The Vikings: The Rich History Of Their Jewelry
When we think of ancient Vikings, the first thing that pops into our mind is probably not jewelry, right? The image that forms in the minds of most people is one of the savages who assault coastal communities with long sharp spears, knives, and heavy shields. However, you will be happy to know those old Norse people also made beautiful and intricate jewelry from a variety of materials, including bronze, iron, gold, silver, amber, and resin, in the form of bracelets, rings, necklaces, etc.
These ornaments were simple in the Viking period, but the pieces became more complex and sophisticated as time went by. Vikings were farmers by occupation and, occasionally, were warriors. The men and women of the Viking community both wore a wide range of jewelry, shiny objects that gave their seemingly dark world some glamour.
The piece would be cut into smaller portions that would suit that specific undertaking if an ornament was too large for the subject of the transaction. The Norsemen used their jewelry like we use a wallet on this modern day.
Not all Viking ornaments, however, were metallic; beautiful ornaments were also made by the Norsemen using beads and precious rocks or stones. Nevertheless, even though this art form was used before the Viking Period, it was uncommon for the Vikings to incorporate stones into their jewelry.
Below are some fascinating details about Viking jewelry that will give you a better image of the Norsemen's jewelry culture.
Arm Rings or Arm Bands
In Viking culture, arm rings or armbands or bracelets were extremely popular, and armbands served a dual purpose; ornamental and commercial, like necklaces. Some arm rings, made from precious metals such as gold and silver, were very intricate and detailed. Arm rings were a display of wealth and represented societal standing.
There were armbands in various shapes and designs. Some were spiral in design, wrapping themselves several times around the arm, making it easier for the wearer during a commercial transaction to tear off a piece of the end. Other armbands were only long enough to wrap around three-quarters of the arm; since they were plain and flat, these were the bands most widely used as currency, making them easier to break apart if needed.
Necklaces and Neck Rings
The Vikings made their necklaces and neck-rings from a number of items of varying lengths and sizes, including precious metals such as silver and gold, natural fiber, and iron wires. Pendants made of glass beads, precious stones, resin, amber, and small metallic charms will usually accompany the necklaces.
However, the most popular material for collar pendants was glass, which would be mass-produced for this purpose. Souvenirs, gifts, or Nordic religious symbols were often the pendants on the necklaces that held meaning for the wearer.
The evidence obtained from the archaeologists of Vikings wearing necklaces is prevalent. The necklaces discovered in Europe are made of silver, bronze, or gold. Notice that most of the necklaces found were in hoards and not in grave locations.
Most scholars, however, agree that neck-rings were worn as a show of wealth and as a form of currency in commercial transactions by both genders. In order to make the value calculation more precise, they were built and manufactured in standard units of weight. As mentioned above, depending on the sum required to complete a commercial transaction, a piece will be cut off from the neck-ring.
Pendants or Amulets
The pendant or amulets represent a broad category of items for Viking jewelry, from Mjolnir pendants, Valknut pendants, Yggdrasil pendants, and more. Thor's hammer seems to be the most commonly worn of them all, much as the ancient Norsemen used a variety of different pendants. Miniature arms, including axes and arrowheads, perforated coins, the tree of life, crosses, and the symbols of Valknut are other examples.
You might also wonder why they would wear miniature crosses in a pagan culture. Christian missionaries were relentless in converting non-believers even at the height of the Viking Age, and therefore some Norsemen followed this new faith, creating a hybrid belief system. Note, however, the rare archaeological pendant findings were cross pendants, which indicates that only a few Vikings accepted Christianity.
Viking Jewelry In The Modern Times
Vikings enjoyed the allure of precious metals, and they sought to incorporate this into their daily lives by creating beautiful ornate ornaments as described above. Unlike most cultures, however, jewelry pieces typically had a dual purpose in Viking culture, being used both for aesthetic appeal and as a form of currency.
Today, the Viking Jewelry is still used by many people for fashion and style. Others use it to embrace their Viking lifestyle. Here at Viking Lair, we offer handmade necklaces, bracelets, accessories, and even hoodies and shirts. Browse our collection and get your own item today!