Viking 8th-11th Design Period

Viking 8th-11th Design Period

Viking 8th-11th


Viking 8th-11th

Viking 8th-11th

The Vikings were a Scandinavian sea-faring warrior civilisation between the 8th-11th century AD. The Vikings were mainly farmers, fishers, hunters and skilled craft workers. Vikings traded with Europe, Russia and Asia, exchanging furs, ivory, amber and slaves for silver, gold and luxury goods including wine, fine textiles, pottery and glassware. In AD 793 Vikings raided the monastery on Lindisfarne. This marked the beginning of a period of raids on the British Isles. In the old Norse language, the word, ‘víkingr’ means pirate or raider.

We know both males and females wore jewellery. In the early Viking era the jewellery was simple, but as time went on the pieces became more detailed and sophisticated in manufacture. The Viking craftsmen created jewellery rich in geometric and stylised animal design in intricate filigree and repoussé work. The most important jewellery to the Vikings were bands of metal, made up of hammered rounded rods of metal, either plain, simply twisted or in very elaborate and complex plaited designs. Knot designs were also featured in rings, for example the marriage-knot or knot of Hercules, a strong knot created by two intertwined ropes, has its origins in the ancient world and has been in use for over four thousand years. Its purpose is to tie together the two ends of a rope, making it a perfect symbol of the union of marriage with two people tying their lives together. While appearing to be simple and rudimentary in design, these items of jewellery were very difficult to craft, especially given the tools used at the time. Gold jewellery often had a very high gold content, this was therefore a softer metal and enabled goldsmiths of the time to manipulate it more easily.

The Vikings made their jewellery from a variety of materials including precious metals such as silver and gold, iron wires, natural fibres, precious gemstones, glass, resin and amber. The Viking craftsmen created jewellery rich in geometric and stylised animal design in intricate filigree and repoussé work. The most important jewellery to the Vikings were bands of metal. They were made up of hammered rounded rods of metal, either plain, simply twisted or in very elaborate and complex plaited designs. While appearing to be simple and rudimentary in design, these items of jewellery for the neck, arm or finger were in fact very difficult to manufacture.

Rings were a very popular piece of jewellery in the Viking times. Many rings were penannular and therefore open ended. This was possibly to allow them to fit on different sized fingers with minimal effort. Finger rings only became popular among the Vikings in the late ages of the Viking-era. Fascinatingly jewellery was used as portable bullion and they would hack off sections as necessary to pay for goods or services. We know this from finding nicks on the edges of pieces of jewellery- nicks which prove that they would check that the jewellery was solid metal, not merely a plated base metal when bartering. These chunks of jewellery are known as ‘hack silver' or ‘hack gold'.

Another form of jewellery the Viking wore were neck-rings. There is no real evidence to say which gender wore them but historians believe they were worn by both men and women. They were believed to be a display of wealth or used as a form of currency in commercial transactions. They were designed and crafted in standard units of weight to make the assessment of the value more accurate.

Vikings believed in pagan beliefs and Germanic mythology, however Christianity gradually spread across England during the end of the Viking era. It had become no longer profitable or desirable to raid and was not innkeeping with values of the church. The year 1066 is frequently used as a convenient marker for the end of the Viking age. At the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the Norwegian king Haraldr harðráði was killed as he attempted to reclaim a portion of England. This was the last major Viking incursion into Europe.

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Examples from our catalogue


front view ancient gold braided ring berganza hatton garden
Viking gold band ring, circa 9th-11th century.
Viking gold penannular twisted ring ring berganza hatton garden
Viking gold penannular twisted ring, 9th-11th century.
Viking gold twisted ring hatton garden berganza
Viking gold twisted ring, 9th-10th century AD.
front view Viking gold twisted ring berganza hatton garden
Viking gold twisted ring, circa 9th-11th century AD.
Viking gold Hercules knot ring berganza hatton garden
Viking gold Hercules knot ring, circa 8th-11th century AD.
front ancient viking gold ring berganza hatton garden
Viking gold twisted ring, circa 9th-11th century AD.
Viking gold twisted wirework ring berganza hatton garden
Viking gold twisted wirework ring, circa 9th-11th century AD.
front Pre Viking gold ring berganza hatton garden
Proto-Viking gold zoomorphic ring, circa 3rd century AD.
Viking stamped triangle ring in gold,
Viking stamped triangle ring in gold, circa 9th-11th century AD.

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Updated 18/06/2021 at 5:10PM

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