Orkney Jewellery Designer Re-Creates Rare Pictish Necklace

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A young Orkney jewellery designer has re-created a rare, 1,400-year-old Pictish necklace, the original of which is kept within the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Zoe Davidson crafted her 1kg solid silver version of the famous Whitecleugh Chain, discovered in Lanarkshire in 1869, after a personal commission from Orkney archaeology tour guide, Caz Mamwell.

The original chain, thought to date from between 400 and 800AD, is comprised of 44 silver rings, interlinked into 22 pairs.

“The Whitecleugh Chain is full of mystery as nobody really knows who wore it, when they wore it, or how they even made it,” said 27-year-old Zoe, who started her Stromness-based jewellery business in 2016. “It’s thought that the chain would have been a high-status piece, perhaps worn for special ceremonies. The original is very heavy, at almost 2kg, and it was interesting to see how it would have lain and moved on the wearer.”

Zoe travelled to Edinburgh to view the original chain, and other Pictish chains held within the National Museum of Scotland, to check measurements and study possible construction techniques.

“The people who made the original chain were highly skilled craftspeople, adept at shaping thick silver into something beautiful and dramatic,” said Zoe. “In recreating their work, I had to explore what techniques and tools they might have used, so it’s been a fascinating experience and something of a first for me. I’d love to take on more commissions of this nature as, apart from the beauty of these ancient pieces, there’s still much we can learn from their makers.”

Caz said she was delighted with her modern day Whitecleugh Chain.

“I’ve long admired the Whitecleugh Chain, professionally and personally, and I’d hoped to one day find a jeweller who could accurately recreate this important archaeological piece for me. Zoe is fast gaining a great reputation in the jewellery world, with a particular talent for shaping precious metals, so she was an obvious choice, particularly as she’s local. She was incredibly easy to work with and took a lot of care with this very personal project, working from the original chain and having me undertake a number of fittings. The end result is simply stunning and I’m sure the mysterious makers of the Whitecleugh Chain would approve.”


Rebecca van Rooijen


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