Penannular brooch

Irish, late 6th - early 7th century AD
From County Cavan, Ireland

Typical clothes fastener of early medieval Ireland

Both men and women of rank in Ireland wore brooches of this form: first the pin was stabbed through the folds of a cloak and then one end of the ring was pushed under the sharp end of the pin where it came out of the cloth. The ring was then turned until the pin tip lay securely locked in place beyond the raised bump of the decorated terminal.

This fine brooch has been cast in bronze and the pin and expanded ends of the ring are inlaid with bright red enamel. The addition of pieces of colourful millefiori glass is a distinctive feature of Irish jewellery at this period. The bronze collars show the smith experimenting with ways of fixing the glass when the enamel was heated. There is also simple stamped and incised decoration on the back. The front may have been tinned to give it a rich silver look.

The term 'penannular' is used for brooches like this which have a gap in their hoop. On eighth-century Irish brooches, like the Londesborough brooch, the terminals are enlarged and the space between is filled with added decoration but they still show that they have developed from this open-ring type.

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More information

Bibliography

H.E. Kilbride-Jones, Zoomorphic penannular brooches (Society of Antiquaries of London, 1980)

I.M. Stead and S. Youngs, Celts, British Museum Pocket Treasury (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

R.A. Smith, 'Irish brooches of five centuries', Archaeologia-4, 65 (1914)

Dimensions

Diameter: 7.300 cm
Length: 13.000 cm (pin)

Museum number

M&ME 1856,3-20,1

MCS17312

Location

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