Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pre-Viking Bling Question

Today, I stumbled upon a PDF which contains reproductions of good quality photographs of a number of different specimens of Viking age jewelry, along with bibliographical information as to the books in which the photographs were found. Thinking that this would be useful information, I made a copy of the PDF to read later.

In reading it, I notice that the author of the PDF has also included his own summary of what is known about Viking jewelry. Among those I noticed this intriguing statement:
An odd characteristic of Viking jewelry was its nearly total lack of set stones. Gem-setting had been an extremely popular form of ornament in pre-Viking Scandinavia, during which times it was carried out with great skill. It apparently had stopped appealing to Viking tastes in jewelry, and was abandoned.
The author of the PDF attributes this statement to James Graham-Campbell's book The Vikings (1980 ed.), without a specific page reference. I am wondering what archaeological finds support Graham-Campbell's statement. To be sure, the Vendel (i.e., pre-Viking age Scandinavian) brooches from Gotland of which I've seen pictures are more colorful than the gold, silver, or bronze Viking era jewelry I've seen, but that's primarily due to enameling (though there are a number of such brooches with garnet inlay). Other than those pieces, however, I am unaware of any Vendel period jewelry that uses gemstones at all, much less "set" gemstones.  Moreover, I have a copy of Graham-Campbell's book, but I can't find a reference in it to use of gemstones in the Vendel period.

If any of my readers are aware of examples of Vendel period gemstone jewelry, or can pin down a page reference in the Graham-Campbell book, please comment! 


  1. Hi! It is generally true that there were a lot of gems used in the migration and Vendel periods in Scandinavia. Red garnets seems to have been immensely popular. But as time passes the garnets begin to disappear. So by the Vendel period they've already had their heyday. This is an example of the technique, even though this particular example is part of a sword and not jewellery in the stricter sense.


  2. Thanks for the picture. I'm wondering about the "set gemstones" part though. I don't remember even much non-Scandinavian jewelry between, say, 600 CE and 800 CE that uses gemstones other than garnet work of the type featured on the swordhilt in your picture.