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

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on July 05, 2018

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

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!

The Meaning Of The History Of Ireland Symbols

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on April 24, 2018


This History of Ireland jewelry collection features 12 Irish symbols that depict important milestones in Irish history. Below is the meaning of each of the History of Ireland symbols that you'll find in this superb collection.

Circle Of Life
Circle of Life - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings The Celtic swirl or the Circle of Life is a symbol without beginning or end. It was carved on various structures that dot the Irish countryside by some of our earliest ancestors, such as the stones at Newgrange. Signifying the cycle of death and rebirth, it represents the pathway that we all take during this life.

Our traditions, beliefs, and heritage have been passed down to the next generation for millennia. Our culture is rich and strong, providing us all a sense of life, faith and hope against obstacles, wherever they may arise.
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings Ireland's patron saint, Saint Patrick was not actually Irish by birth. He is most likely from Wales, and was captured by Irish raiders when 16 years of age. The raiders then sold him as a slave to a man named Milchu in Dalriada (what we would call Co. Antrim today).

Patrick worked as a shepherd and herdsman for Milchu. After 6 years of enslavement, he managed to escape and return home. He then entered into the priesthood, as was the tradition in his family. He eventually became a bishop and decided to return to Ireland to spread the word of Christianity and replace the Druidism that he had experienced. During his six years in Ireland, he had learned the Celtic tongue, and became very familiar with the Druid religion.

Whilst in Ireland, Patrick authored two important texts that would change the nation from one of ignorance and illiteracy into one renowned for learning, culture, and Christianity. Patrick died on March 17th, 461. Today, this date is celebrated the world over as Saint Patrick's Day, and is a testament to the influence this great man had on Ireland.
Round Towers
Round Towers - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings Monasteries and churches began to dot the Irish landscape from the 6th century onwards. Either as a place of refuge for people and supplies, or as bell towers, these imposing round towers began to appear in the 9th century, and were constructed as late as the 12th century. There has never been agreement as to their actual purpose. More recent studies have favored their use as a bell tower due to problems associated with their use as a defensive hideout.

The door to each tower was always built so that it faced the western door to the church. This fact has enabled archeologists to find destroyed churches when the tower still exists. It is believed that there were approximately 120 of the round towers in existence. Today, only about 20 remain in excellent condition. Due to their colocation with churches and monasteries, they remain an enduring symbol of Christianity in Ireland today.
Vikings
Vikings - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings Towards the end of the 8th century, the Vikings began to make small raids on Ireland, pillaging the valuables in the monasteries, as well as the towns around them. This continued for the next two centuries, and the raiding parties grew both in numbers and in violence. Eventually, the Vikings founded permanent settlements in Ireland, using those to venture further and further inland in search of new treasure and supplies.

In the 11th century, an attempt to take control of the entire country was thwarted by the armies of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf. However, the Vikings did not leave Ireland, and retained possession of their permanent settlements. We know those settlements today as Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, and Limerick. Artifacts from these early settlements are still being unearthed today. The influence of the Vikings on Ireland was profound, and Irish society was forever changed.
Norman Invasion
Norman Invasion - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings The Norman invasion began under an exiled Irish king, Dermot MacMurrough. Seeking to regain his throne in Ireland, MacMurrough requested assistance from King Henry II in England. MacMurrough's forces were quickly victorious, and his throne was taken back. He then named his son as heir to the throne, further cementing his position of power.

Fearing that this new Norman state may prove a threat to his own, King Henry II led an invasion force to Ireland two years later. In 1171, he became the first English king to step foot on Irish soil. His armies forced the Irish Kings to submit to English authority. Henry's youngest son, John, was given the title Lord of Ireland and awarded this new Irish territory in 1185. Ireland then became possessions of the English crown when John eventually succeeded to the English throne in 1199.
Battle of the Boyne
Battle of the Boyne - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings In 1690, the Battle of the Boyne was fought between two English Kings. At stake were the Throne of England, French domination of Europe, and control of Ireland.

