Monthly Archives: September 2014

Traditional themes in Scottish Jewellery

Scotland has such a strong national identity our symbols are recognised worldwide! From the obvious themes such as thistles, saltires and tartan, to our varied animal life; Highland cows, grouse, stags (and of course, Nessie!), to more subtle hints such as delicate Celtic knots and traditional materials. All these themes and more can be seen in Scottish jewellery, and today we will look at the most classic of these, and how they are being incorporated into contemporary trends.

Traditional jewellery in Scotland is well known for often being made from Scottish Agate
sterling silver and featuring Scottish agate settings. Agate is the most commonly found semi-precious stone in Scotland – we have no mines for rubies or diamonds or emeralds – so agate stones were the Scottish equivalent, alongside amethyst, smoky quartz (known as Cairngorm stones for the location in Scotland where the majority of these were mined), blue topaz and sapphires. Agates are unique amongst gemstones, in that their colours, patterns and shapes vary dramatically from one stone to the next – indeed no two are ever exactly alike! Their opaque and vibrant colours and unusual patterns made them a sought after commodity, and they have been collected in Scotland for use in decorative items and jewellery since Neolithic times at least! The Victorians, in their mania for all things fashionably Scottish, oversaw a revival of the use of agates and some of the most beautiful pieces date from this era, with finely filigreed sterling silver settings highlighting the glowing stones to perfection.

In modern times, agate jewellery remains popular. Many of the older pieces are now considered to be very valuable, as large agates are far less common than they once were, and the craftsmanship and quality of the cut stones in antique jewellery is without comparison. Thanks to the bright, bold colours and shapes, agate jewellery can still be worn with modern clothing and look just as good as it did 200 or more years ago! Smaller nodules of agate are still quite common of course, and many modern pieces will see these turned into simple polished beads to be worn in a string.

Read more about The Picts

The next major trend in Scottish jewellery and many other Scottish decorative items in fact, is of course, Celtic knot-work! Any article discussing Scottish trends would be completely remiss not to look at these fascinating and enduring designs. For years, people have tried to interpret and apply meaning to these mysterious and complex patterns, with limited success – and certain designs have endured for centuries and are still in popular use today!

Pocket Watch, Celtic Knotwork, QuartzOne of the most instantly recognisable Celtic knot-work patterns is the triquetra or Trinity Knot. One of the simplest of the Celtic knot patterns, this design has three pointed loops and, like other knot-work designs, has no visible beginning or end. Christians may interpret this design to signify the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, whereas Pagans often associate it with the triple goddess aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone, or Mind, Body and Spirit. Regardless, the general consensus for this design is a feeling that it represents the joining of three disparate aspects to create a greater whole. As with many Celtic symbols, it is often shown enclosed within a perfect circle; this device represents continuity and protection.

Another popular design which has endured through the ages is the Shield Knot. This is most often depicted as a quaternary design, meaning it has four corners, and may be round or square. As indicated by the name, this design is thought to be a symbol of protection for the wearer. In this design, each corner may be seen as representative of associated themes such as Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, or North, South, East and West, or even the cardinal elements of paganism; Earth, Air, Fire and Water. With this added layer of complexity to the design, another layer of meaning may come into play. Celtic knots with closed paths (i.e. paths which can be traced) are considered to by symbolic of a journey, whereas Celtic knots with open paths (i.e. the whole knot appears to be made of one strand and a beginning or end cannot be discerned) are considered to represent eternity or infinity.

Read About Tartan Colour Meanings

In jewellery, these designs have been crafted from almost every material imaginable and have never gone out of style. From simple etched wooden pendants, to lavish and ornate gold and gemstone pieces, Celtic knots are everywhere in our lives. Often the first piece of jewellery a Scottish girl will own will be a Celtic knot-work cross or a triquetra ring. The designs themselves have rarely changed, they are truly enduring and don’t need to! They may appear as accessory designs to more modern patterns, or be outlined in sparkling gemstones, but Celtic knot-work is most definitely still a vibrant part of contemporary Scottish jewellery design.

Tartan on the Catwalk

As has happened for the last few years, now the cooler weather is coming in, warm woollens and vibrant tartans are back in the minds of fashionistas everywhere as they prepare their wardrobes for another long winter. Scotland’s renaissance in the world of fashion continues, with classic and comfortable designs rising in popularity after the last couple of years of punk rock style. Today we’ll look at a few of the top trends, and explain how you can get the look for yourself!

