The Meaning and History of Irish Jewelry

The Meaning and History of Irish Jewelry

Pretty much everyone enjoys wearing something green on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate Ireland, whether they are Irish or just Irish for the day!  But you can rock an Irish look beyond just one day in March, in any climate or season, with Irish jewelry.

You can find all sorts and styles of Irish necklaces, earrings, and rings from pieces you can wear every day to stunning Irish wedding jewelry. These are pieces that do more than looking good. Most of the popular symbols you see in Irish jewelry have a history and meaning that can symbolize a real connection to Ireland’s heritage.

Here are the stories behind some of the most popular Irish Jewelry pieces.

  • Shamrocks – You can find them on necklaces, earrings, shirts, table linens, windsocks and even growing in pots.  Everyone knows the shamrock is a symbol of Ireland, but do you know why?  St. Patrick used the three-leafed plant to explain the Holy Trinity when he was introducing Christianity to Ireland.  Pictures of St. Patrick often have shamrocks decorating his robes to reinforce the connection.  The shamrock has grown from referring specifically to Patrick to symbolizing Irishness, much as our patron saint’s feast day has.
  • Claddagh Rings – The Claddagh is now a small area with a few cottages in Galway City, but hundreds of years ago it was a fishing village.  The ring design has an incredible story behind it of the one that got away – and eventually came back.  Richard Joyce was a fisherman who was abducted at sea and sold into slavery.  His master was a goldsmith, and Joyce learned the trade and eventually earned his freedom.  He returned to The Claddagh with a beautiful ring he had designed in captivity featuring a heart symbolizing love held in a pair of hands symbolizing friendship crowned by a heart symbolizing loyalty.  With it, he wed the sweetheart he’d been taken away from so abruptly.  Claddagh rings are among the most popular Irish gifts for couples to give each other.
  • Tara Brooches – This style of brooch goes all the way back to the early medieval period when they combined form and function to fasten cloaks. The famous Tara Brooch was found not in Tara but in a coastal village in County Meath, and it is now on display at the National Museum of Ireland.  The detail involved is breath-taking, especially considering the relatively primitive tools available. You won’t find one that will fasten a heavy cloak these days, but today’s replicas offer variety and are more suitable for modern clothes.

When you are selecting Irish jewelry and Irish gifts for the special people in your life or choosing something for yourself, you can find beautiful jewelry with an appeal that goes deeper than its appearance.  Whether you want to express your undying affection for your beloved, show your connection to Ireland’s heritage, or celebrate your love of Ireland, knowing something about the Irish jewelry you wear or give as a gift adds another layer of meaning and means that bit more.