The Tara Brooch

The Tara Brooch is an elaborate piece of ancient Irish jewelry dating back to around 700 AD. It is on display in the National Museum of Ireland.

Composed mostly of silver and embellished with delicate, interlacing, gold, filigree patterns, it is widely recognized as a symbol of Ireland.

Tara Brooch

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Celtic brooches are available from many fine jewelers and Irish gift shops throughout the world, with craftsmen finding inspiration from the original Tara brooch. Today I thought I would explain the history behind this wonderful Celtic piece.

Discovered in 1850, this legendary brooch was created for a medieval chieftain to balance his seamless cloak on his manly shoulders.  The weapon-like long pin of the brooch was strong enough to bore through layers of rough cloth. The high quality of workmanship reinforced this chieftain’s head of clan status.

The original brooch is said to have been found by a poor Irish woman in August 1850 on the beach at Bettystown, County Meath. She supposedly claimed she found it in a box buried in the sand. An ancient wooden box surviving under shifting sands for centuries may seem like a tall story. Many believe the woman found the box inland, but moved it to the beach to avoid ownership claims by the land holder.

Another version of the story claims the beautiful piece was found by two little boys playing on Bettystown beach. Their mother brought it to an iron dealer, who wasn’t even slightly tempted to purchase it.  She proceeded to a watchmaker who purchased the ancient brooch for the vast sum of eighteen pence. I wonder if she ever realized how little she was paid for her find.  The watchmaker used his skills to clean up the piece, and then traveled to Dublin where he hoped to find a buyer.  Waterhouse Jewellers paid him twelve pounds for the pin.

Tara Brooch Fabric From Fraser Street Fabric

Tara Brooch Fabric From Fraser Street Fabric

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Although named after the famous seat of the Irish High Kings, the brooch actually has no true connection to the Hill of Tara. George Waterhouse, a creator of Celtic revival jewelry, hoped the name would appeal to women, stimulating a demand for replicas of the intricately ornate brooch. His marketing ploy worked, and to this very day this famous piece of jewelry inspires craftsmen throughout the world.

Although originally a masculine design, the Tara Brooch was quickly favored by Irish women.  In the early years of the 20th century feather boas and furs were the fashion choice of New York and London ladies.  Irish women, however, preferred to pin their serge suits with intricate brooches encrusted with precious stones, inspired by Celtic myth and the Tara Brooch.  Even Queen Victoria herself sent orders for the precious pin to be sent to Windsor Castle for her personal inspection.

Inghiniidhe na hEireann (The Daughters of Ireland) chose a Tara Brooch as a membership symbol. To them it represented a purely Irish identity, so they proudly donned their badge of choice.  In 1914 they merged with Cumann na mBan, and their Tara Brooch symbol was replaced by a more militant emblem of a rifle entwined with the letters ‘CnamB’. Perhaps they failed to recognize the more subtle insignia of the brooch, evocative of a medieval sword.

National Museum of Ireland – Home of the Tara Brooch

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In the 1870′s the brooch was acquired by what now is The National Museum of Ireland, and there it remains on display, for all the world to see.  Whether found on the beach, the famous Hill of Tara or under some stone wall, by an old woman or her two boys, the Irish people are eternally grateful for the discovery of this national treasure.

And finally a few words of advice for anyone thinking there may be more brooches and ancient jewels just waiting to be found on the Emerald Isle. Metal detecting is illegal in Ireland. This step was taken to preserve Ireland’s historical heritage, and to ensure only those with archaeological expertise and an appropriate license excavate our ancient sites.

And so, when you wear a Celtic brooch,  wear it confidently and with pride. Your taste in fashion and style would be pleasing to Ireland’s ancient warrior kings.



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom


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How To Make A St. Brigid’s Cross Using Pipe Cleaners

On St. Brigid’s Day in Ireland it is customary to make reed crosses named after the saint. But, if like me, you live in the city, it is not easy to find an abundant supply of reeds.  In America, reeds and rushes don’t grow as prolifically as in the wet soil of my homeland.

St. Brigid's Crosses Made With Reeds

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Determined to mark this day by making some crosses with my kids, I decided pipe cleaners would be the best solution. ‘Chenille stem’ seems to be the new name for this trusted craft supply. Add a little glitter and a good old pipe cleaner is transformed into a chenille stem.

