Celtic Knot Bracelet
A Rope of Silver: The Celtic Knot Bracelet
So, you’re looking for a stunning piece of jewellery to finish off the perfect outfit, maybe it’s for a fantasy Viking-like character, or for a historical LARP event. Well, you’re in luck. The Celtic knot bracelet is a brilliant piece to complete a look, and it could even be worn with modern clothing to sprinkle some Celtic flavour into your look.
The bracelet itself is made out of sterling silver, which is a silver alloy that is harder than ordinary silver. It is a cuff bracelet, so will easily fit most wrists and can be slightly adjusted for a better fit. The ends of the bracelet are rounded off for more comfort.
As the name suggests, the silver bracelet is designed to look like a complicated knot or braid. The silver technically forms four separate bands that weave in and out of each other to form the knot. Each band is, in turn, detailed with an intricate rope-like design.
The end result is something that could easily resemble an archaeological find. If you are intending this piece for a certain outfit, it would work especially well for a noble warrior of the Viking Age, or the early middle ages. However, this bracelet wouldn’t look out of place for most characters, unless they’re among the dregs of medieval society.
The Celts: Before and Throughout the Middle Ages
The Celtic people were around long before the Middle Ages. In fact, before we talk about how they developed, it’s best to find out who they actually were to start with. While the Celts are generally associated with the British Isles, they actually originated in continental Europe.
The term “Celts” refers to a group of people found in parts of Europe and the Middle East. These people were grouped together because they shared similarities in language and culture. They’ve been dated as far back as the 6th century, but there isn’t a lot of information on them until the Roman period.
When we get to the Roman period, things really started to heat up for the Celtic people. They had the Romans to the South of them, and the Germanic tribes wandering about up North. The Romans really took a disliking to the Celtic people, or as they called the French Celts, “Gauls”. Well, that was when they weren’t calling them barbarians.
If we’re familiar with the tales of Asterix and Obelix, we’ll know that the Romans eventually swarmed over the majority of Europe, swallowing up much of the Celtic lands and either killing or assimilating them into the Roman culture. In response, the Celts went west.
Because of this, much of the surviving Celtic culture remained mostly in the British Isles and in some scattered parts of France. We don’t know exactly when the Celts ended up in Britain, but it has been theorised to be due to an invasion, probably because everyone apparently loved invading Britain.
These British Celts were otherwise known as “insular Celts”, as opposed to the “continental Celts”. “Insular” just referred to the fact that these Celts were separated from the continent, on account of the British Isles being, well, islands.
Anyway, back to the Romans. As was the fashion, they invaded the British Isles and managed to absorb parts of Britain. However, this was where the seemingly unstoppable Roman war machine was halted. The Romans secured most of England but couldn’t crack Scotland, despite their best efforts. Nor did they manage to reach Ireland, leaving those countries to remain firmly Celtic.
As we all know, all good things must come to an end. The Roman Empire also came to an end, collapsing under its own weight and eventually shattering. The actual reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire are a mixture of a failing economy, poor logistics, and about a thousand other tiny cuts.
This led to what some call the Dark Age, when the former Roman Empire was still reeling from the economic slump and life became very hard. Interestingly, this is around the time that the legend of King Arthur cropped up. Still Celtic artwork continued to be produced.
The British Celts of Scotland, otherwise known as the Picts, proceeded to go to town on the now depopulated Roman villas and settlements. While a few major settlements, such as London, remained, the Picts swarmed the suddenly weak England and destroyed much of the Roman architecture. What we learn here is to not annoy the Scottish.
This is the point where we move into the early Middle Ages. Through the surviving Picts and other Celtic tribes who remained in the British Isles, the beautiful Celtic designs continued to be used in craftsmanship. While we have little archaeological evidence of buildings from this time, brooches and pottery with Celtic designs have been found.
From here, life went on. Eventually the Saxons arrived in England and slowly, Christianity began to overtake Celtic Paganism as the dominant religion throughout the British Isles. Still, the distinctive Celtic style of artwork remained, albeit changing through the centuries.
In England, Celtic artwork was the primary style until the 9th century, when the Vikings turned up and changed things around. Ireland clung on a little longer, until about the 12th century when the Romanesque style became more popular. Still, as we know, the Celtic designs have never been forgotten and remain well loved for their complexity and beauty.
The Complex Designs of Celtic Artwork
If you’re a fan of Celtic jewellery in general, you’ll know how varied and beautiful these pieces can be. As the Celts were driven into the British Isles during the domination of the Roman Empire, their culture and artwork have survived best in that part of the world.
In fact, the Celts continued to thrive in Ireland and other parts of the British Isles long after the Romans fell. Even today we see their influences, a great example being the Welsh language, which is still spoken by many people today. Other languages with Celtic roots are still found in the British Isles, such as Cornish, Irish, and Scottish Gaelic. Outside of Britain, the Celtic Breton language is spoken in a small part of France.
It stands to reason that, if Celtic culture and artwork still hold sway in modern times, that we would see plenty of Celtic influence in the Middle Ages. Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on a couple of the designs found most commonly in Celtic crafts.
Seen as our product is a Celtic knot bracelet, we’ll start with Celtic knotwork. This quite simply refers to the use of either knots, or images of knots, used for decoration. Most of these knots are endless knots and can follow the pattern of a basket weave. Our bracelet is an example of a basket weave, as each “thread” of silver weaves both over and under another to form a complex pattern.
Knotwork shows up in jewellery, obviously, but was also seen in stonework and drawings. It originally came into popularity before the Middle Ages, commonly used in Celtic art before the influence of Christianity in the 5th century.
Like other aspects of Celtic culture, Celtic knotwork continued to thrive even after the Celts got themselves involved with Christianity. These knot designs were included in early Christian manuscript and artwork. One of the earliest examples of this design can be found in a 7th century Gospel fragment stored in Durham Cathedral, in the North of England.
There are many examples of Celtic knotwork being carved into stone. The most common version of this are the stone Celtic crosses found in the British Isles. These are, unsurprisingly, large stone ringed crosses that are covered in intricate knotwork.
These stone Celtic crosses were primarily built in Ireland (although examples exist outside of Ireland) from about the 9th century up until the 12th century, making a fantastic example of how Celtic knotwork thrived as a design in Medieval Britain.
While you may not be familiar with the name, you’ve probably seen a triskele before. It appears in some form in the history of many cultures but has the distinction of being one of the oldest and most ubiquitous Celtic designs.
The name “triskele” actually has a Greek basis, coming from the Greek words “tri” and “skelos”, meaning “three legs”. The Celtic Triskele consists of three spirals that join in the middle. The meaning of the triskele is entirely symbolic, referring to many Celtic beliefs.
Simply put, the number three was very important to the Celts. It even holds some sway on modern culture, particularly with regard to the Irish idiom that “the third time’s the charm”. This symbol became popular among the Celts well before the Medieval period and the influence of Christianity.
There are several Pagan beliefs ascribed to this design. These include:
- The three domains of land, sea, and sky.
- The three cycles of life, which are birth, death, and rebirth
- The triple Goddess, maiden, mother, and wise woman (sometimes called the crone).
There are more potential interpretations, but it seemed fitting to list three, for some reason.
When Christianity reached the Celts at the dawn of the Middle Ages, the symbol didn’t just go away, despite its obviously Pagan roots. Rather, the triple spiral was instead used to represent the Trinity, or the belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
This design, possibly because of its use all around the world, remained popular through the early medieval period and into modern times.
The technical specifications of the Celtic knot bracelet are as follows:
- Materials: .925 sterling silver
- Size: 7.5 inches long x 1.09 inches wide