Viking Arm Rings

Silver was the metal of commerce among the Danes*. While gold was prized and used for ornamentation, silver was more available. Even after the Danes started making their own coins they used silver bullion as a medium of exchange.

One method of transporting and storing silver was the Arm ring. While decorative, it could also be chopped up or hacked to pieces to purchase items. The practice was so wide spread the term “hack silver” is used to denote these fragments. One indication that the rings were more than decorative comes from Professor Dan Carlsson of Gotland University. Of over 400 arm rings found in Gotland none were in graves, all in hoards.

However, while the rings had a utilitarian value, they were also decorative. While molds and casting were undoubtedly used to make rings, many look as if they were decorated using punches.
 

*Danes is used as a catch all turn for the invaders from Scandinavia who came to England in the 9th-11th centuries.

Contact: EaldredSCA at AOL.com (Dawson Lewis, Pierre, SD)

Class Handouts:

Cuerdale Hoard photo with pieces broken out

Combined Cuerdale and Red Wharf Bay arm rings photo (Word DOC)

Links:

Anglesy Red Wharf Beach armrings - 5 outstanding examples
http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/251/
More information can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/yKyLxd5PSUq44qnqNj43DQ while the information below was kindly provide by Mark Redknap of National Museum of Wales

The five complete early tenth-century silver Hiberno-Scandinavian broad band arm-rings are known as the Red Wharf Bay hoard, and were found in the nineteenth century on the north-west side of the Penmon Peninsula, below Din Silwy hillfort (on the south-eastern side of the bay). The individual weights for the arm-rings are 76.8g (no. 2), 77.0g (no. 4), 79.4g (no. 5), 95.7g (no. 1), 105.9g (no. 3), and their maximum external diameters range from 70 to 79mm (National Museum of Wales acc. nos 28.215/1-5). The main period of manufacture for this form of arm-ring appears to have been between c. 880 and c. 930-40. A late occurrence of broad band arm-ring within a coin dated hoard is the find from Lymose, Denmark, tpq 996. The arm-ring with transverse plain grooves formed with a blunt-nosed punch is closely paralleled by a complete example from Portumna, Co. Galway (weight 68.3g.). The contemporary Cuerdale hoard, buried c. 905/10 on the basis of numismatic content, contained similar arm-rings, and both hoards have been tentativley associated with events surrounding the expulsion of Ingimund and his fellow Vikings from Dublin and then Anglesey in 902/3 (this link cannot, of course be proven).
I hope that this information is of some help. If you are intersted in Viking silver in Britain, you might like to get hold of a copy of a recent conference proceedings held at Liverpool, which includes a detailed paper on Viking silve rin Wales: 'The Huxley Viking hoard. Scandidnavian Settlement in the North-West (edited by James Graham-Campbell and Robert Philpott), published by National Museums Liverpool (2009).

 

 

Examples of armrings

Excellent example of shapes and designs:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25639089@N08/2429467558

Examples of punch work
http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/rhagor/article/1890/

 

Hack Silver Examples:

Cuerdale Hoard - Good examples of arm rings hacked for pieces.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/online_tours/britain/buried_treasures/the_cuerdale_hoard.aspx

And more Cuerdale
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25639089@N08/2441519208/

Another
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_image.aspx?image=ps338178.jpg&retpage=17528

General info on Hack Silver with many links
http://www.royalhouseestateagents.com/uk/index.php?t=Hacksilver

Hoards from Gotland
http://www.frojel.com/Documents/Document09.html
 

Overviews of the role of silver in Viking life:

Viking Money
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/vikings/money_01.shtml

Viking Silver
http://archaeology.about.com/od/vterms/qt/viking_hoards.htm

 

PDF Reports/Articles:
Reasons for hiding Viking Age hack silver hoards

A hoard of Hiberno-Viking arm-rings, probably from Scotland

The Viking-age silver and gold hoards of Scandinavian character from Scotland

TWO LARGE SILVER HOARDS FROM OCKSARVE ON GOTLAND:
EVIDENCE FOR VIKING PERIOD TRADE AND WARFARE IN THE BALTIC REGION

TWO VIKING-AGE SILVER INGOTS FROM DITCHINGHAM AND
HINDRINGHAM, NORFOLK: THE FIRST EAST ANGLIAN INGOT FINDS

 

Making a Patina:
You can make your designs pop out by putting a dark patina in the grooves.

Making patina on silver
http://www.finishing.com/127/14.shtml

Another article with a formula for making your own
http://www.finishing.com/151/55.shtml 

 

Metal Source for Pewter:
Recommended - http://www.rotometals.com/
On eBay, you can buy lead free solder in bulk sometimes. Make sure it is Lead-free though. While Lead is period, it is also toxic and you just don't need to go there.