The British Museum’s new exhibition on the Celts is the first in Britain in over 40 years, running until January 2016 and charting an astonishing 2,500 years’ worth of history across Britain and Europe. The name ‘Celts’ refers to the groups of peoples based in Britain, Ireland and central Europe who spoke Celtic languages and had cultural similarities such as music, art and jewellery design. This exhibition celebrates the beauty of this culture’s artistic creations from extravagant gold torc necklaces to shields embossed with swirling intricate designs. The elaborate curling designs had specific meanings to these peoples, long before the written word, which sadly have been lost over time, however the beauty and mystery of the appealing abstract design still endures.
Pieces of jewellery dating from this time are true rare survivals- we are fortunate to have a few Saxon treasures in our wide and varied collection. Saxon designs are energetic with spirals, braided and twisted chevrons, and knots often formed from a single wire of metal tracing an unbroken thread. References 20821, 19596, 21447 and 21454 beautifully exemplify the artistic creations of the Saxons.
Other great civilisations within Europe such as the Vikings are again known for their jewellery- ancient symbols of status and personal prowess. Viking rings are solid, substantial pieces of jewellery, seen with simple or very intricate twisting designs, each surprisingly tactile and a delight to handle. References 20532, 21250 and 20189 embody these characteristics, whist 21246 and 21247 show off another technique of Viking craftsmen- that of stamping the gold to create geometric designs.
The appeal of early European jewellery from these cultures is second to none. Very little jewellery was made and so few of those pieces survive intact that every item viewable in glass cabinets at the most prestigious museums – and in our Hatton Garden showroom- fire the imagination. Our entire collection of exceptional early European treasures can be viewed online or by visiting us, a privilege to show you in person.