King James II was Catholic, while King William was Protestant. The English Parliament had invited William, of the Dutch House of Orange, to displace King James on the English Throne. Their armies met at the Boyne river in Ireland. William had an army of approximately 36,000 soldiers, vastly outnumbering the army of James, who only had 25,000. William accorded James surrender terms, but they were punitive that battle was chosen instead. According to legend, James provided his troops with alcohol the night before the battle to boost their morale. This resulted in his soldiers going to battle hungover and also with inferior weaponry.

James had to return to Dublin, eventually making his way to France, and never stepping foot again on Irish or English soil. Even so, the battle was militarily indecisive, and the war continued. This battle is viewed as a cornerstone in the difficult relations that have existed since between the Catholic and Protestant populace of Ireland, the effects of which are still felt today.
United Irishmen
United Irishmen - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings The United Irishmen was founded in 1791 with the aim of removing religion from politics, by way of supporting the Catholic people. At the time, divisions in the two religions were being used as a tool to defeat both sides in Ireland. These ideas found support on both sides.

In 1797, and with membership of approximately 100,000 people, the leader of the United Irishmen (Theobald Wolfe Tone) tried to land in Ireland with a fleet of French vessels. The landing was unsuccessful due to weather and some poor leadership decisions. Forced to act, the United Irishmen began a revolution in 1798 without the French support. What followed was three months of bloody violence, and the rising eventually failed. In 1803, the United Irishmen was no longer in existence.
Irish Flag
Irish Flag - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings The green, white, and gold of Ireland's tricolor flag includes all her people, regardless of belief. The green represents Ireland's Gaelic traditions, and catholic community, while the orange represents Protestant supporters and their beliefs. The hope of lasting peace between the two groups is signified by the white band that separates the two colors.

While the flag became the national flag only in 1937, its history goes back to 1848. Thomas Meager, the leader of Young Ireland, was the first to publicly display the flag. It was flown above the GPO during the Easter Rising in 1916, and was the "unofficial" Irish flag until 1937.
Famine
Famine - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings Often viewed as a turning point, the famine resulted from repeated failure of the Irish potato crop. At the time, over one third of the country was dependent upon the potato for food and their very survival. When the crops failed due to blight between 1845 and 1852, the effects were devastating.

The British government failed to properly address the crisis, and it is estimated that over one million people perished from starvation and disease, with a further one million emigrating - mainly to America.
Famine Ships
Famine Ships - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings Prior to the famine, most Irish people tended to remain in Ireland, despite the relatively poor conditions experienced by many. However, with little food to eat, mass emigration became not only desirable, but for many a necessity. The emigration continued for decades after the famine, with America and Canada being the two most popular destinations.

The famine ships were notoriously over-crowded and ill-provisioned, some barely had provisions at all. This subjected the immigrants to appalling conditions at sea, and led to the deaths of led to the deaths of countless numbers. Mortality rates of 30% were not uncommon. The 1847 typhus epidemic in Canadian quarantine stations was a direct result of the terrible conditions that many were subjected to onboard these vessels.
GPO
GPO - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings The GPO (General Post Office) is located in the heart of Dublin. During the Easter Rising of 1916 (April 24th) , this building acted as the military headquarters for the Irish Republican Brotherhood - the leaders of the Rising. Before the battle commenced, the Proclamation of the Republic of Ireland was first declared at the GPO. Given the relative might of the British army, the Rising turned out to be a military failure. The building was heavily shelled with artillery for days, including naval artillery from the TSS Helga II. Eventually the GPO caught fire and was completely gutted except for the facade.

After the Rising was quashed, the leaders of the rebellion were executed. The notable exception was Éamon de Valera, who was spared the executioner in part due to his American birth. The harsh treatment of the leadership managed to sway many Irish opinions towards the republican side and independence from England. Bullet holes can still be seen in the facade of the GPO today, and it is the most recognizable symbol of the Easter Rising.
Partition
Irish Partition - History of Ireland Symbol Meanings The Declaration of Independence in 1919 ratified the earlier 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. However it also caused the War of Independence as rival republican factions sought control. This war ended with the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921the War of Independence which formed the initial Irish Free State. Northern Ireland had the option to opt-out of the Free State, and due to its large Protestant population loyal to the crown, it chose to do just that in 1922.

