The History Of The Claddagh Ring

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on August 13, 2018

the history of the claddagh ring blog post

The origins of the Claddagh ring are blurred by history. However, the most likely account (and the one that does not involve mythology of any sort) is the story of Richard Joyce. Joyce was a native of Galway and left his home to pursue work overseas in the 17th century. While at sea, his vessel was attacked by pirates, and Joyce was taken as a slave.

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Peridot - August and the Goddess of Fire

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on August 06, 2018

Peridot  -  August  and  the  Goddess  of  Fire

If you or a loved one has an August birthday, you are in luck! August, like the months of December and June, is one of only three months to have multiple gemstones from which to choose. Sardonyx was the original August birthstone, then later peridot was added and became the best known August birthstone. Most recently, those born in August can also choose the lovely spinel as their birthstone gem.

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The Ardagh Chalice - One of Ireland's ancient artifacts

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 23, 2018

The Ardagh Chalice - One of Ireland's ancient artifacts

The Ardagh Chalice is now widely recognized as one of the best examples of eighth-century Celtic metalwork in existence.

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Connemara Marble - The Stone from the Land of Savage Beauty

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 16, 2018

Connemara marble jewelry blog post

Connemara marble is truly an Irish treasure as it is one of the most authentic, iconic and beautiful Irish products. The Connemara region is located in the west of Ireland and is an area of stunning natural loveliness, with this serpentine rich stone reflecting the rugged beauty of the nearby mountains.

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The Aran Isles - Ireland’s Wild And Beautiful Three Sisters

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 10, 2018

The Aran Isles - Ireland’s Wild And Beautiful Three Sisters

Off the west coast of Ireland, in the mouth of Galway Bay, lie the rugged and wild Aran Islands. These bleak, yet beautiful sisters, from west to east, go by the names of Inishmore, the largest of the three, Inishmaan, the second largest and Inisheer, the smallest of them all. Even though the Arans are only a forty-five-minute ferry ride from Galway, when you step foot off the ferry and onto the Aran’s rocky limestone shores, it seems as if you enter through
a doorway into another time.

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The Ruby - July’s ‘King of Gems’ Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 05, 2018

July Birthstone Blog post - Celtic by Design

July’s birthstone is known as the king of precious stones, the gorgeous red ruby. The ruby’s name is derived from the Latin Rubeus meaning red and these beautiful gemstones have been treasured for centuries for their fluorescent vibrant color. A ruby is really a red form of corundum, with all other colors being sapphires.

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Celtic Crosses of Ireland

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on June 25, 2018

Celtic Crosses of Ireland

Irish Celtic CrossAlong with the Claddagh and Harp, the Celtic cross is one of the best known Irish (or Celtic) symbols. Steeped in history, they are important reminders of our heritage. Their origin, meaning, and symbolism may surprise you!

There are at least 60 Celtic crosses in Ireland, as well as a number of ruins.  The Celtic crosses that are seen today were primarily commissioned and constructed up until the mid 12th century.  After the end of the 12th century, construction of these crosses all but disappeared. 

These wonderful crosses were normally used as boundary markers, for example where parishes intersected, or as monuments surrounding monasteries, cathedrals, or churches.  Contrary to some beliefs, they were not used as gravestones, but newer crosses have enjoyed increased popularity as gravestones since the 1850's.

The beauty of these crosses is not just in their basic shape, but also in the intricate carvings found on many of them.  The level of detail and the quality of the artwork is something that is normally associated with treasured manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells.

Since we offer a variety of Celtic Crosses in the form of jewelry and other Irish gifts, we are often asked about the elements of the Celtic cross. We hope that you’ll find this article interesting and that you’ll learn something new.

Structure of the Celtic Cross

Also known as a High cross, or an Irish cross, Celtic crosses are found throughout Ireland. They are compromised of a normal cross, with a ring that travels completely around the cross intersection.
Celtic Cross Structure

The major components of the Celtic cross are:

- Cross base
- Intersection
- Ring
- Capstone (including the finial)

Construction of the Celtic cross normally starts with the cross base, which is an extremely heavy stone. Often times, the base had another life before being carved for the cross, such as being used as a millstone. The high cross is seated into a carved socket in the stone base by means of a tenon, forming a very secure and strong joint.

