Walker Metalsmiths Celtic Jewelry Revives Lost Traditional Methods

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A small family jewelry business, that is steeped in Irish and Scottish design traditions, revives a lost art. The rediscovery of medieval methods is combined with modern technology to make innovative Celtic rings.

Black diamond Celtic ring

A Celtic ring by Stephen Walker. The 22 karat gold knot details are created by the casting into carved molds. Filigree, granulation and hand-rolled beaded wire are combined to make this ring.

I want to recreate the excitement that comes from combining multiple techniques, diverse precious materials and ancient symbolism

Experimental archeology breakthroughs recently announced by Stephen Walker, revealed a long lost method of carving elaborate Celtic jewelry designs. His latest paper, A Craftsman’s Perspective on the St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, describes his research and recreation of a molding technique that was once common among medieval jewelers, but faded away more than a thousand years ago. The paper is forthcoming in the Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Insular Art to be published by the University of York, UK, later in 2013.

Walker has used this new knowledge about old techniques, not only to advance the scholarly understanding of how medieval craftsmen worked in Ireland and Scotland, but also for the improvement of his own modern Celtic rings and other jewelry.

Walker has combined elements created by this and other traditional techniques to create an exciting collection of jewelry that captures the spirit of imagination and complex detail that was characteristic of many of the finest examples of ancient Celtic art.

Walker explains, "I want to recreate the excitement that comes from combining multiple techniques, diverse precious materials and ancient symbolism. My inspiration is the complexity of detail and imagination that makes the ancient masterpieces resonate."

Many of the finest examples of medieval Celtic metalwork, objects such as the Tara Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice have sections that are cast in a way that imitates the woodcarving technique known as kerbschnitt or chip-carving. It has long been assumed by art historians that the metal objects were molded from models carved in the same manner. Walker discovered that the elaborate designs on these ancient masterpieces went far beyond what could easily be accomplished by conventional chip-carving because the designs were actually carved directly in the molds rather than on a positive model.

With direct examination of key artifacts at the National Museums of Ireland and Scotland, as well as studio experiments to recreate the process, the lost art was recovered. Walker has presented his research to the community of archaeologists, art historians and museum curators through a series of papers given at academic conferences in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

A book,The Modern History of Celtic Jewellery, was published by Walker Metalsmiths in May 2013. This book, that traces the development of Irish and Scottish themed jewelry from the Celtic Revival of the 1840s to the beginning of the current Celtic Renaissance of the 1980s, is available at Amazon.com

Walker Metalsmiths was begun by Stephen and Susan Walker in 1984 in Andover, NY. They have been creating and marketing original Celtic design jewelry crafted in their own workshop, as well as some of the best traditional jewelry from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. With a second retail location at 140 Packets Landing in Fairport, NY began by their children Andrew and Jeanne. The company now employs seven jewelers and apprentices including the three youngest Walker sons, Donald Willie and Stephen. For more information call 1-800-488-6347 or email sales(at)walkermetalsmiths(dot)com.

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