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.
Sterling Silver Trinity Knot Heart Earrings

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!

The Origin Of The Wedding Tiara

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on December 11, 2017

The Origin Of The Wedding Tiara

The Origin Of The Wedding Tiara Today, the word ‘tiara’ evokes elegance, beauty and feminine splendor and is used to mean a jeweled, ornamental crown worn by women, especially during a formal occasion, such as a wedding. Actually, the term is thought to have originated in Persia (somewhat equivalent to present day Iran) and was the the word used for the high peaked headdresses of Persian kings.
By the late 18th century, the tiara was exclusively a female ornament, exemplified by Napoleon, who gave his wife Josephine many of these bejeweled gifts. Many of the world’s most beautiful tiaras have been owned and worn by the queens and princesses of royal families. The largest and most valuable collection of tiaras in the world belong to Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and she often wears one of these heirlooms on state occasions.
There is a lovely story of the Queen’s first tiara, as this favorite piece was a gift from Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s grandmother, on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding in 1947. Queen Mary herself had received the tiara as a gift from the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland for her wedding in 1893 to the Duke of York, later George V. The Royal Family of Sweden also has a magnificent collection, as do the Royal Families of Denmark and Spain as well as the Dutch Royal Family.
In the United States, tiaras gained popularity among wealthy women who were not of royal lineage, including Mrs. William Astor, Mrs. George J. Gould and Mrs. W.K. Vanderbilt. The 1920’s then ushered in the ‘flapper’ era which enhanced the popularity of tiaras, this time made of costume quality jewelry, and they were widely embraced as the fashion of the day.
But personally, I think the popularity of the tiara as a wedding headdress was sealed when Princess Diana wore the Spencer tiara, from her own family lineage, in her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. Even after the wedding, Diana was quite fond of the Spencer tiara, and wore it often to events. So naturally, after her untimely death, the tiara became a symbol of sorts, for beauty and grace and a lovely woman whose time was tragically cut short. Kate Middleton also wore a beautiful tiara on the occasion of her wedding to Prince William, which was later placed on display in Paris as part of Cartier exhibition at the Grand Palais.
For Royal weddings, the custom was for the bride to wear a tiara from her own family for the ceremony. According to Geoffrey Munn, the foremost expert on tiaras, the tiara symbolized the coming of age and the loss of innocence to the marital bond. There was a definite tiara etiquette for wearing the headdress; the time of day, which events were acceptable and so forth. The wedding of Charles and Diana marked the end of the era of this unspoken tiara protocol.


Today’s brides can easily find replicas of the Spencer tiara as well as replicas of the Cambridge Love Knot tiara, which was given to Diana by the Queen on her wedding day. Many modern wedding tiaras feature sparkling Swarovski crystal flowers, leaves, and other designs.

If you are an Irish bride to be, there is no better way to honor your heritage than a beautiful wedding tiara, such as this 18K gold plate Irish Wedding Tiara graced with Irish Celtic Trinity Knots and filled with Austrian crystals. Or choose an Irish Wedding Crown with this delicate Irish Bridal Tiara graced with Irish Shamrocks and Celtic Trinity Knots. Even if you don’t have a drop of Royal blood, you’ll be the Queen of your wedding day!

Blue Topaz - December’s Icy Birthstone

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on December 07, 2017

Blue Topaz - December’s Icy Birthstone

With the winter season comes ice and snow. The beautiful golds and muted browns of fall are gone now, and in their place, the blue of the sky is reflected on frozen ponds. This icy color is reminiscent of this month’s birthstone, the blue topaz.

 

Celtic Knot Birthstone Pendant - December


The name ‘Topaz’ comes from Topazios, which is the name given by the ancient Greeks to St. John’s Island in the Red Sea. Yellow gems were mined on this island but in all likelihood, they were not topaz. However, the name soon became applied to all yellow gems. Topaz is mentioned in the King James Bible as well as in ancient Greek texts, but it’s not at all certain that these texts actually referred to true topaz or to other yellow gems.

Topaz, in its pure state, is actually colorless. Like so many other birthstones, it’s the presence of impurities in the stone that give it color and life. Topaz ranges from a brownish orange to a yellowish color, with the most sought-after color being imperial topaz, which is a vibrant orange with undertones of pink.

Although blue topaz has become increasingly available, it’s rarely found in nature and is usually produced by radiation treatment of common colorless topaz. A light blue variety of topaz is found in Texas, and although it is not commercially mined, the blue topaz became an official gemstone of Texas in 1969. Utah has also honored blue topaz as its state gemstone.

Most topaz comes from South America, with Brazil the largest producer. The stone is also mined in Nigeria, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, Germany, and Mexico. Topaz is also found in the United States, mostly in New Hampshire, Utah, and California.

Russia was a leading producer in the 19th century and a pinkish orange topaz was mined in the country’s Ural Mountains. This topaz was given the name ‘Imperial topaz’ in honor of the Russian czar and not surprisingly, only members of the royal household were allowed to possess it. In 1740 what was originally thought to be the largest diamond ever found, at 1,640 carats, was found in Brazil and eventually set in the Portuguese crown. The stone is now believed to be, not a diamond, but a colorless topaz.

