Today’s fascination with Scottish jewellery stems both from its ancient Celtic symbolism and its vibrant natural colours. It has a simple elegance that appeals to contemporary taste.

In Victorian times, the success of Scottish jewellery stemmed mainly from the international passion for Sir Walter Scott’s poems and novels. The vogue was also stimulated by George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 and then by Queen Victoria’s enthusiasm for Balmoral. She spent Summer holidays with her family in Scotland and developed a fondness for jewellery made from local materials.


Many of the symbols in Scottish jewellery were inspired by a revived interest in archaeology, such as the Celtic cross which brings together the cross and the circle. The cross stands for the male generative power; the circle, associated with fertility, stands for the female generative power. This symbol pre-dates Christianity by many centuries.

The copying of these intricate interlaced ornaments can be compared to other artist-craftsmen’s evocations of Greek and Roman designs. It is interesting to note that what was essentially a British style of ornamentation moved away from the main centres of England and was better preserved in the outer regions of the British Isles.

Other Scottish characteristics relate to the materials used which, originally, were mainly varieties of agate or quartz indigenous to Scotland. A yellow or orange variety of quartz was even named Cairngorm after the mountain range of its origin. Local stones were often prized as souvenirs. On returning from a walking tour of Scotland in 1818, the poet John Keats wrote to his beloved sister Fanny that he had a few 'scotch pebbles' for her but added: 'I am afraid they are rather shabby – I did not go near the Mountain of Cairn Gorm'. The tremendous demand for Cairngorms almost exhausted the supply of these brownish-yellow quartzes by the mid-1860s and substitutes from Brazil were used instead.