As we said, the harsh punk vibe of the last few years has mellowed out. But hints of this still remain (albeit in a far more comfortable and achievable sense for day-to-day wear). The grunge styles of the early 1990’s are making a nostalgic comeback and soft flannel or wool tartan shirts, skirts and dresses are perfect for this. Paired with tough biker boots and a leather jacket, even a hint of Scottish tartan style is enough to meet this trend, and it’s perfect for young women and teens!

cape plaidHowever, one of the biggest high fashion trends right now is the blanket cape. Popular in many shades and patterns, but most of all in bold tartan prints, this casual but stunning garment is perfect for cold weather events. All of the major fashion houses have come up with their own versions for this season, but we feel our classic lambswool designs are just perfect to provide a more economical alternative. On the other hand, if you truly want to indulge yourself, silky smooth luxurious cashmere is always an option, and Heritage of Scotland can guarantee to provide a traditional and correct tartan pattern which is not the main concern of many other fashion retailers. The blanket cape needs confidence to pull it off and may swamp a smaller figure so it’s perfect for layering with jeans and heels for coffee with the girls, or with a jumper and boots for walking on a crisp autumn day. You should definitely not wear it with an overcoat, for one; even Scotland doesn’t get cold enough to require that level of wrapping, and secondly; it will be guaranteed to overpower and add bulk rather than flatter your figure. If you are particularly petite, consider wearing a lavish tartan stole instead, or for girls check out the miniature versions of our capes! The key note is that unstructured, flowing layers are in style, and even better in traditional Scottish materials and designs!

Learn about St. Andrew

Regardless of which garments you choose, bold tartan patterns are set to be massively popular this tartan dressseason as well. Dress tartans are the perfect choice for this, with their white backgrounds and vibrant focal shades, they really jump out and demand attention. One of our favourites is the Stewart Dress, with its detailed grid-work of bright red and bold black; however there are dozens of patterns to choose from. DC Dalgliesh, a dedicated hand-crafting tartan mill who utilise traditional looms and apply exacting standards to create their gorgeous fabrics, have a range known as the Dancers Fancies – a selection of vivid designs inspired by traditional clan tartans such as Baird, Longniddry and MacPherson. These fancies are especially suited for dancers because they not only replace the backgrounds with white as in traditional Dress tartans, but also tweak the colours of the pattern lines, so one tartan might be available in four or five shades, from delicate purples to rich reds, fresh greens or jewel-toned blue, meaning that the dancers stand out on stage very clearly and the swishing fabrics of their skirts make for a wonderful display. These designs are also perfect to ensure that fashion-lovers can choose whichever colours suit you best and still wear a tartan that is meaningful to you with pride! Our favourite combination for bold picks this season would be a flirty billie kilt teamed with thick tights and leather boots for a sensible yet sexy ensemble to flash your Scottish heritage!

Read about Kilt Accessories

The subject of modern Scottish identity is a huge preoccupation for Scots at the minute and, as with all such things, when it becomes such a major focus it easily spills over to influence other parts of our lives. Between the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the 2014 Year of Homecoming, The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles; Scotland has been thrust into the global limelight in a way not often experienced by this fantastic, yet modest, nation. All of these great events are of course being recognised through fashion, from the usual fare such as baseball caps and T-shirts, to stunning bespoke garments made using specially designed commemorative tartans. The Scottish Independence Referendum coming up this week has also seen the eyes of the world turn our way, and while a serious political event has naturally inspired more thoughtful reflection than fashion trends – it is also natural that such concentrated thoughts have led to a rather great focus on the Saltire flag of late! Whichever side of the political division you fall on, Heritage of Scotland is proud to support all Scots and much of our clothing, and even home-wares, feature the Saltire and Union Flags – for spirited Scots, blessed Brits, and everyone else who shares our wonderful nation!

We look forward to your comments as always, and can’t wait to hear how you will continue to include your Scottish pride in your winter wardrobe this season!

Glasgow – Scotland’s modern metropolis!

Doulton_Fountain Often when thinking of Scotland, outsiders only think of two places; the romantic wilds of the Scottish Highlands, or the winding alleys and friendly bustle of the nation’s capital in Edinburgh. But Scotland has more than one city, and in fact Edinburgh is not even its largest! That honour goes to Glasgow, an ancient settlement which has revamped and modernised over and over throughout the centuries to become the third largest city in the whole of the United Kingdom, and the Scottish centre for a wealth of industrial, artistic, and cultural touchstones. Join us in today’s blog to learn more about this impressive 21st century metropolis, and gain a deeper respect for the people who live and work there.

Read about the magic of Edinburgh City

Like many Scottish towns and cities, the area which is now Glasgow has been inhabited by humans since time immemorial – quite literally! Evidence suggests that for millennia, prehistoric human hunters and fishermen settled along the banks of the River Clyde. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Roman settlements were also establisUniversity Of Glasgowhed, and the Antonine Wall was built in this area – supposedly to demark the limits of “Caledonia”, as the Romans referred to the region of Scotland. The Roman plan didn’t exactly work of course, but some remnants of the Antonine Wall can still be seen in Glasgow to this very day!