Pipe Cleaner For A St. Brigid's Cross

To make your cross you will need 18 or 22 stems, depending on how big you’d like to make the center square of your cross.

Steps To Make A St. Brigid's Cross

Lay one stem straight and bend all others, except one, in half. Cut the last one in four equal pieces for binding the ends of each arm of the cross.

Step 1: Loop one bent stem around the center of the vertical stem, pointing the ends to the right.

Step 2: Loop the next bent stem around the first arm, pointing upwards.

Step 3:  The next bent stem is looped around the upward arm, pointing to the left.

Step 4:  The final arm is created by pointing a bent stem downwards around the left arm.

Repeat these four steps 3 or 4 times to expand your cross, starting each round on the right and underneath the arm.

Securing the last stem of a St. Brigid's Cross

The final stem must be secured.  Pull the last loop of the right arm back a little, and slot the last stem downwards and through this hole. Re-tighten each loop.

Securing the ends of a St Brigid's Cross with pipe cleaners

Secure the end of each arm using a small piece of pipe cleaner.

Chenille Stem St. Brigid's Cross

And there you have it, a St. Brigid’s Cross made with pipe cleaners, even if it’s a little more glittery than the saint’s original.

Glittery St. Brigid's Crosses

We got a little carried away this morning, making big ones and small ones, multicolored and glittery crosses. But let’s face it. St. Brigid loved a good party, so I think she would approve of a little sparkle.

Happy St. Brigid’s Day to all.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

P.S. Thanks to Maureen at “Make Time For Nature” for her lovely photo of St. Brigid’s crosses made with reeds.

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Winner Of The Custom-Made Alphabet Art By Letters From Ireland

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s giveaway for a custom made piece of alphabet photo art by Letters From Ireland.  It was lovely to hear the inspirational words readers would use to create their own unique piece of artwork.


A big thank you to Letters From LLC for graciously sponsoring the prize for our lucky winner…..


who said:

“Lovely idea. I would ask the artist to produce a piece that reads “Dungarvan” my husband’s hometown ~ it would be the perfect gift for him.”


Congratulations, Margaret.  I will send you an  e-mail  to arrange to send your prize.

A big thanks to everyone who commented and supported this giveaway.  I hope you all enjoy the rest of the weekend.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom


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Holiday Giveaway From MyIrelandBox

This Thanksgiving weekend MyIrelandBox, a subscription service providing monthly Irish craft surprises from Ireland, has graciously sponsored another giveaway for Irish American Mom readers.


Based in a pretty little town on the western coast of the Emerald Isle, MyIrelandBox curates the best of Irish made crafts, delivering monthly surprises directly to your door.


Our previous MyIrelandBox giveaway for St. Patrick’s Day was a huge success with many wonderful responses. Readers told us about their favorite Irish crafts and why they love Ireland.  You can read that post and learn more about this innovative service here.


As the Christmas season gets underway, MyIrelandBox is providing one November craft box and one December craft box to two lucky winners of our giveaway.


The wonderful world of Irish made crafts and the talented artists who devote their lives to the creative process are introduced to subscribers each month.  The MyIrelandBox team scour Ireland and thoughtfully curate the best of Irish crafts.


Dingle – Home of the MyIrelandBox Team

Here at Irish American Mom I love to support Irish and American artists, writers, and small businesses by helping spread the word about their incredible work.

MyIrelandBox shares that vision by introducing subscribers to new and unusual Irish crafts, they might otherwise not be able to buy.  Each box includes background information and personal stories about the Irish artists whose products are chosen for each monthly surprise.


This holiday season MyIrelandBox is offering a three month subscription for anyone hoping to surprise someone special for Christmas.  Orders can be placed right up until Christmas Eve, with the first gift boxes arriving in early January.



The Giveaway:


One lucky winner will receive the November craft box and another will be surprised by the Christmas-themed December box.

To enter just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Saturday, December 7th, 2013.  Any comment will do but if you need inspiration why not tell us what Christmas crafts, trinkets or treasures you cherish most.

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win.  Your e-mail won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our two lucky contestants.

Winners will be announced on Saturday December 7th, so MyIrelandBox can get the winners’ prizes on their way for Christmas.


Best wishes to all our contestants.

Féile Na hAltaithe Shona Daoibh,

(Happy Thanksgiving)

Irish American Mom


P.S.  Irish American Mom receives no remuneration from My Ireland Box, who graciously provide these prizes free of charge.  I feature this wonderful gift idea as a way to promote and support Irish businesses and crafts people.

