Genesis of a Design – Celtic Corgi

This design began as a logo for a Celtic-themed Corgi specialty dog show and evolved over time to become a jewelry pendant. It was inspired by the Book of Kells and other illuminated prayer books. Captured in the detailed scrollwork of these pages are wide varieties of creatures, including lions, cats, deer, horses, dogs, wolves, and birds. A nice presentation of some of these and their meanings can be found in Animals and Creatures in The Book of Kells by Dee Mc.

Evolution of the Celtic Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Design by Susan Jacob

Our first version of the Celtic Corgi logo, which was illuminated with the traditional pigments in watercolor, was offered for auction at the show with the proceeds benefitting the non-profit Corgi club. However, the theme for the show changes each year, so this was a one-time only use. We had put so much effort into this design and received a great deal positive feedback from people who saw it in the items offered that we knew that we did not want to simply “shelve” it. 

After the show, we continued to develop and refine the design. We quickly realized that this would make a really nice design for a charm or focal piece. Our jewelry business was new and we could see a casting of this design as an expansion of our recently developed “Companions of the Ancients” theme. The design had to be slightly altered to make it suitable for that purpose. If you compare both designs, it’s a bit like those “find the differences” puzzles. Two sizes were made, and the smaller size was cast as a pair of mirror images. All of the models were cast in sterling silver to start with. We wanted to also offer the items in gold color since the Celts worked more in gold than silver. The cost of doing them in pure gold would have made them very expensive. Immediately, we decided that we wanted them in gold vermeil. Since the Celts preferred to work in high karat golds, we chose a 24K gold vermeil. 

The pigments for the coloring of these documents and other texts illuminated by the monks were derived from minerals, plants, and charred materials. Some of these are described below:

Yellow - orpiment (arsenic sulfide) or yellow ochre (iron oxyhydroxide)
Green - malachite (copper carbonate hydroxide) or verdigris (copper acetate)
Red - red lead (minium, lead tetraoxide ) or red ochre (ochre with a fair amount of hematite)
Brown - a combination of iron sulfide and oak gall ground together
Blue - indigo and woad (Note: At one time it was thought ultramarine derived from lapis lazuli was used. Recent spectroscopic studies have shown that this mineral is not present in the Book of Kells.)
Black - soot or bone black
Purple - shellfish, elderberries, Brazil wood, and various lichens
White - chalk (gypsum, calcium sulfate) and lead oxide


To capture the colors used, we chose resin to fill our designs. Unlike enamels, resin is more flexible and less subject to damage if dropped or knocked against another hard object. We want these to be worn and not worried about. However, harsh cleaners and organic solvents need to be avoided.

Most of the opaque resin colors used in our corgi designs are compounded by hand. The mineral pigments are mixed into an emulsion with the resin using the same mulling technique artists have historically used to make paints. Light reflects off the mineral pigments suspended in the resin at slightly different angles giving more depth to their appearance. Synthetic pigments would be more uniform and evenly dispersed in the resin, giving a flatter tone to the color. Using natural mineral pigments makes it really easy to use resin-filled charms in jewelry pieces containing semi-precious stones, because the colors in the resins come from the same compounds as the beads.To simulate translucent gems semi-precious gemstones, we use synthetic dyes mixed to match the color of the gemstones.

As often as possible, we used the same pigments that were used to illuminate the early manuscripts. However, due to toxicity reasons we were not about to use arsenic or lead based pigments. Below is a list of some of the minerals used in our designs.

 White – Zinc oxide or titanium oxide
Black – Bone black or lamp black
Reddish brown – Red ochre
Green – Malachite
Blue – Lapis lazuli
Gold and silver fleck – Mica of various colors


Some of these are blended to give varying shades (e.g. lapis and titanium oxide for a pale blue). Occasionally, we also use Colores® resin colors if they are the desired shade or effect we want. 

The original Book of Kells is housed in Ireland. If you would like to visit a lovely example of medieval illuminated manuscripts on the west side of the pond, go see the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, which can be found at the Cloisters at the far northern end of NYC. We are well familiar with the Cloisters and have visited it on a number of occasions. The artwork and architecture of the Cloisters are inspirational for items from the medieval period. It is especially lovely in June when the roses are in bloom. 

Please contact us if you have questions or specific requests and thanks for visiting our website.