Treasures of Lewis
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
You probably recognise the stones in the photo below if you're at all familiar with the west of Scotland. The Calanais Standing Stones (or Callanish in its anglicised form) is a cruciform shaped stone circle, erected 5000 years ago, which has long withstood the intense elemental weather of the Outer Hebrides. There is much mystery surrounding their inception - though it was most likely an astronomical observatory and a place of ritual activity. Although referred to as 'the Stonehenge of the north', these stones actually predate Stonehenge by approximately 2,000 years! The stones are made of Lewisian Gneiss which is one of the oldest rocks in Britain and dates back 3000 million years.
Two Skies fans know that we love Lewisian - it polishes up beautifully as you can see in our jewellery. There's a wee bit more than some gneiss looking rock (!) to the Isle of Lewis for Two Skies though - read on to find out!
Adam also has a familial tie to the Isles, as his grandparents lived here. Dr McIntosh is actually the inspiration for our unusual vintage coin jewellery. Prior to 1920, many British coins were minted using real silver, and until 1947 still contained at least 50% silver (as opposed to the cupro-nickel used in modern minting). Some people started holding onto their old 'lucky' coins as silver prices started to rise, including Adam's grandad, Dr McIntosh. He amassed a large special collection, as his patients had all paid for their prescriptions in the silver coinage of the day. Adam inherited his grandpa's coins, some of which have now been turned into unique keepsake pendants and rings!
The biggest sapphire ever found in the British Isles, was discovered on the Isle of Lewis in the 1980's. At a whopping 242 carats, the gem's discovery immediately led to the site it was found being declared a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), which means gem hunters were no longer allowed to look for sapphires. However, there are a handful of much smaller Isle of Lewis sapphires discovered prior to the ban, but they are very hard to come by!
Another instantly recognisable treasure is the Lewis Chessmen. Found in Uig (possibly from the Norse word 'vik' for 'bay'), which is not only known for its beautiful golden beach, but also because of the discovery of a Viking age chess set in a small stone chamber at the edge of the beach, by Malcolm MacLeod in 1831. Inside this chamber were 93 hand carved chess pieces made of walrus ivory and sperm whale tooth. The pieces were probably made in Trondheim, Norway in the 12th Century during the 450 years that the Norse ruled Scotland. Eleven of the Chess pieces are in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and 82 are in the British Museum in London.