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A Brief History of the Celtic Torc (or Neck Ring)

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It seems amazing, doesn’t it? A type of jewelry created thousands of years ago still remains in our modern day fashion lexicon. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the torq (or torque or torc).

Worn around the neck, torques (from the Latin word “torquis” meaning “to twist”) are often made of bronze or gold (though torcs have been found made of copper, silver and other metals).

Most torcs are open at the front and are created to be worn permanently (yes, for life!), although some have been found that had clasps (for those who couldn’t deal with “forever” jewelry, I guess).

Celtic folk work torcs as a symbol of the wearer’s status in society, usually signifying rank and wealth. They were worn in battle; as a matter of fact, it was often the only item worn in battle, meaning soldiers were stark naked other than their torc (!).

Torcs were known to hold powerful, supernatural powers, hence why they were worn in battle (as a form of protection).

According to Claddagh Design:

According to Irish Mythology, on The Cattle Raid of Cooley, the lead warrior Morann the Arbiter allegedly had a magical torc that tightened around his neck any time he made a false judgement.

One King of Tara, Dermot MacCerrbheoil, dreamt that angels took his torc from his neck and gave it to a stranger, who turned out to be St. Brendan of Clonfert. When they bumped into each other some time later and the King recognised him as the man who was gifted the torc, he relinquished his kingdom to him.

So the next time a ring gets stuck on your finger, think of the Celtic torq. It might relax you to think others have worn heavier jewelry for much longer!