Essential items for Viking ventures

Where Was Viking Jewelry Found?

Viking jewelry, with its bold designs and rich symbolism, offers a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of this seafaring people.  This outline explores the diverse locations where Viking jewelry has been unearthed, shedding light on trade routes, cultural exchange, and Viking settlements across Europe and beyond.

Scandinavia: The Heart of Viking Culture

Scandinavia: The Heart of Viking Culture 

Scandinavia, the birthplace of Viking culture, offers a rich tapestry of archaeological sites where Viking jewelry has been unearthed. These finds provide invaluable insights into Viking craftsmanship, social status, and belief systems. Here, we delve into the major discoveries from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, highlighting regional variations within Scandinavia.


Major Archaeological Sites:

  • Ribe: This bustling Viking Age trade center in southern Jutland has yielded numerous jewelry finds, including silver neck rings, intricate brooches depicting animals and geometric patterns, and pendants featuring Mjölnir, the hammer of the Norse god Thor. Excavations have also uncovered workshops, suggesting a local industry specializing in jewelry production.
  • Hedeby: Located near modern-day Schleswig, Hedeby was a major Viking Age trading emporium. Here, archaeologists have unearthed a diverse range of jewelry, showcasing influences from across the Viking world. Examples include penannular brooches (brooches with a missing pin section) of Anglo-Saxon origin, alongside typically Scandinavian neck rings and pendants adorned with bracteates (thin, decorated discs) featuring religious symbols.
  • Aarhus: This Viking Age settlement and later medieval city has revealed a wealth of jewelry through excavations. Notable finds include intricately woven silver neck rings, elaborate brooches depicting stylized animals like boars and wolves, and pendants showcasing fertility symbols like Freyr's boar. Aarhus' location on the east coast of Jutland suggests it was a crucial hub for trade and cultural exchange, reflected in the variety of jewelry styles unearthed.


Major Archaeological Sites:

  • Birka: Located on an island on Lake Mälaren, Birka was a thriving Viking Age trading center. Excavations have yielded a remarkable collection of jewelry, including elaborate silver necklaces with intricate pendants depicting mythological figures and stylized animals. Birka's wealth is evident in the abundance of gold jewelry found, including arm rings, finger rings, and intricately designed brooches. Additionally, Birka has revealed a remarkable collection of glass beads, often strung together to create vibrant necklaces and bracelets. These beads, imported from various regions, showcase the extent of Viking trade networks.
  • Gamla Uppsala: This ancient religious and political center in central Sweden has yielded a significant amount of Viking jewelry, primarily through grave goods. Excavations have revealed elaborate silver neck rings adorned with intricate filigree work, pendants depicting the Mjölnir symbol, and brooches featuring intricate knotwork patterns. The finds from Gamla Uppsala suggest a strong connection between religious beliefs and the symbolism incorporated into Viking jewelry.


Major Archaeological Sites:

  • Oseberg Ship Burial: Discovered in 1903, the Oseberg Ship burial site in southern Norway holds one of the most well-preserved collections of Viking Age artifacts. The burial chamber contained a wealth of jewelry, including elaborate gold necklaces featuring intricate pendants depicting mythological scenes. Additionally, the site yielded a diverse range of brooches, some depicting stylized animal figures like serpents and birds, others showcasing intricate geometric patterns. Notably, the Oseberg burial reveals a strong emphasis on female adornment, with a remarkable collection of finger rings, hairpins, and decorative beads found alongside the remains of a high-status woman.
  • Kaupang: Situated on the northern coast of Norway, Kaupang was a major trading center during the Viking Age. Excavations have revealed a variety of jewelry styles, including silver neck rings decorated with animal heads, pendants featuring Thor's hammer, and brooches with intricate interlace patterns. The finds from Kaupang suggest a strong connection with other Scandinavian regions, with similarities in design and craftsmanship evident.

Regional Variations within Scandinavia

While there are common themes across Viking jewelry in Scandinavia, regional variations offer insights into local preferences and influences.

