Of all the symbols that embody Scotland and Ireland, the Celtic cross is perhaps the most iconic.
Saint Patrick may have introduced this emblem to Ireland as early as the 5th century when he converted the island to Christianity. But some of the oldest stone high Celtic crosses to survive were created on the Scottish isle of Iona nearly 400 years later.
Early Christian immigrants to the Orkney Isles brought the art form north, and they skilfully carved their own crosses, two of which can still be seen at Saint Peter’s Chapel on the Brough of Birsay, and the Broch of Burrian on North Ronaldsay.
But the sacred meanings of the symbols go back to prehistoric times, and this could be the reason early Irish and Scottish Christian missionaries used it. The circle represented the Sun, which was worshipped as a god by our pagan ancestors, and the cross signified the four cardinal directions- north, south, east and west, each of which embodied the elements of earth, fire, air and water, respectively.
By using this familiar imagery, it’s said, Saint Patrick was able to spread the Christian faith more easily among the Irish, who then helped to convert Scottish pagans. The cross now represented Jesus Christ on the crucifix, and the ring, His halo, or, to some, His infinite love.
During the Middle Ages, striking and highly ornate stone cross and circle carvings proliferated across the Celtic world, including Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland and the Orkney, Shetland & Hebridean islands. Gold and silver jewelry decorated with a Celtic cross were particularly prized, especially in large pendants.
The Victorian obsession for all things related to Celtic history saw a revival in the tradition, from church decorations to memorials to jewelry, including fashionable pendants, brooches, necklaces, wedding bands, engagement rings and earrings that sported dramatic Celtic designs.
We have harnessed the beauty and power of this ancient talisman in a fresh, new way in our new Celtic Cross jewelry collection, available in gold and silver. Each piece is a three dimensional piece of wearable art, hand crafted in Orkney using traditional skills.