Celtic Bling! Irish Bronze Age Collars

Gold collar collection National Museum Ireland

This week while designing the new collection I've been going back over some sketches and photos I have since my visit to the National Museum of Ireland. I've been looking at the Bronze Age torcs and collars and doing some research into how they were made and what significance they held to the Celts. When I look at the size of some of these collars all that comes to mind is one word...BLING! It's hard to appreciate the size of these pieces when they sit so beautifully in the glass cabinet of a museum so I've checked out the dimensions just to give you a sense of how big these collars really are.

Gleninsheen Gold Collar on display national Museum of Ireland

So let's take one of my favourites, the Glenisheen Collar for example. This is 31 cm/ 12.3 inches in diameter. That's bigger than a basketball or a 12" pizza!! I love jewellery (if you hadn't already guessed!) and would be only too happy to be weighed down by something as exquisite as this but even for me this is a tad on the big side. So how did the Celtic Chiefs cope with these impractically large gold collars? Well firstly the weight of the metal wasn't an issue as the goldsmiths of the time became extremely proficient in hammering out the gold to very thin sheets.

Great skill was needed to achieve this fine sheet of gold which not only benefited the wearer from a practical point of view but was also a very economical use of gold. Also it seems these collars weren't really for everyday wear and were used mostly for ceremonials purposes. They were regalia, similar to what a modern day king or queen might wear for public engagements and ceremonies. While the collars were symbols of wealth and status the Celtic chiefs didn't just use them to show off how wealthy they were (or would like people to believe!) They were also thought to have magical power and were said to be a symbol of divinity.

This is perhaps why they were so often depicted around the necks of Celtic divinities. So there you have it, why the Celts loved their bling. I wonder will archaeologists look back on the some of the jewellery of our time and view it in the same way?

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