Irish Jewelry through history - Tara Brooch

May 06, 2014

The Tara Brooch is a celtic brooch of about 700 AD generally considered to be the most impressive of over 50 elaborate Irish brooches to have been discovered. It was found in 1850 and rapidly recognized as one of the most important works of early Christian Irish insular art; it is now displayed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

Created in about 700 AD, the seven-inch long brooch is composed primarily of silver gilt and is embellished with intricate abstract decoration including interlace on both front and back. It was made in many pieces, with much of the decoration on small "trays" or panels which were then fixed into place. When it was found only one panel of decoration was missing, but several more have now disappeared, apparently before 1872, when it entered the collection of the Royal Irish Academy who later transferred their collection of antiquities to the new National Museum.

The design, the techniques of workmanship (including filigree and inlaying) and the gold, silver, copper, amber and glass are all of high quality, and exemplify the advanced state of goldsmithing in Ireland in the seventh century.

 Like most brooches of the period, it contains neither Christian nor pagan religious motifs, and was made for a wealthy patron, almost certainly male, who wanted a personal expression of status. It is probably the most spectacular, and one of the best preserved, of several dozen high-status brooches found in Britain or Ireland, but mostly in Ireland. Although similar in style, each has a completely individual design in detail. Precious metals are used, but only semiprecious stones.

 The brooch is named after the Hill of Tara, traditionally seen as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

Celtic Revival jewellery had become very fashionable over the previous decade, and the discovery of the brooch could hardly have been better timed from this point of view. The brooch was immediately recognised as the culminating masterpiece (though early in date) of the Irish development of large and superbly worked ornate brooches, a status it has retained ever since.




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