This had the effect of partitioning those six counties into Northern Ireland, operated as a province of the UK. The remaining 26 counties became the Irish Free State, and later in 1948, the Republic of Ireland. The split between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland continues to this day, however "the troubles" have since given way to peace.


Now that you know the meanings of all of the History of Ireland symbols, be sure to see our complete selection of this fantastic jewelry collection! Each piece makes a perfect Irish gift!

Irish Hallmarks - An Irish guarantee of fine jewelry

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on April 22, 2018

Irish Hallmarks - An Irish guarantee of fine jewelry

Hibernia - hallmarked in Ireland The Dublin Assay Office was established in 1637 to supervise   the assaying of all gold and silver in Ireland. Located in Dublin   Castle, the office serves as a consumer protection agency,   and the hallmarks given are accepted worldwide. All Celtic fine jewelry from Celtic By Design bears these hallmarks as your assurance of quality and authenticity.
 
The Hibernia is the official mark of the Dublin Assay Office.  This mark features the profile view of a woman (Hibernia) in olden dress, together with a harp (the national symbol of Ireland).  All jewelry receives this mark in the form of a stamp, with the exception of very delicate pieces.  For those, laser marking is sometimes used, or the hallmarking stamps may not be used at all.

This mark has changed over the years, but the Hibernia is the current standard of all pieces hallmarked in Ireland today.

Additionally, the grade of metal is stamped on the piece.  So 0.925 sterling silver would receive a hallmark that looks like this:
 
 Irish Hallmark For Sterling Silver
 
Where “925” indicates the purity in parts per thousand (i.e. 92.5% pure sterling silver).    Gold would receive one of the following hallmarks depending on the karatage of the piece:
 
 Gold Irish Hallmarks

 


Where, for example, the “10” indicates 10K and the purity is 417 parts per thousand, etc.
 
Other marks may also appear on the piece, such as the maker’s mark, a fineness mark, or a letter indicating the year in which a piece was hallmarked.  The letter cycle assigns a new letter each year, but inclusion is optional.
 
Items are generally sent to be hallmarked before their final polishing.  This is done to protect each piece from the marking process itself.  This can sometimes make hallmarks slightly difficult to read depending on the amount of final polish needed.
 
Should any item fail the purity requirements for hallmarking, the piece is either hallmarked at the next lower grade or is returned to the manufacturer with no hallmark for recycling.

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on April 08, 2018

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring

Traditionally, Claddagh rings were worn in Ireland to show marital status – a tradition that still continues today. The hand on which the ring is worn, as well as the direction that the heart faces, will tell observers if the person is open to love, in love, or married.  There are a few different ways how to wear a Claddagh ring, depending on what you are trying to tell people.

 

How to wear a Claddagh ring on right hand with heart facing away from you.

Worn on right hand with heart facing away from you
When worn in this manner (heart closest to the fingernail), it means that a person is willing to consider love or a relationship. The person is showing the world that their heart is open to love, as it has not yet been won over. Claddagh rings can be worn by both the male and female.

 

How to wear a Claddagh ring on right left with heart facing towards you.
Worn on right hand with heart facing towards you

Once a person has entered into a relationship, the Claddagh ring remains on the right hand, but is turned so that the heart now faces the wearer. This is a statement that your heart is now taken, and no longer open to others. The Claddagh ring makes a perfect engagement ring.

This method of wearing is also used by those who are simply not interested in starting a relationship at the present time.

 

How to wear a Claddagh ring on right hand with heart facing towards you.
Worn on left hand with heart facing towards you

Once married, the ring is then placed on the other hand and worn with the heart facing the wearer. This shows that two hearts have now been joined together forever. In this manner, the Claddagh ring can be worn as an Irish wedding ring. Placing the Claddagh ring on the left hand is often a part of an Irish wedding ceremony for both the man and the woman.