  • Material: Silver was the dominant metal used for jewelry across Scandinavia. However, Denmark and southern Sweden display a greater prevalence of bronze jewelry, particularly in earlier Viking Age periods. This may be due to the availability of raw materials and regional trade networks.
  • Style: While animal imagery and geometric patterns are common across Scandinavia, certain regions have distinctive styles. For example, Denmark is known for its intricate bracteates, while Norway exhibits a preference for brooches depicting stylized serpents.
  • Symbolism: The symbolism embedded within Viking jewelry varies across regions. Thor's hammer is a recurring motif throughout Scandinavia, but other deities like Freyr (god of fertility) may be more prominently represented in specific regions. The interpretation of knotwork patterns and geometric designs also likely had regional variations.

By examining the diverse range of Viking jewelry unearthed across Scandinavia, we gain a deeper understanding of this fascinating culture. The regional variations highlight the dynamic interplay between local traditions, trade networks, and individual preferences within the broader Viking world.

Vikings forging swords

Beyond Scandinavia: Evidence of Viking Trade and Raids 

The reach of the Vikings extended far beyond their Scandinavian homeland. Viking jewelry, found scattered across Europe and the North Atlantic, serves as a tangible reminder of their extensive trade networks, raiding expeditions, and settlements. Here, we explore the diverse locations where Viking jewelry has been unearthed, highlighting the evidence and specific jewelry types found in each region.

The British Isles

Locations: England, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man

Evidence: Viking settlements like York (Jorvik) in England and Dublin (Dyflin) in Ireland showcase Viking presence and cultural exchange. Additionally, numerous hoards (large, hidden deposits) containing Viking artifacts, including jewelry, have been unearthed across the British Isles. These hoards, often buried during times of conflict, offer valuable insights into Viking material culture. Grave goods, such as jewelry buried alongside Viking burials, also provide clues about Viking beliefs and social status.

Jewelry types: Viking jewelry found in the British Isles displays a fascinating blend of Scandinavian styles and local influences. Penannular brooches, a type of brooch with a missing pin section, are frequently found, often featuring intricate geometric or animal designs. Interlace patterns, a hallmark of Celtic art, are also incorporated into some Viking-influenced brooches found in the British Isles. Additionally, Viking pendants depicting Thor's hammer (Mjölnir) are commonly found, alongside locally produced brooches and necklaces made from materials like glass and amber.


  • The Cuerdale Hoard, discovered in Lancashire, England (c. 900 AD), contained a remarkable collection of Viking silver jewelry, including intricate brooches, arm rings, and pendants depicting mythological figures. This hoard exemplifies the high quality of Viking craftsmanship and the presence of luxury goods in the British Isles during the Viking Age.
  • The Galloway Hoard, unearthed in southwest Scotland (c. 10th century AD), contained a diverse range of Viking and Irish jewelry. Notably, the hoard included a penannular brooch with a zoomorphic design (depicting an animal) and a silver chain with pendants featuring both the Mjölnir symbol and Christian crosses. This combination highlights the cultural exchange and intermingling of religious beliefs during the Viking Age in the British Isles.

Eastern Europe and Russia

Locations: Ladoga, Novgorod, Kiev

Significance: The Volga River trade route served as a vital artery for Viking expansion into Eastern Europe and Russia. Viking settlements like Ladoga and trading centers like Novgorod became hubs for trade and cultural exchange. Viking warriors also served as mercenaries for various Slavic rulers, further solidifying Viking presence in the region.

Jewelry types: Viking jewelry found in Eastern Europe and Russia displays a unique blend of Scandinavian and Slavic styles. Viking pendants depicting Thor's hammer are found alongside Slavic-style pendants featuring solar symbols. Additionally, Arabic silver coins, obtained through trade with Islamic empires, were sometimes incorporated into Viking jewelry, showcasing the complex web of trade routes during this period.


  • Excavations at the Viking trading center of Novgorod have yielded a significant amount of Viking jewelry. Notably, archaeologists have unearthed silver neck rings adorned with intricate filigree work, pendants featuring both Mjölnir and Slavic solar symbols, and brooches with intricate interlace patterns. This blend of styles reflects the dynamic cultural exchange that took place in this key trading hub.
  • Viking burial sites in Russia have revealed jewelry that further demonstrates the fusion of styles. Some burials have yielded silver arm rings decorated with both Viking and Slavic motifs, suggesting the adoption of Viking aesthetics by local elites.

Western Europe and the Mediterranean

Locations: France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy

Evidence: Viking raids and trading posts left their mark on Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Viking raids on coastal settlements and river systems brought fear and disruption, but also resulted in cultural exchange. Viking trading posts, established along major waterways, facilitated the movement of goods and cultural influences.

