Silver disc brooch of Ædwen


British Museum

British Museum

This silver disc brooch is elaborately decorated with Borre Style interlace and animal masks. Figures of four backward-biting animals are riveted around the high central boss, itself formed of eight long-necked animal heads. Round the edge of the brooch are two squatting, human figures grasping what appear to be their own forked beards, alternating with animal heads holding a bar between forepaws and mouth. The significance of this design is uncertain although disc brooches with figures in this style are found mainly in central Sweden. The nicked edges of the design imitate beaded wire.
On the back of the brooch are impressions of textile used in the casting process and a pierced lug for the attachment of a chain. A piece of cloth impregnated with wax was placed in the half of the mould bearing the design of the disc. The other half of the mould was then made by pressing clay over the cloth. The complete mould was then fired to melt out the wax. Any remaining cloth was removed, but an impression of the textile was left on the back half of the mould, and was transferred to the underside of the disc when it was cast.
Circular brooches were usually worn singly by women on Gotland, to fasten an outer garment such as a cloak. In this case the lug for a chain suggests the brooch could have been linked to another item, possibly of jewellery.

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  • Title: Silver disc brooch of Ædwen
  • Date Created: 1000/1050
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 14.90-16.40cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: hammered; engraved; incised
  • Registration number: 1951,1011.1
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Sutton
  • Period/culture: Viking; Late Anglo-Saxon
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from O'Connor, Hector