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The Luckenbooth: 7 Facts About A Truly Scottish Emblem

Posted by Naomi Jones on

Even if you've never heard of the luckenbooth, chances are that you'll recognise its distinctive form:

 

Click here to see the Jewellery of Scotland Luckenbooth Brooch, handmade by Ortak.

A crowned heart (or two intertwined hearts) are common features in luckenbooth jewellery, and many people unfamiliar with Scottish heritage might associate these emblems primarily with Irish claddagh rings.

But the tradition of giving and wearing the luckenbooth has a long history - and with fashion looking to folk art and cultural symbol for inspiration, it's no wonder the luckenbooth is making a comeback. We decided to put together some facts about the luckenbooth for those who are wondering what all the fuss is about.

1. It's not actually named after luck...

The word 'luckenbooth' has its roots in the name given to the little locking booths used from the 16th to 19th century by merchants on the Royal Mile of Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland - and particularly silversmiths. Luckenbooth brooches were often given as good luck charms though.

2.  It's older than the claddagh...

 

"Royal Crown of Scotland (Heraldry)" by Royal_Coat_of_Arms_of_the_United_Kingdom_(Scotland).svg

While the earliest known claddagh rings date from the 17th century, the style of the crown used in a luckenbooth is known to have been based on the crown of Mary Queen of Scots, whose reign was during the 1500's. This emblem has therefore had a central place in Scottish imagery for at least 500 years!

3. Luckenbooths are usually silver...

But they were made in luxurious gold for wealthier customers too:

This beautiful example is thought to date from the 17th century, and would no doubt have cost more than many people would have earned. Silver luckenbooths continue to be popular today, as they are easy to wear and considered more traditional. But if gold is more your style, you might be interested to know that luckenbooths are still being made by Orkney based jewellers Ortak, in both silver and gold. Click here to for an example.

4. Luckenbooths have mysterious powers...

Traditional Scottish womenswear - not obligatory for enjoying the luckenbooth

Are you anticipating a difficult childbirth? Experiencing problems nursing? Worried your daughter might succumb to consumption? Worry not - luckenbooths have been worn by Scottish women for centuries to ward off all these ailments, and probably more besides. Please note, research is yet to be carried out into the accuracy of these findings... but a luckenbooth is likely to at least cheer you up!

5. Their international appeal is nothing new...

During the 19th century, Scottish traders interacted with Native American peoples, and some of their jewellery and folk art seems to have influenced the tribes they met with. Imagery which reflects the luckenbooth started to appear on beadwork, especially items produced by the Iroquois tribe. This example is thought to date from between 1820 - 1830, and clearly contains the deign elements of the luckenbooth:

Traditional Iroquois Beadwork

 

 6. Luckenbooths aren't just for brooches...

Although they were traditionally made and worn as brooches, the luckenbooth was used and displayed in  a variety of ways, depending on the wearer's preferences. The flexible spirit of the luckenbooth continues to this day, as it can now be found as a brooch, pendant or even earrings, allowing modern women to wear this classic emblem as part of a modern lifestyle.

Luckenbooth Earrings in Sterling Silver or 9ct Yellow Gold by Ortak, from £39

7. They make for the sweetest of love tokens...

The luckenbooth was often bought from those little Edinburgh stalls by a young man, looking to charm the lady he hoped to make his betrothed. Today, they are becoming quite a trend again at Scottish weddings, as young brides and grooms look to celebrate their heritage on the most important day of their lives. If you missed the chance to flatter your fiancée with a luckenbooth during your own courtship, why not treat them to a pendant for your next anniversary?

Luckenbooth pendant in Sterling Silver or 9ct Yellow Gold by Ortak, £58

 

Do you own a luckenbooth? Maybe you know something about their history which we've missed out - please share in the comments below!

 

 

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