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'Latchet' dress fastener


Length: 7.400 cm

formerly 41/39/13

M&ME 1854,7-14,97

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

    'Latchet' dress fastener

    Irish, 6th-7th century AD
    From Castle Island, Dowris, County Offaly, Ireland

    Badge or brooch?

    This strange shaped object was found in 1850. It consists of a large disc attached to a Z-shaped section, which forms two open slots, and terminates in a hook and smaller disc. Such pieces, incorrectly called 'latchets', were a form of dress fastener attached by coils of wire in the slots between the discs. They are only found in Ireland and remained popular only until the seventh century. They may have been worn in pairs.

    Earlier latchets, some of which can be seen in the British Museum, have a more fluid open S-shaped body joined to the large disc. Some of these still have spring-like wire coils attached, and these may have been pushed through or sewn onto the fabric of a garment. The lavish use of red enamel and very finely worked spirals makes this an exceptionally fine piece and one that would have marked the importance of its owner.

    S.M. Youngs (ed.), The work of angels: masterpiec (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)

    H.E. Kilbride-Jones, Celtic craftsmanship in bronze (London, Croom Helm, 1980)