Crosses are decorated with a series of panels, which usually cover the majority of the cross.  Traditionally, these panels are used to show important biblical scenes or to highlight elements of Celtic design and art.

At the intersection of the cross, the ring is added, giving the Celtic cross its classic and world-renowned look.  Most crosses feature a pierced ring, but the are variants that do not have any open space between the inner circumference of the ring, and the cross intersection.

An additional tenon joint is commonly found above the ring, seating the capstone. The capstone is often portrayed as a small house, complete with roof. This forms the architectural finial of the cross.

Sandstone and granite are the two most common stone used to construct these ancient crosses.  Unfortunately, both are susceptible to weather and the elements.  This has left some crosses in varying stages of wear - ranging from the borderline pristine to crosses where determining the characters in the images is extremely difficult. 

Origins of the Celtic Cross

Although the Celtic cross is tightly associated with Christianity today, this was not always the case. In fact, the Celtic cross pre-dates Christianity and has its origins in an older religion. As Ireland converted to Christianity, the cross remained an integral symbol, and as such, it took on new meaning. It is generally thought that St. Patrick and others responsible for Ireland’s conversion to Christianity sought to use symbols that the Irish were already familiar with, thus making the transition easier and more accepted.

In Ireland (as well as in Great Britain), Celtic Crosses began appearing as early as the 7th century. Often, these large stone crosses were erected by Irish monks.

 

Meaning of the Celtic Cross

In Irish legend, a popular tale credits Saint Patrick with the design of the Celtic cross. The tale goes that St. Patrick combined the Christian cross with the sun (or possibly the moon). This was an attempt to highlight the importance of the cross by combining it with a known Celtic symbol of life.

However, we now know that this style of Cross predates St. Patrick and that Celtic cross designs were in existence prior to the 5th century (though perhaps not as widespread due to the fact that Irish monks had yet to raise many of the better-known examples).

The massive crosses found across Ireland today were generally constructed in the name of Christianity. Other than the obvious Christian reference of the cross, various crosses contain panels with either biblical scenes or decorative Celtic art. Traditional Irish symbols were often used for the panels, as were significant scenes from the Bible, such as the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Adam and Eve, and so forth.

 

Celtic Cross Designs

It is the panels on the Celtic cross that often attract the most attention. Use of Celtic symbols and biblical scenes, combined with great stone-carving skill, add beautiful design elements to many of these crosses. Some panels feature Celtic knot designs, while others attempt to tell a simple story or give tribute to a great event. Interpreting the meaning of what the artist was trying to convey can be a challenge sometimes. Weathering and other environmental damage can also contribute to difficulty in understanding images. Fortunately, we can still decipher a great number of the image meanings.

It is interesting to note, however, that there is a fundamental difference between earlier Celtic crosses and the later Christian-based designs. The image of the Celtic cross that we think of today has arms that extend outside of the circle, while earlier examples of the cross have the cross arms completely inside the circle.

Important Celtic Crosses in Ireland

Below are some of the more important Celtic crosses found in Ireland. This short list is not intended to be all-inclusive but is just to give a short description of some of the more significant crosses. Certainly, if you can think of a significant Celtic cross that we have overlooked, please use the comment feature at the bottom of this article, and we’ll do our best to add information on the cross.

 

The Ardboe Celtic Cross, County Tyrone

Also though of as one of the finest Celtic crosses in Ireland is the high cross at Ardboe. The cross is located beside the shores of Lough Neagh, atop a small hill. It is made entirely of sandstone and stands over 18 feet tall.

The sandstone has been badly weathered over time, and some emigrants from the area took a small chip of the stone with them on their travels. Even still the examples on the cross of carved figure remain one of the best. The scenes featured on its panels are of biblical in nature.

The cross was commissioned in the 9th or 10th century, and is now all that remains of a thriving monastery that used to occupy the nearby land.

 

The Muiredach Celtic Cross, County Louth

This beautiful Celtic cross is generally regarded as one of Ireland’s finest. The massive cross stands at just over 18 feet tall. It is generally thought that the cross gets its name from Muiredach mac Domhnaill, who was responsible for its construction. He died in 923.

The design of the cross is heavily influenced by biblical scenes in the cross panels. In general terms, the east face features Old Testament scenes, while the west side is more influenced by the New Testament. There are also a few panels whose meaning is not clear.

