Diameter: 8.700 cm
Gift of R.G. Fox
Room 2: Collecting the world
Viking, 10th century
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)