Jewelry types: Viking pendants and brooches, often featuring Mjölnir or animal imagery, have been unearthed alongside local styles in Western Europe and the Mediterranean. This suggests interaction and exchange between Viking traders and local populations. Additionally, some Viking jewelry found in this region shows evidence of being modified or repaired in local styles, hinting at a process of adaptation and cultural fusion.


  • Viking raids on Frankish settlements in France have yielded a mix of Viking and Carolingian (Frankish) jewelry. Some finds include Viking pendants depicting Mjölnir found alongside ornately decorated Carolingian brooches. This juxtaposition suggests the looting of Viking raiders alongside potential trade or exchange of personal items.

The North Atlantic: Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland (North America)

Significance: Viking exploration and settlements in the North Atlantic pushed the boundaries of the known world. Iceland, Greenland, and even the fringes of North America (Vinland) saw Viking settlements established, driven by a combination of resource acquisition, trade opportunities, and a spirit of adventure.

Jewelry:  Limited archaeological finds of Viking jewelry have been made in Iceland and Greenland compared to Scandinavia and other regions. This might be due to factors like smaller populations, harsher environments leading to poorer preservation, or a potential difference in burial practices. However, stylistic similarities between the few jewelry finds in these regions and those from Scandinavia suggest ongoing trade connections with the Viking homeland.


  • A single silver neck ring of Viking design was unearthed at the Norse settlement of L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada (believed to be Vinland).
  • Grave goods from Viking burials in Iceland, while not as rich in jewelry as some Scandinavian finds, exhibit similar styles, including brooches with intricate animal designs and pendants featuring the Mjölnir symbol. This suggests a continuation of Viking cultural practices and aesthetics in these far-flung settlements.

The Importance of Viking Jewelry Beyond Scandinavia:

The presence of Viking jewelry across such a vast geographical area highlights several key points:

  • Extensive Trade Networks: Viking jewelry serves as a tangible reminder of the extensive trade networks established by the Vikings. The presence of Viking-style jewelry in locations far from Scandinavia demonstrates the reach of Viking trade routes and their ability to connect with diverse cultures.
  • Cultural Exchange: The fusion of styles and motifs evident in Viking jewelry found outside Scandinavia showcases the dynamic process of cultural exchange. Viking contact with other cultures led to the adoption of new styles and the incorporation of local influences into Viking jewelry design.
  • Social Status and Belief Systems: Viking jewelry, just like in Scandinavia, likely played a role in signifying social status and religious beliefs beyond their homeland. The presence of pendants depicting Mjölnir in various locations suggests the widespread veneration of this Norse god.

By studying Viking jewelry found across Europe and the North Atlantic, we gain a richer understanding of Viking culture, their trade networks, and the complex processes of cultural exchange that took place during the Viking Age.

Viking Jewelry in Museum

Viking Jewelry in Museum Collections and Private Hands 

Viking jewelry, with its intricate designs and rich history, has become a coveted object for museums, collectors, and the general public. However, the journey of these artifacts from Viking hands to their current resting places is a complex one, highlighting the importance of responsible acquisition and interpretation.

Major Museums with Viking Jewelry Collections

These institutions play a crucial role in preserving, researching, and exhibiting Viking jewelry for public education and enjoyment. Some prominent museums with exceptional Viking jewelry collections include:

  • National Museum of Denmark (Copenhagen): Housing one of the world's most comprehensive collections of Viking artifacts, the museum boasts an extensive array of Viking jewelry, from intricately decorated bracteates to elaborate gold necklaces unearthed from ship burials.
  • The British Museum (London): Reflecting the extensive Viking presence in the British Isles, the British Museum showcases a remarkable collection of Viking jewelry, including hoards like the Cuerdale Hoard and finds from Viking settlements like York (Jorvik).
  • The Viking Ship Museum (Oslo): Featuring well-preserved Viking ships and their associated burial goods, the museum offers a glimpse into Viking craftsmanship and social status. The Oseberg Ship burial, in particular, yielded a wealth of exquisitely crafted gold and silver jewelry, providing insights into Viking elite adornment.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): The Met boasts a diverse collection of Viking artifacts, including jewelry from across Scandinavia and beyond. Notably, the museum holds a collection of Viking silver neck rings found in Russia, showcasing the reach of Viking trade networks.

