The Vikings while warriors and farmers, still loved their trinkets and jewellery. The Vikings would wear an array of jewellery items, men and women were both fans of the shiny metal objects that would have added some glamour to their world.
This was an interesting situation for the Vikings who loved metals like gold and silver but neither were sourced from Scandinavia, and most metals other then iron were from foreign lands. Its thought most of the silver and gold would come from coins traded overseas by the Viking merchants and traders. It’s probably this that helped fuel the popularity of jewellery in Viking times, silver in particular was a favourite of the old Norse people.
Of course not all Viking jewellery was metal, the Viking also wore other items like beads, made from precious rocks and stones as well. However when it came to insetting stones into metal jewellery it was actually rare for Viking jewellery to use this, even though it had proved popular before Viking times.
The most interesting part of Viking jewellery is perhaps that the Vikings often used it for dual purposes. Silver arm bands and bracelets would be a decorative item, and would also be used for currency. Should a Viking need to purchase something from the market, then they could simply pull a piece of silver off their arm band, and use it to purchase their goods. In this way some Viking jewellery was essentially a wallet or purse. In Viking times, carrying your wealth on your person was a secure way to keep it safe.
Viking Jewellery Items
The love of jewellery meant the Vikings created many different forms of jewellery from rings, to armbands and brooches. Some of the jewellery was functional and some for decoration only, but all would be similarly designed with an innate craftsmanship and style.
Viking necklaces and neckrings
Necklaces in Viking times were made from a variety of materials, glass beads, precious stones, small metal charms and pieces, amber and resin were also common. The necklaces were built around metal wire or a natural fibre in various lengths and sizes.
Viking brooches were very popular and an essential everyday item, used for fastening and holding clothing and cloaks around oneself. They came in a variety of styles and level of details, with two primary types used by the Vikings.
The first type of brooch was the Pennanular or ring brooch, typically worn by Viking men. The second was the oval brooch which was favoured by Viking women and was used to fasten aprons, dresses or cloaks. These oval brooches were typically much more ornate and detailed
Rings worn on the finger were popular with the Vikings but only in the later stages. Many gold examples of rings have being found in Viking graves, often sporting a uneven width with many rings being open ended, possibly allowing them to fit on many different sized fingers with very little work.
Much less common than the other types of jewellery earrings were not thought to have been worn in the early Viking periods. The Norse earnings that have been found however in hoards and graves are quite intricate and would have been worn over the entire ear rather than hanging through the lobe.
Viking arm rings and arm bands
Arm rings or arm bands were very common and popular among the Viking people. As we mentioned previously many of these arm bands could serve dual purposes, as jewellery and money. Some arm bands and arm rings were very ornate however, crafted from gold and silver and would definitely have indicated a level of status. Some were like a wallet however with easy to remove pieces, others were more like a bank in that you would likely melt it down before using to trade.
Arm bands in a spiral design would commonly wrap around an arm multiple times, making it easy for one to tear or bend a piece off and still have it hold firm on the arm. Other bands were just long enough to wrap around 90% of the arm, these were the bands used more as money in the bank and were often flat and quite plain in design.
A popular Viking pendant was of course a likeness of Thor’s hammer. Many examples of these pendants have been found in Viking graves all with fairly similar designs and shapes.
The Viking jewellery in summary
Designed often for both function and aesthetics, brooches, arm bands and arm rings were all important in Viking society. One could use their jewellery to buy goods from the local market, or to establish ones status and worth. The commonality in most Viking jewellery however was the design and patterning, detailed and intricate the Vikings would often incorporate animal designs into their ornate jewellery.