Bracelets and armrings

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Many of the so-called armrings of the Viking age are not big enough to be placed on the arm and could be better described as bracelets. Diameters range from 5.8cm to 8.5cm - with the largest cluster falling in the 7cm to 8cm range. They come in a variety of styles and materials, iron, silver and gold are the common materials - it should be noted that there is not much evidence for copper alloy ones, except for the spiral varieties from Finland, a number of braided wire bracelets and twisted wire bracelets from Sweden. Bracelets of jet are known from Dublin and were found in the same workshop as the amber manufacture. Whitorn in Galloway has also produced finger and armrings of jet, shale and coal.

The plainest variety of silver bracelets is the type often called ring money, described as such because for a long time it was believed that they were all made to a fairly standard weight of 24gm however it has since been shown that a large number of rings do not fall into this bracket. However, because of their plain style it is possible that they were used as money. They are made from square sectioned silver bar, bent to form a bangle and then the ends flattened to some degree, this flattening can range from the most minimal to a finely tapered point. This type is most common to the Irish sea area of influence - that is Ireland, Scotland, Norway.

Another simple ring style is that of a single rod made into a circular bracelet, the ends taper and are twisted together. This most simple ring is to be found in hoards throughout Scandinavia and can be made of silver or gold.

Flat bands of silver are also employed in the manufacture of an Hibero-Norse type of armring, this is usually a broad band of silver - slightly tapering to the open end, decorated with punched ornamentation on the outer face.

As we progress through to more complicated patterns we find the spiral type rings popular in Denmark and Gotland. They are formed from narrow bands of silver with stamped decoration twisted to form a spiral and the ends simply looped over. Another related type is that of the ‘Permian’ armring - they are spiral in shape and have faceted terminals - they are thought to be neck-rings from further east and have been remodelled into armrings. The ‘Permian’ armring conforms to a standard weight unit of multiples of 100gm.

One of the most complicated styles is that of the twisted or braided armring. Manufactured of more than one rod of silver or (rarely) gold these armrings taper toward their terminals where they are either forged or twisted together to form a knot. Further cast armrings are also known.

Twisted armrings of iron have been in Novgorod along with Thors hammer rings. Armrings always make up the largest share of most silver hoards and are definitely the most popular way of carrying and displaying ones wealth.