 

The Kells Celtic Cross, County Meath

The Kells Cross was moved in recent times as being located in the middle of the town proved a safety hazard for those visiting the cross, as well as safety for the cross itself (it was hit by a car). It now resides outside the Kells visitor center, under a free-standing roof.

Kells is also home to Saint Columba’s monastery, and features a variety of Celtic crosses, as well as the ruins of a tower.

 

Celtic Cross of the Scriptures, County Offaly

Located at the monastery in Clonmacnoise, this stunning cross was carved from a single piece of sandstone, sometime around the turn of the 10th century. It stands at just over 13 feet tall, and has been moved inside the visitor’s center during recent years in an effort to preserve it. A replica now occupies the spot that it originally stood in, but both the original and replica are accessible.

The inscription on the cross requests that a prayer be said for both Flann (an Irish king) and Colman (who commissioned the cross). Like many Celtic crosses, the body of the cross is divided into panels that feature a variety of scenes from the Bible.

 

The Ahenny High Crosses, County Tipperary

The two sandstone Ahenny crosses date from the 8th to 9th centuries and are among the earliest of the ringed high crosses. The South cross appears in better condition than the North cross. Part of the ring from the North cross is no longer part of the monument. Both crosses feature wonderful carved Celtic art in their panels, as well as biblical scenes (primarily on the base).

 

St. Kevin’s Cross, County Wicklow

St. Kevin dies in or around 618, but this beautiful Celtic cross in the glacial valley of Glendalough still bears his name. This particular cross features a ring that is unpierced, and the cross is designed as a plain cross, without the intricate panels seen on many others. Made from local granite, it remains relatively well-preserved.

The cross dates to the late 6th or 7th century. Folklore has it that anyone who can wrap their arms fully around the cross and makes a wish will have that wish granted. However, the circumference of the cross is over 1 meter!

 

Doorty Celtic Cross, County Clare

Located in Kilfenora, and featuring a Bishop and two other clerics amongst it carvings, the cross also features a crucifixion scene. In addition, a two-headed bird is carved on the cross. It features an unpierced ring, and cross arms that are rather small compared to the overall size of the cross.

Also in Kilfenora is the well-known West cross, that stands over 15 feet high. This cross stands on its own in stone-walled fields, and is carved with a crucifixion scene, as well as Celtic knotwork.

 

Kilkieran Celtic Crosses, County Tipperary

The three Celtic crosses located at Kilkieran represent some of the earliest examples of this cross style. Thought to have been erected in the 9th century, they are built from sandstone. Primarily focused on intricate Celtic designs and symbols, these crosses do feature some animals, and in particular, horses.

 

Moone High Cross, County Kildare

The High Cross at Moone stand over 17 feet tall, but was not re-discovered until 1835. During some work in the graveyard, workers uncovered portions of the cross, but it would take another 60 years for all sections to be found. The cross is extremely well preserved. In addition to Celtic designs on the cross, there are also biblical references.

 

Kilree High Cross, County Kilkenny

This Kilree Celtic Cross appears to be missing its capstone (a tenon joint at the top is visible, indicating that another piece used to be mounted). It has suffered the effects of weathering, making some of the details of the cross difficult to make out.

Believed to be from the 9th century, the cross stands at 9 feet tall.

 

Other styles of Irish Crosses

Saint Brigids Cross

 

The other distinctly Irish cross of significance is St. Brigid’s cross. Though nowhere near as intricate or grand as the stone Celtic crosses, the beauty of St. Brigid's cross lies in its sheer simplicity.

According to legend, St. Brigid made this cross while either her father or a pagan chief was dying.  St. Brigid picked some reeds off the floor and began to fashion across while explaining Christianity.  The dying began asking questions about this faith and was converted to Christianity before his death.  Similar to the Celtic crosses, there were eventually reports of crosses being fashioned from reeds that pre-dated Christianity.

Celtic Crosses in contemporary use

Jewelry featuring the Celtic Cross

 

Today, the most common use of the Celtic cross is as Irish jewelry or home décor. Both are important reminders of our heritage. The Celtic cross is visually pleasing, and unlike the traditional Christian crosses, does not focus as heavily on the image of pain and suffering that the traditional cross is designed to invoke.  Also, the Celtic cross is not limited to use by Catholics or even Christians.  Many other religions consider it as "their" symbol too.

