Norse jewelry is very popular among us today. Its beautiful and unique look makes people stand out from the crowd. However, how much do we know about Norse jewelry history?
Jewelry is made of metals such as bronze, silver, gold, gems and precious stones, but also of simpler materials such as wood or glass. The Vikings, raiding and trading, had a wide range of possibilities to come into possession of these raw materials, useful, therefore, as well as for other contingencies, for the production of jewelry. The Scandinavians were able to take advantage of these goods for the production of precious jewelry and luxury goods both in the settlements created outside Scandinavia (especially in the British Isles), but also in the motherland. The importance of these events for the production of Norse Jewelry can easily be understood when one considers the countless raids that the Vikings organized across Europe against the monasteries of the continent.
Looting was of course also committed against entire cities, But these men and women were able to get rich and possess raw materials and precious metals also through less violent and more legal methods: let’s talk about commercial activities, in which, as mentioned, the Vikings were particularly skilled, thanks to their navigation skills, which brought them to the most prosperous and rich markets of the world (such as those in the East), but also thanks to the trade bases present in the motherland.
Another important feature to highlight, proper to the Viking world, is that which concerns the religious history of these people: it is clear that even in the jewelry we see a representation and a testimony of the religion of this people, the Norse one, therefore finding numerous symbols and images of their gods and everything that belonged to their world; but, during the eleventh century, began a definitive process of assimilation to the Christian religion of the entire Scandinavian universe, which therefore had important consequences even on the appearance of their jewelry: from this moment on, in fact, Christian elements begin to appear more and more, gradually going to replace the pagan ones. Most of the jewelry of the Viking Age comes from archaeological sources: excavations of city sites, commercial centers of the Scandinavian world, accidental findings of Viking objects in other parts of the world or objects resurfaced from water, but especially the findings made in the graves, are our most important sources for this type of findings.
What is Norse Jewelry made of ?
Most of these Norse Jewelry objects were made from more durable materials, such as metals (precious and not), amber, glass, but also wood, ivory (in this case from the tusks of the walrus) and bones. For Viking artists, wood was by far the preferred raw material, due to its ease of carving, low cost, and abundance in northern Europe.. As for metal, this is the material of which most of the jewelry that has been found is made, so studies are mainly based on this type of material. Bronze and silver were still the main materials used for Norse jewelry, the latter sometimes gilded, but there have also been artifacts found that were entire of gold, either in individual pieces or sets, which probably belonged to the richest and most important Vikings.
The jewelry was worn by both men and women, of all social classes; they wore brooches, necklaces, rings and bracelets. These items obviously had an ornamental and practical function (such as brooches, which were used to fasten clothes), but they could also indicate the state of well-being of these people. In addition, there were some pieces that had a particular symbolic value, such as all those jewels that bore a religious representation (most immediate example the hammer of Thor). Married women tied their surcoats close to their shoulders with a pair of wide matching brooches (today modern scholars call these brooches “turtle brooches” because of their domed shape). The shape and style of these brooches vary from region to region, but the fretwork is common in many of them. Between these two brooches, most often, women strung chains or strands of beads, or dangling ornaments. Men wore rings, bracelets, and necklaces, and fastened their coats with fibulae or, often, with peculiar, long pins. As for the decorations, Norse jewelry was adorned with geometric designs, with braided bands, figures and heads of animals and beasts, with religious elements and symbols, but also with depictions of the everyday world. If you are looking for some unique Norse Jewelry, do not hesitate to visit our viking jewelry selection.