The official founding of Glasgow was achieved by the early Christian Saint Mungo, in the 6th century. The establishment of his church at Molendinar Burn, where Glasgow Cathedral stands in the present-day, paved the way for Glasgow to develop as a religious centre and, by the 12th century, become a real place of power in the hierarchy of Scottish settlements. Following on from this, in the 15th century, Glasgow University was established, and Glasgow’s position was cemented; with a reputation for supporting religion, academia, and of course trade. For throughout all of these other changes, one thing remained a constant; the River Clyde.

The Clyde truly has been the lifeblood of Glasgow, and indeed its influence stretched far across Scotland. Famed for its influence over the Industrial Revolution in Scotland, with the Glasgow Clyde shipyards being known and respected worldwide, the river has actually been of huge importance for much longer than a scant couple of hundred years. From pre-historic times when simple fishermen gleaned their catch from its banks to support their families, to a trading port for all manner of exotic imports and essential exports, to allowing access to the Scottish interior across its broad waters and impressive length, the Clyde has seen it all. Facing to the west, and the Americas, the Clyde also became a hub for Scottish emigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries, and many visiting Scottish-Americans enjoy visiting the historic parts of the city to imagine the places their ancestors may have been in the absence of being able to track down their true ancestral clan lands.

Learn also about how to make a kilt

By the 19th century, Glasgow was a shining jewel in the crown of the British Empire. Known as the Second City of the Empire (after London, of course), it by this point had a wealth of gorgeous architecture, firmly established trade and industrial businesses, libraries, colleges and universities, parks, museums, galleries, and churches – in short everything a modern and successful city could ever wish for. But this wasn’t to last forever. Following the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Glasgow’s decline was temporarily halted by the outbreak of WWII, as it invigorated the shipyards by providing much needed business building warships. However, this came at a heavy price, and Glasgow’s Clydeside region was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe throughout much of the war, destroying many of the cities buildings, inflicting death, injury or homelessness on thousands of Glaswegian residents. After the war, the shipyards went quiet again and continued their slow decline, and by the 1960’s it seemed as though Glasgow’s proud history was drawing to a sad end, with derelict structures covering huge swathes of the dockyards and city proper, and many impoverished Glaswegians being forced to live in crumbling tenement buildings, certain regions of the city began to suffer from a sometimes unfairly rough reputation.

However, already the proud and innovative Glaswegian people had set a plan to rejuvenate and reinvent their city once more. The Bruce Report, published by Glasgow Corporation Engineer Robert Bruce in 1945, was followed almost to the letter (only being changed to allow for some beloved older buildings which had weathered the war to be saved), and the city was transformed over the course of thirty years. The 1970s and 1980s seemed like a dark time for many Glaswegians as their city struggled to find a new purpose once it became clear that shipbuilding and trade could no longer sustain it, but all the while new and better housing was built, a new transport system was established, and many residents were helped to move out of the over-crowded city centre to make way for new businesses and service based industries to come in.

Mitchell_LibraryOver the thirty years since the completion of Glasgow’s biggest makeover yet, the economy and reputation of the city has once again soared. New modern architecture has been welcomed and buildings such as the Clyde Auditorium and Glasgow Science Centre sit happily alongside the medieval Glasgow Cathedral, surviving Victorian tenements (themselves revamped and improved), and stunning Mackintosh buildings such as the Glasgow School of Art. From religion, to academics, to hard-nosed business and industry, the Glaswegian people have once again risen to a challenge to their very identity, and now Glasgow is considered one of the most artistic and cultured places in Scotland, not to mention being a hub for athletes of all kinds. Famous of course for the Old Firm, Rangers and Celtic football teams, Glasgow has also recently hosted football events for the 2012 London Olympics, and then rose to the occasion only a few short months ago by hosting the entire XX Commonwealth Games, a huge success in showcasing not only the greatest Scottish athletes of the moment, but also Glasgow itself and showing everything the city and Scotland has to offer.

Artistically, Glasgow is now considered the very heart of the Scottish contemporary music industry, with scores of venues and recording studios throughout the city, as well as boasting the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which attracts students of all kinds of music and related subjects, and is the countries busiest performing arts venue. The Glasgow School of Art which was mentioned briefly before, is also an internationally famous establishment of higher learning and counts amongst its dozens of celebrity alumni Peter Capaldi, Robbie Coltrane and Liz Lochhead to name but a few!

Visitors to Glasgow are sure to enjoy any number of aspects of the city, from exploring its multi-faceted past and following the story of the indomitable Glaswegian spirit, to enjoying a vibrant and modern culture of music, theatre, fine restaurants and amazing architecture – not to mention the huge variety of festivals throughout each year covering topics such as comedy, fashion, visual arts, jazz, contemporary music, pipers, Scottish culture and homecoming and much more. Once again a Scottish jewel to show all we are capable of achieving, Glasgow is a truly modern metropolis, a cosmopolitan city rejoicing in its forward looking attitude while honouring its links to the past, and doing it all it can to continue to rise and succeed.