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The history and significance of jewelry in the lives of the fierce Viking warriors


When picturing the ancient Vikings, jewelry does not usually come to the mind. Most people picture warriors with swords, wearing round metal helmets with horns coming out of the side. These fierce warriors would travel in their beautifully crafted ships attacking coastal towns and villages, plundering and looting them of their riches. However, these ancient Norse people also made beautiful rings, bracelets, necklaces and other types of jewelry out of precious metals such as gold and silver. Early in their history the Vikings made very simple jewelry but later on in the Viking era they began creating more intricate pieces.

The purpose of jewelry in the Viking culture was extremely unique and different from the usual use of jewelry. Of course these Norse men and women wore jewelry as a sign of their wealth but most importantly jewelry was often used as a form of currency. Vikings wore arm and neck rings usually made of silver from which they would hack pieces off to make payments for goods and services. This type of jewelry is referred to as ‘Hack Silver’. Silver and bronze were the most popular metals used by the Vikings while gold was rarely used. Brooches made out of bronze were the most common items of jewelry found on women of the ancient Viking culture.

Knowledge of Norse jewelry is mainly derived from the items discovered in hoards and burial sites. The Vikings were misers of a certain kind. They would hoard their valuables and bury them to keep safe from outside invaders to be accessed in a time of need. The Vikings would also bury their valuables with the dead as they believed the deceased would require money in order to live a comfortable afterlife. Another reason why the ancient Norse people would bury their jewelry and valuables was because they were warriors and travelers and would never stay in one place too long.

The Vikings who warriors and farmers still loved their trinkets and jewelry. The Vikings would wear an array of jewelry items. Men and women were both fans of the shiny metal objects that would have added some glamour to their world. This included arm rings, finger rings, brooches, ingots, wire braids, rod finger rings, pendants. Designed often for both function and aesthetics brooches, arm bands and arm rings were all important in Viking society. One could use their jewelry to buy goods from the local market or to establish one’s status and worth. The commonality in most Viking jewelry however was the design and patterning, detailed and intricate the Vikings would often incorporate animal designs into their ornate jewelry.

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