Topaz is relatively hard compared to other gemstones, with only diamonds, corundum, and chrysoberyl being harder. Although it’s a hard stone, there is a peculiarity in its cleavage that makes it subject to chipping or cracking if it is not cut correctly.

Topaz has a long association with healing powers. African shamans employed it in their rituals, using it for healing. The Hindus believed topaz to be sacred and thought wearing a topaz pendant would bring both longevity as well as wisdom to the wearer. In the European Renaissance, many people thought topaz could calm anger and break spells, cure madness and dispel nightmares. Another popular association, most likely because of the stone’s golden color, was to wealth, with many people believing it had the mystical power to attract gold. Blue topaz is a stone that evokes peacefulness as it soothes, aligns and heals.

Besides being the December birthstone, topaz is given as a gift on the fourth and nineteenth marriage anniversaries, as the stone has often been seen as a symbol of love and affection. Nothing will cheer her this winter like a beautiful sterling silver Irish Claddagh ring with a blue topaz stone set as the heart. Matched with these gorgeous Claddagh earrings with simulated blue topaz stones and this Claddagh pendant with a simulated blue topaz stone set as the heart, this is a gift that will melt the thickest winter ice!

Mo Anam Cara - The Meaning and History of Soul Friend

By Julie O'Shaughnessy
on December 04, 2017

Mo Anam Cara - The Meaning and History of Soul Friend

In 1997, Irish writer, poet, and former Catholic priest John O’Donohue burst onto the international literary scene with his first published work, Anam Cara. The book quickly became an international bestseller and brought the Gaelic phrase ‘Mo Anam Cara’ into popular culture.

 

 Many people believe that the phrase is translated ‘my soul mate’ but it’s more accurately translated as ‘my soul friend’ as anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara the Gaelic word for friend. O’Donohue attributes the term to the ancient Irish monks, who used anam cara to refer to a monk’s spiritual guide, teacher and companion. Other scholars believe the term is older than that and may actually go back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers and whose teachings were preserved and transmitted by the Christian monk, Saint John Cassian and whose works are celebrated by both Western and Eastern Christianity.

Men's Mo Anam Cara Wedding Band Ring 

 

The early Celtic church was completely independent from Rome and thrived in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Northern England, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man from the 5th through the 12th centuries. And although eventually, the concept of ‘soul friend’ came to be associated with Roman Catholic priests, these early Celtic Christians opened the role to both women and men, lay and clergy.

 Large Gold Mo Anam Cara Heart Pendant Necklace

 

Today, the words ‘anam cara’ evoke more than someone who is a spiritual guide. In O’Donohue’s words, the term has come to mean a deep and special friendship, one that cannot be broken or wounded or limited by distance, as these two individuals have been united at the level of the soul. Your anam cara is someone to whom you can reveal yourself as you truly are, without any pretense. And as O’Donohue emphasizes, this soul level love is “anything but sentimental...it is the most real and creative form of human presence.”

 Oxidized Women's Mo Anam Cara Wedding Band Ring

 

And soul friends may or may not be our husbands, wives or lovers but may simply be a friend of the same or opposite sex to whom we feel a deep, profound and lifelong connection. But being someone’s anam cara is more than ‘simply’ being someone’s friend. As Maria Popova, who in 2015 explored the concept of the anam cara in her marvelously erudite blog Brainpickings had this to say on what it takes to submit oneself to this role:

Mo Anam Cara Ogham Bracelet 

 

“But being an anam cara requires of a purposeful presence — it asks that we show up with the absolute integrity of intention. That interior intentionality, O’Donohue suggests, is what sets the true anam cara apart from the acquaintance or the casual friend — a distinction all the more important today, in a culture where we throw the word “friend” around all too hastily, designating little more than perfunctory affiliation. But this faculty of showing up must be an active presence rather than a mere abstraction — the person who declares herself a friend but shirks when the other’s soul most needs seeing is not an anam cara.”

 

Mo Anam Cara Two Tone Pendant Necklace

 

There is no better way to honor your anam cara than with this unique Celtic sterling silver and 18k gold pendant showcases that Irish phrase in the ancient Ogham script, crafted in Dublin, Ireland by true artisans. The front of the pendant showcases the Mo Anam Cara symbol in 18K gold script with the words ‘Mo Anam Cara’ inscribed on the back. Or you might prefer this beautiful sterling silver Ogham bangle, with the Gaeilc text Anam Cara as well as the Ogham script for the same term.

Mo Anam Cara Heart with gold bead

 

 

And if you are fortunate enough to be marrying your anam cara, there is no better gift for him than this stunning florentine finished men's gold Mo Anam Cara wedding band. Or for her, this gorgeous women’s Mo Anam Cara silver wedding band in an oxidized finish.

 

I’ll leave you with this poem from John O’Donohue:

 

May you be blessed with good friends.

May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.

May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love,

warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.

May this change you.

May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.

May you be brought into the real passion, kinship. and affinity of belonging.

May you treasure your friends.

May you be good to them and may you be there for them;

May they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,

and light that you need for your journey.

May you never be isolated.

May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam cara.

 

John O'Donohue

A Friendship Blessing, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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