Celtic design and silver jewellery

I grew up surrounded by Celtic design. My Mum rarely took off her Iona silver jewellery which was so deeply inspired by the island’s Celtic heritage, and we had a variety of Alexander and Euphemia Ritchie and Iain MacCormick pieces in our home - candle sconces, mirrors, repoussé brass and copper trays. I still remember the silvery sound of my Mum’s charm bracelet, a design we continue to make at Aosdàna, which had every Iona charm and pieces of the island’s greenstone strung along its length.

My Mum’s cousin, Iain MacCormick who passed on the Iona jewellery legacy to me, spent his spare hours filling handmade notebooks with drawings of complex interlacements and zoomorphic designs. Before he died Iain gifted three of these notebooks to me and I treasure them not only as sources of inspiration but as testimony to one man’s passion for the creativity of his Celtic ancestors.

Through the love and dedication of people like the Ritchies and Iain, the decorative work of the Celtic peoples has endured for over 2000 years, typified by the intricate interlacing, knot work and spiral patterns to be found in our legacy Celtic jewellery ranges.

Celtic Meanings

Although the designs survive, we can only guess at their meanings - the Tree of Life, thought to represent knowledge, abundance of the natural world, and a sacred connection between the upper and lower worlds of spirit and ancestors; the endless lines of interlacements and spirals representing the never ending cycle of life and our relationship to the cosmos, and the Zoomorphics, ambiguous human and animal forms, symbols of a rich pantheon of Celtic deities that could shape shift at will into birds and animals.

Iain MacCormick’s remaining notebooks are now held by Groam House Museum an award winning museum dedicated to the Pictish and Celtic art of Scotland. If you visit Iona you can can also find more information about his and the Ritchies’ Celtic design legacy at Iona Heritage Centre.


April 20, 2023