Misspellings of the word Claddagh
Although very familiar to some, the term Claddagh is not the easiest to spell – particularly when the only experience might be the spoken word.  Even internet search engines do not always know what it is that we mean!  We often see very simple misspellings such as cladah , cladagh, or claddah, or claddaugh (very common), clauddagh or cladaugh. Sometimes, the misspellings are a little more inventive and we notice people searching for cladder, clatter, claudia or clauda rings. The important thing about the Claddagh ring however, is not how you spell it.  It is remembering the symbolism of Love, Loyalty and Friendship that the ring represents, and the heritage that it symbolizes.

St. Valentine’s and the Irish

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on February 15, 2018

St. Valentine’s and the Irish

Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is not a day most people associate with the Irish. And it’s true that the people of the Emerald Isle have no special Irish way in which to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Yes, our Irish Valentine’s flowers, cards, and candy are still red, not green, just like the rest of the world!
Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

But, it turns out there is an Irish connection to the original St. Valentine! Before we go into that, it’s important to understand that very little in the way of confirmed facts are known about St. Valentine, even such widely accepted things as why he was made a saint or why he is associated with love.
Celtic Knot Sterling Silver and Gold Heart Pendant

What we do know is this: he lived and worked during the 3rd century AD, his feast day is February 14th (which has been celebrated since 496 AD) and that he was laid to rest on the Via Flaminia north of Rome. Everything else is shrouded in mystery.
Sterling Silver Claddagh Knot Heart Locket Pendant

There may even have been as many as three Valentines who were saints and all associated with the February 14th date; the Bishop of Interamna, a Roman priest, and a man who died a martyr in the province (not the continent) of Africa. Some say these were all the same person and so he would have been born and lived in Interamna, worked as a  priest and later became a Bishop.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

He was imprisoned and tortured in Rome under the order of the cruel Emperor Claudius and executed on February 14th for illegally marrying Christian couples so the men would not have to go off to war. Claudius’ army was in short supply of soldiers and he had canceled all marriages because of this, in the belief that married men were too reluctant to leave their families and join the army. But even under the threat of death, Father Valentine continued to carry out the Christian ceremony. Perhaps this is partly how his name became associated with a day of love.
Gold Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant with CZ

There are, of course, many legends surrounding the life of St. Valentine. One of the most touching involved a jailer and his daughter Julia. Before the priest was arrested, a jailer for the Emperor of Rome brought his blind daughter to see Father Valentine at his residence, having heard of his healing abilities, both medical and spiritual. The jailer’s daughter had been blind since birth and Father Valentine knew this would be a difficult case, although he assured the jailer he would do what he could. Father Valentine gave the child some ointment for her eyes and bade her come back for rechecks.
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The jailer, having perceived that his child Julia was of a quick mind, asked Father Valentine to teach her which he readily agreed to do. He taught her the history of Rome, lessons from nature, arithmetic and told her about God. A strong bond quickly developed between the two.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Love Pendant

On one of her visits with the priest, Julia asked Father Valentine if God really did exist. He assured her that He did. The child told him that she prayed daily that her eyes might be healed and her sight restored. Father Valentine gently told the girl to continue to have faith and that her future, whether she was physically healed or not, was in the hands of the Almighty.
Sterling Silver with Gold Bead Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant

Soon afterward, Father Valentine was arrested and awaited execution in his cell. On the evening of February 13th, he wrote a last note to Julia and gave it to the jailer to give to his blind daughter. He told her to remain close to God and signed the letter “from your Valentine.”
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Pendant

When the child was presented with the note she opened it, only to have a yellow crocus fall into her hands. She could see the brilliant color of the little flower as her sight had now been restored. Pope Gelasius I named February 14 as Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 AD and symbols of love and devotion are exchanged between couples all around the world in memory of his selfless devotion.
Sterling Silver Heart and CZ Pendant

So on to the St. Valentine and the Irish. Father John Spratt, an Irish Roman Catholic priest, who lived in the 1800s, traveled to Rome in 1836 where he gave a brilliant sermon. None other than Pope Gregory XVI took notice and the Pope bestowed a gift on him, a small vessel stained with the blood of St. Valentine along with a letter of authentication of the relic.
Mo Anam Cara Sterling Silver and Gold Pendnat

Father Spratt returned to Ireland and had the relic and the letter placed in a shrine to St. Valentine in the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street ( which is now Aungier Street) in Dublin which is still open to visitors.
Sterling Silver Claddagh Pendant with green Crystal heart

If you are Irish (or know someone who is!) there is perhaps a no better symbol of your love than one of our exquisite Irish heart pendants, in sterling silver or gold. After all, St. Valentine has a special bond with the Irish through Father Spratt and this is a lovely way to commemorate your love with that special someone. Happy Valentine’s Day!

