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Celtic Jewelry Designs & Symbols

The Worldwide Sacred Geometry Inspiring Our Jewelry

by Helen Chantler, Lead Designer 22 Nov 2016 0 Comments

Celtic knots are a form of sacred geometry that symbolize the interconnectedness of all things. They represent the eternal web and the continuous cycling of existence. Because they are universal and essential to human experience, knot motifs are found throughout the world, from Tibet to Indonesia, to the tribal cultures of Africa. Some patterns found in Eastern Europe may be as old as 20,000 years. The Celtic knot work patterns found in my jewelry are inspired from my experience with cultures rooted in spiritual mystery and sacred geometry. I was born in England and my Grandmother was Scottish. In Western culture, there is a long and venerable tradition of artists that have been inspired to use the knot work design that I consider myself a part of.

(Helen Chantler)

Most people in the West are familiar with knots left by the "Celts," a name given by the Romans to groups of independent tribes on what is now England and Ireland. They were scattered about much of continental Europe as well.

Some Celts were sophisticated metal and stone artisans who used the knot work as a form of sacred expression. Some of these were later preserved by the highly embellished, illuminated manuscripts, the most famous being the Book of Kells which survived the Viking incursions. It was created in the 9th century at a monastery off the Scottish coast, and depicts wonderfully imaginative images of humans and animals embellished with knot work motifs, linking medieval Christianity with ancient Druidic culture.

Celtic design was also particularly popular in the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael studied and depicted knots in their work. In modern times, some of Picasso's early art is highly influenced by knot work. And there has always been a group of metal and visual artists that have kept the Celtic fires burning, so to speak, by using the knot work patterns in jewelry and other design.

I have seen knots in my travels through the Islamic world, and also in the Far East where I spent part of my childhood. When I trekked two hundred miles through the Himalayas in the summer of '95, I noticed how common the "eternal knot" is in Buddhist iconography. It expresses the endless cycles of existence.

Initially, however, my earliest impressions are Celtic knots from my childhood in England. There's a magic about them which is hard to clearly articulate. On the moors, surrounded by winding stone walls and ancient Neolithic bridges, the Celtic knot art carved in stone is full of mystery that transcends time. Some information about the meaning of these Celtic symbols has been passed down through ancient manuscripts, oral history and archeological conjecture. For example, the small triangular design on many of my pieces is said to represent the three stages of the feminine: the maiden, mother and crone. I think it illustrates any aspect of the trinity, the One becoming Three.

However, no one can say for absolute certainty what the Celtic knots mean because they point to something more profound than what language can express. In terms of design, I have generally worked with the traditional knots as a starting point without being limited extensively by tradition.

Many of my Celtic knot designs are original. Also, I use a technique of constructing the jewelry which is common to Southwest Jewelers but rarely attempted by others making more traditional Celtic knot jewelry. The gold is soldered on to silver, which is then worked to create the piece.

I enjoy using gems to add spirit to the design. In one magazine, my work was accurately described as a "Celtic Southwestern American fusion!" To craft each piece, a sheet of "royal yellow" gold is soldered on to sterling silver which is then worked and oxidized behind the gold. The silver serves as a contrasting element, illuminating the golden knot motif. Gems add further spirit to my mixed metal creations.

I hope that my Celtic knot work jewelry, and the sacred geometry expressed in them, speaks to those who purchase it for years to come.

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