For those searching to add a Celtic cross to their personal world, a pendant that features the cross is the most popular option.  These are available in a variety of styles and metals, with personal choice and budget being the only real limitations in the search. 

Pendants usually have enough "real estate" to allow for some of the traditional Celtic symbols to be added inside their boundaries.  This is not always true when the cross is featured on a ring.  Pendants set with stones also add another level of beauty and uniqueness to the pendant.

Some of the more popular Celtic symbols to appear on Celtic cross jewelry includes intricate Celtic knotwork, the triscele (or triple spiral), and Trinity knots to name but a few. Pendants are also available in either single-sided or double-sided designs. Naturally, there are metal choices ranging from sterling silver to 18K gold.

Another popular choice is a Celtic cross ring.  The cross is often part of wedding band sets that feature traditional Irish and Celtic symbols around the outside of the bands.  Celtic cross earrings are also very popular, with a large variety of styles and metals available.

Heraldry - An Introduction to the Coat of Arms

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on June 18, 2018

Heraldry - An Introduction to the Coat of Arms

The origins of heraldry are hotly debated, with some scholars assigning the rise of the coat of arms with the military, functioning to identify knights wearing armor on the battlefield. Others attribute the rise of heraldry to the popularity of tournaments, whose participants wandered the countryside in search of yet another event, spreading the use of the coat of arms throughout medieval Europe.

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Father’s Day the Irish Way

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on June 11, 2018

Father’s Day the Irish Way

The origins of Father’s Day begins with two American women.
 
In 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia a woman by the name of Grace Golden Clayton wanted to remember the lives of 361 men who had been killed in a mining explosion. She went to the Methodist minister and suggested they have services honoring these fathers who were lost.
 
In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd was sitting in church in Washington state, listening to a sermon about Mother’s Day, when it occurred to her there was no day to honor fathers. Sonora admired her own father immensely. Her Dad, William Smart, had single handedly raised his six children on his small farm in Washington after his wife died following the birth of their sixth child.
 
These local services, and several others across the country were held informally but support for a nationwide holiday was strong. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended  a day be designated a national Father’s Day holiday, but no action was taken. Then in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared, through an executive order, that the third Sunday in June was to be designated a national Father’s Day holiday. Finally, in 1972, the U.S. Congress formally recognized the national Father’s Day holiday.
 
Other countries around the world adopted Father’s Day as a holiday of their own, with most, including Ireland, choosing the third Sunday in June to honor Dad, although in Ireland, Father’s Day is not a public holiday. As in many other countries, Irish sons and daughters honor their fathers by giving them presents and indulging them in their favorite foods. Many Irish people whose fathers have passed away, remember their dads by donating to their favorite charity in their father’s name or performing other acts of service.
 
Irish sons seem to have a special relationship with their fathers. Ruth O’Connor of the Irish Examiner, asked several Irish celebrities to write letters to their dads, whether living or deceased, in honor of Father’s Day,  The letters are poignant and funny and highlight the special bond Irish men have with their dads.
 
The Irish, of course, are known for their sayings, proverbs and blessings and many have fathers and fatherhood as their subject. Here are just a few:
 
“You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
 
“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”
 
“Fathers and mothers hold their children’s hands for just a little while...and their hearts forever.”
 
 
“May embers from the hearth warm your hands.
May sunshine from and Irish sky warm your face,
May a child’s bright smile warm your heart,
And may everlasting love warm your soul.”
 
There’s nothing more Irish than Irish whiskey, so a great dessert made with some of the magic liquid would please most dads, Irish or not! Here’s a scrumptious whiskey spiked bread pudding recipe from Chef Andrew Zimmern courtesy of Food and Wine that’s just right:
 
Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey
 
Irish Whiskey Sauce:
 
1 ¼ cups whole milk
½ split vanilla bean, seeds scraped
4 large egg yolks
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
 
Bread Pudding
 
¾ cup raisins
⅓ cup good Irish whiskey, such as Jameson’s
1 pound brioche, challah or white bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
¾ cup sliced almonds
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 ½ cups whole milk
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan.
 
Now that you have your ingredients, just go to Food and Wine for directions on how to make this delicious dessert for your dad.
 