St. Brigid’s Day - Celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on February 01, 2018

St. Brigid’s Day - Celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint

Although St. Patrick is undoubtedly better known outside the Emerald Isle, St. Brigid, along with Patrick and Columba, is one of Ireland’s beloved patron saints. As a leader of the early Celtic Christian church in Ireland, she is celebrated on her Feast Day, February 1st.


You will sometimes see the spelling of her name anglicized as St. Bridget and her Feast Day, also known as Imbolc, heralds the arrival of early Spring and the welcoming of longer and warmer days to come. Imbolc is one of the four major ancient pagan Irish “fire” festivals and according to Irish mythology, Brigid was a goddess of fire.


As you can see, St. Brigid stands at the doorway between the worlds of pagan rites, Druidism and that of Christianity. There is a charming custom that still continues in some Irish homes on St. Brigid’s day, the tradition of Brigid’s Bed. On January 31st, St. Brigid’s Eve, the unmarried young women of Irish villages create a doll made of corn which is called the Brideog (little Brigid or young Brigid). The decorate the doll with ribbons, shells, stones and other ornaments, then craft a bed for her. Afterwards, the young women gather as a group at one house and stay up all night with the Brideog.


Later in the evening, all the young men of the village come to visit the young women where they are gathered with the Brideog. They must ask permission to pass through the door into the home and they treat the young women and the Brideog with great respect. The next day the young women transport the doll to all the households in the village, where she is welcomed and honored.


The spirit of St. Brigid is believed to walk the land on the eve of Imbolc. In anticipation of her presence, each member of the all the village households will often leave an article of clothing or even a piece of cloth outside the door in the hope that Brigid will bless it.


Before retiring for the night, the head of the household approaches the burning hearth, smothers the smoldering fire and then makes sure to rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, she carefully examines the ashes, looking for a mark as a sign that Brigid has been among them. If the mark is there, the articles of clothing and pieces of cloth are retrieved from outside and are now believed to be imbued with powers of protection as well as healing.

 

 

Around 480 AD, Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare and is regarded as the original organizer of communal religious life for women in Ireland. Prior to this, women could be consecrated, but they lived in private homes. Brigid also founded an art school which included the working of metal as well as illumination of manuscripts.


She traveled extensively and as the story goes, she was visiting the bedside of a dying pagan chieftain. Sitting near his bed, she leaned over and picked up some rushes from the floor and began weaving a cross. The chieftain asked Brigid what she was doing, so she told him about Christ and explained the story of the cross. The dying man came to faith and asked to be baptized.


The cross of rushes, with its geometric spiraling arms, came to be known as St. Brigid’s cross and is customarily made on her Feast Day. The cross is then blessed with Holy Water and with these words: May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost be on this Cross and on the place where it hangs and on everyone who looks on it.


Once the cross is blessed, it is given a place of honor on the front door and is left there all year long, until the next St. Brigid’s Day when it is burned and replaced.


If you or your family are of Irish heritage (or even if you’re not!) these unusual crosses are fun to make, for children and adults alike. Here are simple instructions from the Irish Peatland Conservation Council: 


Brigid is the patron saint of many: “babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; brewers; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; children with abusive fathers; children born into abusive unions; Clan Douglas, dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers;  and watermen!”

 

 

Brigid died in AD 525 at her Kildare monastery. In her memory, her Sisters tended a fire at the convent, which burned continuously for centuries and was not extinguished until AD 1220. At some point, it was rekindled and burned for another 400 years!

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Claddagh Birthstone Jewelry – Citrine For November

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