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Giveaway Time: Custom-Made Alphabet Art By Letters From Ireland

Letters From Ireland offers custom-made alphabet photo art using unique images captured throughout Ireland. Today I am delighted to introduce you to this creative and imaginative art work, and to offer you a chance to win your very own piece of fabulous art, inspired by my homeland.

Alphabet photo art, or alphabet photography, is the practice of finding letters of the alphabet in architecture, nature, and the world around us. These letters are framed together in a collage to spell out a word or name of your choice.



From weddings to housewarmings, birthdays, new babies, or “just because,” a piece of framed photo art by Letters From Ireland makes a unique, thoughtful gift and a distinctive addition to any home.

Initially photographs taken in Italy inspired these artistic creations, but as interest grew a second location was sought for an alphabetic photo shoot.


Ireland was an easy and exciting choice. Images were collected throughout a two week tour of the rolling green hills, winding lanes, and charming cities and towns of Ireland.

At each stop during their Irish tour, the creators of these pictures were blown away by the beauty of the countryside, and the warm welcome, hospitality, and personality of its people. It’s always lovely to hear from visitors who have experienced a genuine welcome during their Irish trip.



Here is a quotation from their website:

“From the colorful buildings and doorways lining the streets,

to the bustling pubs, to the majestic green cliffs and blue

waters, Ireland is a country alive with color and character. We

had an amazing time collecting this alphabet art, and we hope

you will enjoy our photography as a unique perspective into

the timeless beauty of this country.”


Letters from sample 2

The creators truly discovered Ireland, revealing letters of the alphabet hidden in the unique beauty of nature, architecture, and everyday objects of the Emerald Isle. All of their photos are authentic originals, and are never staged.

But here’s the good news. You can create your own unique piece. The process is completely personalized. Choose a special name or word for your frame. Then choose the photographs, frame style, and mat color to complete your one-of-a-kind piece of art.

letters from sample 1

Frame a treasured family name, a new married name, or the name of a child or new baby. Or, choose a word that inspires you. These art pieces make great gifts for weddings, anniversaries, Mother’s or Father’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, or housewarmings. Your imagination is the limit!

Each piece of Letters From Ireland art is handcrafted using beautiful, high quality materials meant for a lifetime of display. While all of the photographs used to create these stunning works of art were captured in Ireland, all products are made in America, using American materials. Currently, shipping is available only throughout the 48 lower states in the US.




The Giveaway:


Letters From LLC has generously sponsored a giveaway for Irish American Mom’s readers.  Our lucky winner will be awarded one customized frame, which may be personalized by choosing a frame from the Classic Collection, any mat, and photographs.

Photographs are available in color, black and white, or sepia. Any name or word between 3 and 9 letters long may be chosen for this frame.

Fully framed artwork can only be sent to US addresses located within the 48 contiguous states. This is due to the size of the artwork, and high international shipping costs. If readers located outside the USA (or Alaska/Hawaii) would like to enter, the sponsor can send them unframed photographs, but will not be able to send a frame.

To enter our giveaway just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Saturday, November 30th, 2013.  You can leave any comment you wish. What you write does not affect your chances of winning.

If you need some inspiration, why not tell us what word you would choose to represent Ireland in a custom piece of art.

A winning comment will be chosen randomly.  Remember to leave your e-mail so I can contact you should you win.  E-mails won’t be published or shared, just used to contact our prizewinner.

I’ll announce the winner on Saturday November 30th, in a separate blog post.  I’ll send an e-mail to the lucky entrant so we can connect for address exchange, instructions on how to order your artwork, and mailing of the prize.


How To Follow Letters From:


If your name doesn’t pop out of the hat for this giveaway, why not follow Letters From on Facebook. More giveaways will be posted there for the Holidays.

And for Tweeters, you can also follow Letters From on Twitter.

I just started following Letters From on Pinterest, where many of their wonderful photographs are on display.

Best of luck to all our entrants and a big thank you to Letters From LLC for sponsoring this fabulous giveaway.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom


P.S.  Irish American Mom does not have a business relationship with Letters From LLC, and received no remuneration for this post. Giveaway posts are designed to promote small businesses, especially those with a link to Ireland. Letters From Ireland graciously provided this prize free of charge.

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