The people who lived in Europe during the Iron Age are referred to be "Celtic." It is a broad generalization of tribes that share certain traits in common with one another, including language, culture, tools, and jewelry. Although it would be incorrect to refer to the people of Bronze Age Europe as "Celts," it is more common to refer to these cultures as "Beaker cultures," and we shall explore these Bronze Age cultures first in this article for the sake of style continuity and developmental similarities. After all, this previous era is directly responsible for the Celtic styles and practices.
Even while reading the pages on Egyptian jewelry, Etruscan jewelry, Greek jewelry, and Roman jewelry would give the idea that all jewelry comes from the ancient Mediterranean region and Asia Minor, there was actually quite a deal of activity north of the Alps in ancient times. In fact, the earliest gold jewelry ever discovered was discovered in Varna, modern-day Bulgaria. The objects discovered at these cemetery sites may date as far back as 4400 BC! The cultures in northern and central Europe developed their own distinct styles as a result of their geographic separation from the Mediterranean.
The Bronze Age saw a rise in social stratification and a rise in the significance of demonstrating one's high position. One approach to emphasize these disparities has been through personal decorating, and as a result, "prestige jewelry" has been discovered in the tombs of chiefs and warlords from early European civilizations. During the Bronze Age, this occurred simultaneously in several locations over all of Europe.
The British Isles, which were abundant in alluvial gold, was one of these regions. Here, we can observe that jewelry production has advanced significantly since the Bronze Age. Materials including gold, bronze, amber, jet, and shale were also employed. Gold was hammered into sheets and embellished with zigzag motives, triangles, and diamond (kite) shapes in embossed and chased designs reminiscent of those seen on pottery from the time. The usual lunulae are good examples of early Bronze Age goldwork.
Casting processes were needed for the usage of copper and later bronze. Compared to gold, bronze is less ductile and malleable. Due to this, early bronze jewelry had considerably simpler forms and fewer intricate details. On occasion, repoussé, a goldworking method, was used on an object by hammering bronze to a sheet.
All different kinds of ornaments, including spacer beads and bi-conical beads used in strung necklaces, were made from jet. Extremely high levels of artistry were attained in the carving procedure, and pointillé techniques were used to embellish the final result. It is thought that a substantial portion of the jet decorations found on European continent were made in the British Isles. For some gold jewelry, the same is true.
The extensive history of metalworking provided a solid foundation for succeeding eras. By the end of the bronze period, new methods had been created, including the twisting of bars and the casting of gold. The development of casting methods led to a change in emphasis toward the complexity of an object's overall shape. Cast objects from the late Bronze Age that were created using intricate clay molds have more intricacy. Beads were made with novel materials like glass. The popularity of amber, jet, bronze, and gold as well as the use of chasing and repoussé to embellish metalwork are examples of tradition continuing.
The majority of jewelry in early eras consisted of body ornaments like neck rings, strung necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Later, clothes and hair accessories were added. The invention of gold wire allowed for the production of fibulae, one of the most popular types of jewelry. The same basic types of jewelry can be found all around Europe, while regional fashion can occasionally be seen. The neck-ring, or torc, was one of those universally recognized jewelry items.
We often see highly dressed and adorned corpses at Iron Age tomb sites. This enables us to provide a thorough image of the jewelry that was worn in those times. The safety pin used to fasten clothing—made from the fibula—was the most widely used piece of jewelry. These garment fasteners are widely used and most frequently constructed of bronze, but they can also be found in iron, silver, and gold. Finger and toe rings were uncommon; more frequent were bronze, some gold, and silver bracelets, as well as solid cast bronze armlets that were created using the lost wax method and embellished with glass and enamel. Celts were particularly fond of red enamel. Another common decoration discovered in Celtic burials, primarily those of women, are talismans.
Roman influences can be observed long before the Romans invaded the Celtic regions, but once the Celts were routed in the first century BC and the Roman advance on the Rhine and the British Isles had started, the Celts had fully undergone Romanization. The Celtic "high-society" began to behave, dress, and speak like Romans, and the most recent fashions from the imperial capital reached Northern Europe. Up until that point, finger rings, chain necklaces, and earrings were novel types of jewelry in various regions of the world and quickly gained popularity. Silver and other new materials, such diamonds, were also introduced.
Our modern perception of celtic jewelry is most often expressed in Celtic pattern engraved ring and now indeed claddagh rings are the most popular expression of modern celtic jewelry.