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Gold arm-ring


Diameter: 8.700 cm

Gift of R.G. Fox

M&ME 1849,2-10,1

Room 2: Collecting the world

    Gold arm-ring

    Viking, 10th century AD
    Found at Wendover, Buckinghamshire, England

    Unusual arm-ring of unrivalled prestige

    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.

    This arm-ring is made in a way typical of the Scandinavian Vikings, twisting together a thick rod and a thin wire of beaded gold. The ring is not complete but has a gap which would allow it to be sprung onto the upper arm or wrist.

    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 bronze 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.

    J. Graham-Campbell, Viking artefacts: a select cat (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)


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