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Jewelry has been created and worn by almost every culture around the world. And, today, the majority of cultures continue to create, buy, and wear jewelry for a variety of reasons ranging from ceremonial to fashion. However, one of the most interesting cultures to have prized jewelry was the Viking culture, with many beautiful and impressive examples of jewelry to have been discovered over the last few decades.
Most recently. archaeologists have discovered the incredibly beautiful “Nordic necklace” at a burial site, which is thought to have belonged to and been worn by a “pagan sorceress”. Crafted from 51 colorful glass, jet and amber beads, this necklace is part of what would have been one of the most expensive female burials in Viking culture. While the grave the necklace was found in on St Patrick’s Isle in Peel has been dated to 950 AD, many experts believe the necklace itself is more than 400 years older than that.
One look at the numerous other pieces of jewelry discovered from the Viking age, it’s obvious that there was no shortage of talented Viking craftsmen. Typically crafted from gold, silver, bronze, and animal bones, most Viking jewelry showcased images and depictions of animals, including snakes specifically.
As both a symbol of wealth and status, Viking jewelry was worn by both men and women. As the culture progressed, the jewelry became more intricate and ornate. Vikings learned how to use a method down as “lost wax”, which utilized a one-time mold to create rings and bracelets. As the Vikings traveled and then returned home, new methods for making jewelry were introduced, often blending Viking culture with traditions and styles from other lands.
In addition to signally status and wealth, Viking jewelry also was used as a form of currency among the people. Vikings would use their jewelry to trade among themselves as well as a bartering tool with other people groups encountered on their voyages. Of course, like jewelry today, special pieces were held onto and also passed down through generations, which is a likely explanation for the ancient Nordic necklace discovered in the grave of the pagan sorceress.
Some of the most popular types of jewelry worn among the Vikings were arm rings, which were worn like bracelets above the elbow. Many examples of these types of rings, most of which are crafted from silver, have been found by archaeologists in the hoards of Vikings, many pieces being more than 1,000 years old.
In general, decoration was highly important to the Viking culture, which explains their affinity for jewelry as well as the many examples of ornate carvings on ships, swords, and houses discovered in Norse countries. The fact that so many pieces of Viking jewelry have been found by archaeologists is further proof of the importance of honing a craft and creating items that were not only treasured by those who had them, but also by generations and generations of people to come.