Posted on 4.05.2017

Jewelry as a form of currency in the Viking Age

Vikings are the tribes that lived in the 8th-11th century on the territory now occupied by several modern countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Despite the fact that their epoch has already passed, hardly likely that nowadays there is a person who has never heard mentioning of these peoples. Freedom-loving adventurers, and at the same time, militant and bloodthirsty – this is the kind of image that arises when we mention the Viking warriors.

It’s meaningless to argue with these statements, as because these tribes, indeed, spent much time in wars and incursions. However, we should not lose sight of other aspects of the life of the Vikings: stock farming, agriculture, trade, different crafts. Thus, one of the common handicrafts of these tribes was the manufacture of jewelry.

Viking’s adornments


The life of medieval Scandinavians was not bare of art, and one of the ways to display their feeling of the beauty was the jewelry manufacturing. Jewelry items were made of various metals – golden Viking jewelry was of the highest value. But not only gold and silver were in vogue, which by the way were the privilege of the nobility, they also used tin and bronze. The last two were used by ordinary residents.

It is worth noting that the ancient jewelry was worn by the entire population. The fact is that the adornments were made not only to emphasize the social status or help to stand out against a background of others but also in order to protect the owner from all sorts of misfortunes. It is for this reason that mystical and religious symbols were worn on all kinds of jewelry.

Each symbol represents one or another god, and the Vikings had a great number of them. The man who wore an amulet with the image of God believed that he could receive support and protection from his heavenly patron.

Jewelry as the Viking’s currency


The Vikings cared for their well-being due to the fact that they were decorating themselves with jewelry and protected themselves against all sorts of misfortunes. In addition to incursions on neighboring cities and settlements, they were also engaged in trade. Many representatives of medieval Scandinavians were seafarers, so they closely interacted with other countries and peoples. In addition to all other goods, they facilitated selling of antique Viking’s jewelry for sale.

The Vikings were buying a lot of goods themselves, but they did not have a lot of coins, so they were practicing barter trade. They were paying the price with the necessary amount of precious metals. However, the Vikings might not have needed amount of gold or silver. Then as a means to gain their purpose they were giving up their jewelry items. Scandinavians easily gave up rings, bracelets, pendants, chains and many other Slavic pagan jewellery, which were at the right time at hand.

Foreign traders, in turn, were not against such a currency jewelry, because these jewelry goods were made of fairly expensive metals: gold and silver. Thanks to this barter trade, Vikings’ adornments have spread far beyond their lands and have significantly influenced the culture and art of other peoples.

What is “chopped silver”?


Among the archaeologists involved in excavations on the territory of medieval Scandinavia, the term “chopped silver” is very common. It is attributed to the era of the Vikings. What does it mean?

The fact of the matter is that when paying for a particular product, the Viking often gave the merchantman not a whole jewelry item, but only a part of it. Scandinavians without regret could break or even chop off part of their Slavic pagan pendants. Such situations were far from uncommon. This can be judged by the amount of “chopped silver”, which was discovered during excavations throughout the land of the Vikings’ and in other countries where they traded with the warlike tribes.

Manufacturing of jewelry


All adornments from precious metals were made in two ways: cast from the mold or forged from flat blanks. The surface was covered with engraving, niello or filigree. Quite often Viking jewelers used the technology of gilding – a layer of gold was applied on bronze and silver items.

Quality of jewelry adornments in the Viking Age


Despite the utilitarian attitude to luxury goods, Vikings’ age  jewelry items were an example of high-tech and elegant things. Men wore twisted bracelets, symbolizing a successfully completed battle or other merits of the warrior. They also wore rings, amulets, pendants and buckles. On women, you could see brooches, bracelets, necklaces, pendants and rings. For example Slavic charm was used for protection from against evil spirits.

Any of the presented jewelry items could easily be names a real work of art. All the details of jewelry were covered with a mesh of patterns, they were marked with runic signs or religious symbols. Female jewelry is often encrusted with precious and semiprecious stones, beads. Antique Viking rings for sale have been used everywhere.

Amulets are especially interesting in this regard. The most common are “Thor’s Hammer”, “The Wheel of the Sun”, “The Wolf Cross”, “The Tree of Life Yggdrasil”, “Ax”, “Scandinavian Triskelion”. Wearing such a talisman, every mighty Viking was showing his respect and reverence for the gods (after all, manifestations of the gods symbolized this or that element of the amulet).

Most of the gold Viking jewelry items of the Viking Age – indeed, can be called delicate ornaments that immediately attract attention. And it is for this reason that they still find millions of fans in many countries.