Most dads love a nice card and special dish cooked just for them for Father’s Day but secretly they are also hoping you’ll pick out a nice Dad’s Day gift for
them as well. Here are some Irish themed ideas:
  1. A good Irish whiskey like the Jameson’s used in the recipe above or Middleton’s
  2. A custom coffee mug with his favorite Irish saying
  3. A  personalized family shield showing off his Irish heritage
  4. A gorgeous Irish crystal whiskey decanter with a set of glasses
  5. An Irish tin whistle and music book
  6. A beautiful Irish Aran sweater
  7. A set of Guinness golf balls
  8. A Donegal cashmere scarf
  9. An Irish linen shirt
  10. A fine piece of Irish jewelry such as handsome piece from our Celtic warrior collection.
 
We work with Ireland's best jewelry designers to bring you the very finest in
Irish necklaces and pendants for both men and women. 
Each piece is handcrafted by artisans in Dublin, Ireland from sterling silver, yellow gold, and white gold.
 
Irish quote family
This Father’s Day, bring a little Irish into your Dad’s life, whether he hails from the Emerald Isle or not.   
I’ll leave you with this Irish Blessing in honor of
all dad’s this Father’s Day:
 
May love and laughter light your days,
And warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
Wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world,
With joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
Bring the best to you and yours!

Here’s To A Long And Happy Life! The History Of The Wedding Toast

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on June 09, 2018

Here’s To A Long And Happy Life!   The History Of The Wedding Toast

The wedding toast has its beginnings in the mists of ancient Greek and Rome, as wedding guests would raise a glass to pay homage to the gods. To make sure no one had slipped poison into anyone’s drinking vessel, the host would
pour a few drops of each guest’s drink into his own cup.
Later, the wedding toast evolved into a custom honoring the bride and groom.
 
The origin of ‘clinking’ drinking glasses together is less clear, although some historians believe the custom originated as a symbol for loyalty
and confidence in those present.
Early Christians believed the clinking sound had the power to
drive away evil spirits.
 
Different cultures have interesting wedding toast customs. In France, the custom is to place a piece of toasted bread at the bottom of the glass. After the toast, the bride and groom race to see who can finish drinking their wine first,
as the one who is the winner is said to ‘rule the house.’
 
Beginning in the 17th century, a small piece of spiced bread was added to drinks to enhance the flavor, cut down on acidity and make the piece of bread more edible. This small piece of bread was called ‘the toast’ so the French seem to be carrying on this tradition even today. One of the first written accounts of this practice is found in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor when Falstaff orders a drink by saying, “Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in’t.”
 
In Britain, the groom is apt to give a full length speech instead of the fairly brief remarks thanking his guests as is done in the United States. In Japan, the wedding ceremony itself is sealed with three sips from different cups of sake. But this is only the beginning, as a whole series of toasts to the bride and groom goes on and on, for the entire length of the wedding festivities. A bucket is kept discreetly out of sight under the table so the happy couple can dump their drinks without offending anyone and avoid getting so sloshed they can’t attend any of the numerous after wedding parties planned for them.
Irish Wedding Toast 
But let’s leave Japan and travel to Ireland, which is, after all, why you are here! Irish culture tends to be very traditional and Irish weddings are no exception. Many of the traditional toasts used for hundreds of years are still used in Ireland today to shower best wishes on the newly married couple.
Here are a few for your reading pleasure:
 
May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
 
<~~~>
May the blessings of light be upon you,
Light without and light within.
And in all your comings and goings,
May you ever have a kindly greeting
From them you meet along the road.
 
<~~~>
May brooks and trees and singing hills
Join in the chorus, too.
And every gentle wind that blows
Send happiness to you.
 
<~~~>
 
Of course, if you are proposing a wedding toast you have to have a
suitable glass from which to drink.
There is nothing more Irish (and more lovely!) than a pair of
Each flute is delicately etched with the Claddagh symbol; representing Love, Loyalty, and Friendship and would also make a memorable
Irish wedding gift newlyweds will never forget!
Irish Toast
 
Sláinte chuig na fír, agus go mairfidh na mna go deo.
Health to the men, and may the women live forever!

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the history of the claddagh ring blog post

The History Of The Claddagh Ring

August 13, 2018

The origins of the Claddagh ring are blurred by history. However, the most likely account (and the one that does not involve mythology of any sort) is the story of Richard Joyce. Joyce was a native of Galway and left his home to pursue work overseas in the 17th century. While at sea, his vessel was attacked by pirates, and Joyce was taken as a slave.

Read more →