When people talk about the Viking Age (around 800 AD), the first thing they think of is the bearded warriors attacking the defenseless communities on the coast with spears.
The Vikings invaded the coasts of Europe and the British Isles from the 8th to the 11th century, covering the vast territory from the European continent to the Arctic. This period in Europe is called the viking age.
In Old English, “vikinger” is a person in the bay, and “wiring” means pirates; “Vikingar” also means “sea adventure” in Iceland’s local language. The hometown of the Vikings is Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
At first they only robbed the monasteries along the coast of Western Europe, then gradually carried out an organized invasion in other European countries. From Ireland to Britain, from France to Eastern Europe, Vikings could be seen everywhere. Besides warfare, the Vikings were also excellent navigators. They gradually discovered Iceland and Greenland to the west, and eventually reached North America. To the east, they once reached the Caspian Sea.
However, fearless barbarians also wore intricate and beautiful adornments, such as bracelets, rings, brooches, pendants, and necklaces.
The History of Viking Jewelry
The Vikings generally used gold, silver, bronze, iron, resin and amber to design jewelry. Wealthy and socially status Vikings were happy to show off with exquisite jewelry or give gifts to others. Common design elements included geometric patterns, animals, and religious symbols, such as snakes, Odin’s wolf, tree of life, and Thor’s hammer. The most common jewelry was brooches, armbands, and rings. The first Vikings did not wear earrings.
These decorations were simple in the Viking Age but have evolved over the centuries, they become more and more sophisticated. Viking jewelry not only adds charm to Vikings, but is also used as currency. Expensive or bulky decorations are broken to pay for an appropriate transaction. It is used like modern coins and paper money. Not only metals are used to design Viking jewelry, but even stones and gems are used. Motifs taken from Norwegian mythology also have symbolic meanings.
Different Types of Viking Jewelry
The viking rings found in the Viking graveyard is not uniform in width and can be adjusted to be worn on different fingers.
Nordic earrings are very intricate and are worn over the whole ear instead of modern earlobes. Historians believe that there were no earrings in Viking culture and they did not wear earrings.
The armband or bracelet is very popular and has a dual purpose – decorative and monetary. Silver and gold bracers are delicate and intricate. They are posters of social status and wealth. You can find arm rings in different designs and shapes.
The Necklace is made of different metals, wires and natural fibres. The pendant is made of gemstones, amber, glass beads, resin and metal ornaments. Pendants are usually gifts, keepsakes or religious symbols, which hold emotional value for the wearer. The most common Viking pendants include Thor’s Hammer, Tree of Life, and Valknut.
Beads were made of gold, silver or copper and were worn by both men and women. Glass and amber were used to make Viking beads. Beads have been used as Beard jewelry, but archaeologists report that they are rarely worn. The beadwork has only 1, 2 or 3 beads, which can be worn alone or with additional pendants. More than 3 pearls are barely worn, which means they are very valuable. It can symbolize the status and wealth of the Viking community at that time.
In some graves small arms such as arrows, axes, crosses and perforated coins were found. The Viking brooch is a brooch worn in Viking culture to secure clothing. It is a basic accessory used on a daily basis. Oval and round brooches are a common wearing style. The brooch is fixed on the right shoulder with the brooch facing upwards. Women wear oval brooches to attach capes, aprons and dresses. They are very thin and add visual appeal with strings of colorful beads.
Viking jewelry shows that the Vikings are not barbarians, but have a rich cultural sophistication! You can see the Viking jewelry collection on Gthic.com. The collection is similar to ancient Viking jewelry and has some ideas from the Norse period.