses and magnificent examples of metal work such as the Ardagh Chalice as well as jewelry such as the Tara Brooch.

Ireland had converted to Christianity without much struggle. The Druids said that there was no difference between Druidism and Christianity and the Irish monks educated in the Bardic traditions wore the Druidic Tonsure for several hundred years until it was banned by Rome.

This brings one to the possibility that these Irish monks were the heirs of the Druids and were greatly influenced by them. The Druidic pre-Christian Celts were the first European people known to believe in the transmigration and immortality of the human soul.

There have been suggestions that King Ashoka of Indian sent a Buddhist mission to Europe to convert them but consider the fact that the Goidelic and Brythonic languages are sister languages to Sanscrit and Gaelic is the oldest living language in the world.

That leads to the possibility that the Celts and the Arians of India had a common ancestery, probably in the North Pole where the Vedic Hymns are thought to have originated during the last Ice Age and so may also have shared some of the same philosophical and religious beliefs.

The question arises as to what these monks were doing with the production of these manuscripts. Obviously they were preserving lititature, but was there something else?

The knotwork and interlace designs that adorn these sumptuous pages are highly complex and require great focus and skill to produce. Were they using this medium to work on their attention in the same way that a mantra is used in meditation?

This question and others deserves further investigation if we are to understand the true meaning of Celtic knotwork design.

Today Celtic knotwork design is used to create exquisite earrings, pendants, pins and rings. To see some of the most beautiful Celtic knotwork jewelry on the Internet visit

This entry was posted in Celtic knotwork jewelry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.