Helmet decoration

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Characters of particularly high status may consider having a helmet decorated with precious metal. Silver wires hammered into the nasal and eyebrow guards seems to have been used throughout our period, in both domed and conical helmets.

In the earlier period (the seventh to ninth centuries) helmets were rarer, restricted to the upper echelons of society and therefore more likely to be decorated. As well as silver wire, plates may be added (as on the Sutton Hoo helmet), or else gold foil strips or gilding, brought out with niello.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries, helmets became more common and therefore simpler to produce. Decoration should be avoided except for very high status (kings or earls).

While the available evidence is limited, we feel that helmets should not be painted. This practice is likely to have originated with the Crusades, as a layer of paint takes the edge off the heat of the sun.