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Gold arm-ring

900/999

British Museum

British Museum

This arm-ring is made in a way typical of the Scandinavian Vikings, by twisting together a thick gold rod and a finer twisted gold wire. The gap left in the ring allowed it to be sprung onto the upper arm or wrist.
Arm-rings allowed both men and women to keep their wealth safely about their person while clearly displaying their status. They were traditionally presented as bonding gifts between a lord and his followers. In Old Norse written sources, lords and kings are often referred to as ‘ring-givers’.

It is uncommon for gold or silver Viking jewellery to survive except as part of coin hoards, where fine gold and silver pieces were often cut up for redistribution by weight. Less valuable copper alloy pieces are more common in graves. The gold for this arm-ring could have come from melted coin or precious items looted from affluent sites, such as the trading centre of Southampton, raided by Viking forces in AD 980. Gold and silver were also paid as tribute or ransom money, for example in 914 when King Edward paid over forty pounds weight of coin to ransom a Mercian bishop.

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Details

  • Title: Gold arm-ring
  • Date Created: 900/999
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 8.80cm; Thickness: 0.90cm (max); Thickness: 0.40cm (min); Weight: 144.20g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: twisted
  • Registration number: 1849,0210.1
  • Place: Found/Acquired Wendover
  • Period/culture: Viking
  • Material: gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Fox, G Robert

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