A torc is an ancient Celtic form of neck ring. Although items from as early as 1800 BC have been found in Egypt that resemble torcs, the name is commonly used for bronze, iron or golden neck rings from the European Iron Age. These neck rings developed from simple rings into elaborately decorated ornaments with or without rich terminals. Most Celtic torcs have been found in France but there is an extremely wide spread of torc- like ornaments encountered throughout excavations from Spain to the British Isles and Scandinavia and from Persian lands to Egypt.
The Roman author Pliny writes that torcs were part of the Celtic battle-dress but excavations have revealed mainly women and girls wearing torcs.
|Celtic torc from the Iberian peninsula showing typical celtic chased motivs|
Iron Age grave sites show us corpses that were fully dressed and ornamented. This allows us to form a detailed picture of jewelry worn in those days. The most widespread type of jewelry was the safety pin used to fix clothing: the fibula. Most commonly made from bronze but also found in iron, silver and gold this garment fastener is found in large numbers. Finger and toe rings were rare, more common were bronze and some gold and silver bracelets and cast bronze solid armlets, cast with the lost wax technique and decorated with enamel and glass. Red enamel in particular popular among the Celts. Torcs are another typical ornament found in Celtic graves, mainly female ones. This item developed from a plain iron ring to elaborately decorated neck rings in gold.
Roman influences are seen long before the Roman conquest of the Celtic lands but after the defeat of the Celtic armies in the first century BC and the Roman march to the Rhine and British isles had begun the full 'romanization' of the Celts was a fact. The Celtic 'high-society' started to act, dress and talk like Romans and the latest trends from the Empire's capital made it all the way up to Northern Europe. Finger rings, chain necklaces and earrings were new forms of jewelry in these parts of the world up until then and became popular items. New materials such as gemstones and silver were introduced as well. But it wasn't all new though, certain typical Celtic characteristics are still to be recognized in jewelry from the first quarter of the first millennium such as the use of enamel and typical Celtic knot motives. Old styles fused with new ones to produce a Gallo-roman style.