Discover the Jewelry of the Slavic Women of Lower Silesia

Reconstruction - ornaments (2022) by Teresa DemidziukCity Museum of Wrocław

The Slavs

A mysterious people who appeared late in written sources, were initially considered somewhat primitive, living in tribal communities, adventurous and quite different from other European peoples.

However, this difference was the source of their strength; for the Slavic peoples conquered vast areas of Europe, spreading their customs, traditions and skills. The warriors aroused admiration with their bravery, the craftsmen with their extraordinary skills and craftsmanship, and the women with their beauty, which they gladly and skilfully emphasized by adorning themselves with great ingenuity and imagination.

Earring with a pendant (10th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Ornaments

Basically, anything of any aesthetic value could be used as decoration.

Precious metals such as gold and silver, semi-precious stones or glass were most prized. However, not everyone could afford such lavish jewellery. Less wealthy people were content with ornaments made of bronze or copper. Materials such as horn, bone, nutshells, clay or wood were also used.

Plaster bust a Slavic woman (20th century AD) by unknownCity Museum of Wrocław

Temple rings

Some of these ornaments were characteristic only of the Slavic peoples, so much so that they still appeal to archaeologists today and allow them to identify the ethnicity of the remains discovered at cemeteries.

Temple ring made of two twsited wires (Middle Ages) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Temple rings

These unique ornaments included temple rings – made of wire of various thicknesses or strands of sheet metal rolled into the shape of an open ring.

Reconstruction - temple rings (2022) by Teresa DemidziukCity Museum of Wrocław

Temple rings

They were worn near the temples, most often attached to a headband or scarf covering the hair.

Temple ring with an ornament in the form of fishtails (11th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Temple rings

The most beautiful copies were decorated with ornaments embossed on the surface of a thin sheet, then rolled into a tube.

Temple rings

This technique required great skill from the craftsman.

Temple rings

Such temple rings were certainly not the cheapest, they were a mark of wealth and prestige. They were traded and exchanged, and were also given as gifts.

Reconstruction - earring (2022) by Teresa DemidziukCity Museum of Wrocław

Earrings

Another example of typically Slavic ornaments were earrings – one of the most beautiful and varied female ornaments in terms of shape and decorative elements. They were mainly made of silver, less often of bronze.

Earrings

Their design indicates that they may have been worn in the ears, but probably, like the temple rings, they were also sewn onto headbands and headscarves.

Earring with beads (10th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Earrings

The earrings are often decorated using filigree and granulation techniques. These techniques required considerable skill and extraordinary dexterity from the jeweller.

Semicircular earring (10th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Earrings

Small balls – the granules – were glued to the surface of the ornament using a special glue, and then subjected to high temperatures to fix the decoration.

Beads formed from plates (11th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Beads

The same techniques were used to create beads made of silver plates, properly shaped and joined together. Decorating smooth surfaces with an ornament made of granules or filigree was almost obligatory.

Necklace made of different beads (11th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Beads

Beads were joined to form necklaces. Wealthier women could afford silver wonders of jewellery. However, glass beads were more common. 

The richness of colours, obtained thanks to different recipes of glazing paste, as well as the variety of shapes and ornaments made them popular, and they belonged to the most favourite ornaments among Slavic women.

Necklace made of fluorite beads (11th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Beads

Beads were also made of semi-precious stones and minerals, such as carnelian, crystal quartz or fluorite. Amber beads were also popular.

Reconstruction - necklaces (2022) by Teresa DemidziukCity Museum of Wrocław

Beads

It can be assumed with a high degree of probability that they may also have been part of a clothing item and were sewn to it. 

Beads

It is very likely that they were also hung on straps attached to the waist or crowned the ends of straps. They may also have functioned as decorative butt.

Kaptorgas (11th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Kaptorgas

Another type of popular pendants were kaptorgas, silver ornaments in the form of small, rectangular containers/capsules. 

Kaptorgas

They were used to store amulets, associated with a certain type of so-called “white”, protective magic, fragrances and later also religious relics.

Reconstruction - necklace and belt (2022) by Teresa DemidziukCity Museum of Wrocław

Lunulae

Various types of pendants were often combined with beads in necklaces. Lunulae, moon-shaped pendants with the tips pointing downwards, were particularly popular among Slavic women. 

Lunulae

They reflected the fascination with the lunar cycle, which was associated with the female cycle. They were a symbol of femininity and fertility.

Silver necklace made of six pairs of twisted wires (12th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Necklaces

In addition to beaded necklaces and pendants, necklaces in the form of hoops made of several pairs of wires intertwined together are also known from the Slavic area. These are very interesting decorations, as they may also have served as payers in commercial transactions.

Necklaces

They were often designed and manufactured in standard weight units to make the assessment of their value more accurate.  They were usually made of precious metals, among which silver predominated. 

Necklaces

It is difficult to determine today whether they were worn more often by men or women.

Ring with a gem, autor nieznany, 14th century AD, From the collection of: City Museum of Wrocław
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Ring, autor nieznany, 12th century AD, From the collection of: City Museum of Wrocław
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Ring with inscription, autor nieznany, 12th century AD, From the collection of: City Museum of Wrocław
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Slavic women liked to decorate their hands with rings. They often had a simple form, but more than once they had more fanciful shapes; they could be braided from several pairs of wires, decorated with embossed ornaments, and could also have gemstones; often made of glass or amber. Such gemstones were attached to the rings with a sticky substance made from beeswax and lime.

Reconstruction - lunulae (2022) by Teresa DemidziukCity Museum of Wrocław

Fibulae

Shirts, dresses and coats were fastened with various types of fibulae. Horseshoe-shaped fibulae are one of the most characteristic forms: their primary function was to fasten clothing.

Horseshoe-shaped fibula (12th century AD) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Fibulae

But they could also be used as belt buckles, which were used to attach various objects (small tools or ornaments) to the belt. Among the finds from Poland, fibulae made of iron predominate, and it is believed that they were more of a male attribute.

Sound function is also an interesting aspect connected with wearing ornaments. Sounds have accompanied humans since the moment of their birth, resounding in the surrounding nature, carrying many meanings and being a part of their world. No wonder, then, that they were also reflected in clothing and, more specifically, in ornaments.

Pendant (Middle Ages) by autor nieznanyCity Museum of Wrocław

Tinklers

Sometimes, ornaments that could specifically function as tinklers were sewn onto clothing. Was this the purpose of the pendant?

Tinklers

It is not known, but certainly this interesting aspect of the ornaments which were so popular in the early Middle Ages should also be taken into account.

Most of these beautiful pieces of jewellery can be seen at exhibitions at the Museum of Archaeology in Wrocław.

Credits: Story

Monika Gross

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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