Disc-on-bow brooches

Northern Germanic, 6th century AD
Found on the island of Gotland, Sweden

Female costume jewellery

These are gilded copper alloy disc-on-bow brooches, decorated with cloisonné garnets, discs of white paste, beaded wire and punched, geometric patterns. Their foot-plates are flanked by two ‘Style II’ bird heads. Some garnets are lost and finely patterned gold foils can be seen in some of the empty cloisonné cells. The gold foils would have reflected the light through the garnets.

The jewelled disc riveted to the central bow of each brooch distinguishes this elaborate type and is a development of earlier bow brooches. The new style shows that Scandinavian craftsmen adopted the cloisonné technique, which was introduced through contacts with the Continent. Dies for impressing the patterned gold foils have recently been found in Denmark and Friesland, indicating the probable route along which the style spread.

Contemporary representations of women found on such items as repoussé gold foil plaques, show disc-on-bow brooches worn horizontally at the neck to fasten a cloak. They probably indicated the high social status of their owners. Exceptionally large versions made later, in the sixth to eighth centuries, in Gotland and central Sweden may have been produced as cult objects.

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More information


H. Tait (ed.), 7000 years of jewellery (London, British Museum Press, 2006)

S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)


Length: 8.500 cm

Museum number

M&ME 1921,1101.218, 220, 221


Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund

Britain, Europe and Prehistory
1921,1101.218, 220 and 221


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