These museums, through meticulous curation and exhibitions, allow visitors to appreciate the artistry and cultural significance of Viking jewelry. They also conduct ongoing research that sheds light on Viking social structures, religious beliefs, and trade practices.

The Illicit Antiquities Market

Unfortunately, the allure of Viking artifacts has fueled a thriving illicit antiquities market. Looted artifacts, often sourced from illegal excavations or plundered sites, enter the market, jeopardizing historical context and hindering research. Museums and collectors have a responsibility to ensure the ethical acquisition of Viking jewelry, demanding proper documentation and provenance (ownership history) to prevent the further exploitation of archaeological sites.

Tracing Provenance

A meticulous record of an artifact's ownership history is crucial. Museums and reputable collectors rely on provenance research to verify the legitimacy and ethical acquisition of Viking jewelry. This  research involves examining documentation like sales records, excavation reports, and inheritance papers. By tracing provenance, museums and collectors can help combat the illicit antiquities market and ensure the responsible preservation of Viking cultural heritage.

Replicas and Modern Interpretations

The enduring fascination with Viking culture has fueled the popularity of Viking jewelry replicas. These replicas, often crafted from silver or bronze, allow a wider audience to experience the aesthetics and styles of Viking adornment.  However, it's crucial to distinguish between replicas and genuine artifacts. Museums and reputable dealers clearly differentiate between the two, ensuring transparency for potential buyers and collectors.

Modern Interpretations

Inspired by the bold designs and symbolic motifs of Viking jewelry, contemporary jewelers are creating their own interpretations. These modern pieces often incorporate Viking elements like animal imagery, knotwork patterns, and Mjölnir pendants into new and innovative designs. This contemporary jewelry movement keeps Viking aesthetics alive and encourages a fresh appreciation for Viking craftsmanship.

Viking jewelry transcends its role as adornment. It serves as a tangible link to a bygone era, offering insights into Viking culture, trade networks, and societal values. Museums play a vital role in preserving and interpreting this rich heritage, while responsible acquisition practices are essential to combat the illicit antiquities market.  The enduring popularity of Viking jewelry, through replicas and modern interpretations, ensures that this fascinating chapter of history continues to spark interest and inspire creativity.


A Tapestry of Discoveries:

Viking jewelry has been unearthed across a vast geographical expanse, from the heart of Scandinavia to the fringes of North America. This remarkable distribution paints a vivid picture of Viking exploration, trade networks, and cultural exchange. In Scandinavia, the rich finds from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway highlight regional variations in materials, styles, and symbolism, offering insights into local preferences and craftsmanship. Beyond Scandinavia, Viking jewelry found in the British Isles showcases a fascinating blend of Scandinavian and Celtic influences. Similarly, discoveries in Eastern Europe and Russia reveal a fusion of Viking and Slavic styles, reflecting trade routes along the Volga River and Viking mercenary activity.  The presence of Viking jewelry in Western Europe and the Mediterranean speaks to Viking raids and trading posts, while the limited finds in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland hint at ongoing connections with the Viking homeland.

A Window into Viking Life:

Viking jewelry serves as a powerful tool for understanding Viking culture, trade networks, and societal values. The materials used, the intricate designs, and the symbolism incorporated into the jewelry offer clues about Viking craftsmanship, social status, and religious beliefs. The presence of Thor's hammer pendants (Mjölnir) across various regions suggests the widespread veneration of this Norse god.  Moreover, the distribution of Viking jewelry sheds light on the extensive trade networks established by the Vikings, connecting them with diverse cultures across Europe and beyond. The varying styles and motifs found in Viking jewelry outside Scandinavia highlight the dynamic process of cultural exchange, as Vikings adopted and adapted local influences into their own artistic expressions.

A Legacy that Endures:

The story of Viking jewelry is far from over. Future archaeological discoveries have the potential to reveal even more about Viking culture and their interactions with other societies. Ongoing research on existing finds continues to deepen our understanding of Viking craftsmanship, symbolism, and the social significance of jewelry.  The enduring popularity of Viking jewelry, evident in the creation of replicas and modern interpretations, ensures that this fascinating chapter of history continues to spark interest and inspire creativity. By studying Viking jewelry, we gain a glimpse into a lost world, one filled with exploration, artistry, and a rich cultural tapestry.


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