The History and Symbolic Meaning of the Shamrock

“Did the fairies ever whisper in your ear, that a four-leaf clover brought good luck to the finder?” 

A quote from the book, St. Nicholas (1877). This may have been the first text to suggest that four-leaf clovers are lucky. 

We love shamrocks and clovers here at Anne Koplik Designs! Wearing these lucky treasures are such a fun way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Our designers are inspired by so many places and time periods. Ireland and its rich history is one of those places! 

Shamrocks are an iconic symbol in and outside of Ireland. This trefoil first became significant, because the Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, used a shamrock as a metaphor to explain the Christian Holy Trinity. The Shamrock would later become the national symbol of Ireland in 1801. Shamrocks and other celtic symbols in jewelry are commonplace, especially around St. Patrick’s Day. Although, “Celtic” jewelry as we know it today, was not how jewelry looked in Celtic Europe or even earlier. 

Shamrocks and other symbols synonymous with Ireland were not used in jewelry during the late Iron Age (1200 BC – 400 AD). An example of more common jewelry, worn by upper class women, during this time were Torcs. Torcs are neck rings made of twisted or raised metal. The Broighter Collar, an important relic of this time, which features a raised floral motif.

The Tara Brooch is another significant piece of Celtic Jewelry that was discovered in 1850 in Ireland that would later influence knot motifs during the Celtic Revival. 

The Irish motifs we’re most familiar with, such as, shamrocks, clovers, harps and knots, did not become popular until the Celtic Revivalism in Europe. This revival began around the 1880s in Ireland as a result of increased nationalism and a revitalized interest in early Celtic culture, which may have been inspired by the discovery of the Tara Brooch. 

Art Nouveau was an art movement that ran concurrently to this revivalism. This movement celebrated organic, asymmetrical shapes and lines seen in nature, as well as, nature itself. Flowers, birds, snakes and dragonflies were commonly used in jewelry during this time. 
Shamrocks and clovers were among these motifs, which may have been borrowed from the Celtic Revival. Many of the pieces we design are influenced by this time period. For example, below is an Art Nouveau clover brooch found in Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry, written by C. Jeanenne Bell, G.G.

And here is our Adeline Shamrock Pin!

Once Shamrocks entered the scene during this time period, they did not seem to leave. Shamrock jewelry is seen throughout the 20th Century and into today. It is a staple accessory on St. Patrick’s Day! We hope to see you wearing one too!

From the whole team at Anne Koplik Designs, We wish you a happy and very lucky St. Patrick’s Day!

Your Treat!

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