We are not kidding when we say that Vikings were a little obsessed with rings. To say they liked them is an understatement. That fact is made clear by their omnipresence across the entire Viking culture. Viking rings were more than just jewelry for decoration’s sake. They have deep roots in folklore and religion and are an integral part of the Viking aesthetic.
Ring-style jewelry is upfront and center in many Viking styles, but why exactly? Keep reading to learn more about where the Viking’s love of rings came from and how they wove them into as many things as possible.
From even the earliest eras of Viking society, rings were present in many forms. In short, the Vikings saw a ring as a symbol of dedication and unity, and it is sacred in Norse mythology. Plenty of other ornaments, weapons, and artifacts have surfaced to teach us more about this incredible civilization, but the ring is arguably the best yet.
Because it showed us that the Viking race was not the mindless, savage, uneducated mob they were initially portrayed as. Instead, they believed in honor and commitment to your word against all things- not to mention the fact that they liked a little bling!
Here is everything we know so far about these symbols and how they applied in Viking life all those centuries ago.
Types of Viking Rings
As we said, Vikings love rings of all varieties. Here are a few notable examples of ways they worked them into their world and on to their person.
Oaths were sacred in Viking times. To break one was the ultimate crime, rewarded with a dedicated circle of hell for all of eternity. People would rather die, and often did, before breaking an oath or going back on their word since life was not worth living for an untrustworthy Viking.
Arguably the most important Viking ring is the oath ring, which historians believe every Viking wore from a very young age. Often, they were cast in bronze, silver, or gold, depending in which social dimensions they found themselves.
The twisted shapes formed a braid-like shape worn around the arm or wrist. It acted as a symbol of Viking honor and the value of a person’s word, and people would swear an oath upon their ring to show how serious they were. After making the oath on the ring they were wearing, the Viking could not remove it until they had fulfilled their duty and lived up to their word.
Other Arm Rings
Decorative armlets were sometimes a symbol of status. Great warriors were known to wear a ring on their upper arms, and leaders of armies also had something similar. Wearing one on the arm was also a fashion choice in many cultures from this era. The Vikings may have been savage warriors, but they liked shiny things- and they loved jewelry.
Some rich artistic women would wear a ring on their neck to symbolize wealth and prosperity. Usually, the most beautiful Viking women received them as gifts from admirers or husband. There are other examples of neck ring styles, but they are far less common amongst the Vikings than other cultures.
Traditional finger rings were one of the last things to appear in the Viking jewelry box. In most of the mythological stories, they were mostly worn elsewhere on the body. These tales are from the religious magical realm where the Viking gods exist, and because of this, most of the trends followed suit.
Viking rings have surfaced on completely opposite ends of the decedent spectrum. Some are made from simple animal bones with small carvings to plated bronze and gold shaped into wolf heads and shields. It seems that Vikings made rings to suit their own style with whatever materials they had available.
The Viking ring trend did not stop with the human body- they even put rings on their swords. Some Vikings built ring-hilted weapons, which were most often used by chieftains or kings. Part of the reason may have been practical, but again, it probably comes down to oath making.
When a Viking swore an oath to their leader, they would kneel and put their hands on the other person’s sword. The presence of a Viking ring on the hilt makes it all the most sacred.
Norse Rings and Viking Mythology
Draupnir- Odin’s Viking Ring
Odin is one of the most influencial figures in Norse Mythology. He is essentially the boss of all the gods and the beacon for Viking warriors. His ring, Draupnir (usually pictured as an arm ring), was said to give him endless resources to look after all the warriors in Valhalla until the day of Ragnarok.
According to mythology, the Draupnir ring produced eight new ones every ninth night for Odin to award his warriors. The armlets that Vikings wore were possibly a representation of this.
Andvaranaut- The Original Evil Ring
Way before Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings, there was Andvari. He was a shapeshifter who cursed a ring that was stolen by Loki himself. The Andvaranaut ring was doomed to bring death and destruction to whoever possessed it. The list of people whose lives were destroyed included the well-known hero, Sigurd.
Buying Viking Jewelry
Viking jewelry played a big role in the way Vikings traded and interacted, but it is also pretty nice to look at. Head to any good Norse online shop, and you are sure to find stunning pieces to help you channel your inner Viking.
Bronze, Gold, and Silver Rings
Long ago, rings were essentially wearable currency. Now, handmade Viking jewelry is available in everything from stainless steel, but there is always something appealing about these precious metals. Some places can create a unique design from scratch tailored perfectly to the design, shape, and metal of your choice.
Bracelets and Arm Rings
From a simple silver bracelet to an intricate Odin-worthy armlet: be bold with your Viking style and swear an oath to preserve the style legacy.
Questions and Answers on Viking Rings
How did Viking jewelry differ between men and women?
The Vikings were surprisingly forward-thinking when it came to gender roles and rights, including what people were allowed to wear. Unlike most societies at the time, clothing and accessories were pretty much a free-for-all, wear what you like situation (according to what we believe based on evidence gathered so far).
By that standard, not only women wore jewelry and rings. Viking men loved an accessory and were no strangers to some personal styling. Both genders wore rings in their hair and beards, on their arms and hands, and they even put rings on their swords.
One thing that may have been different was the neck rings that women sometimes wore. Known as torques, the decadent hoops were usually made from silver or gold and were bought as necklaces by a husband to give to a wife. Usually, only the wealthiest Vikings had these, and only the women wore them.
Did rich Vikings wear jewelry more than poor ones did?
The money a person had did not necessarily reflect how much jewelry they wore. It had more of an impact on what it was made of. Various materials have been found as Viking rings, including silver, pewter, iron, and even the bones of animals. Depending on what social status a Viking had, their various jewelry pieces would differ in material.
Had rich Vikings worn jewelry made from cheap materials such as hack silver with little detail, it would have stood out in the higher circles, but Viking rings- oath rings in particular- transcended wealth and title.
Are there crossovers between Viking weapons crafting and jewelry?
Yes, very much so. The same inscriptions and carvings found on Viking rings at archaeological discoveries appear on ornaments and weapons. Warriors would carve symbols into their blades the same way they would in their oath rings.
Viking swords often had handmade rings around the joint of the blade and grip to protect the hands from getting cut. The ring is a common thread between jewelry, clothing, and weaponry.
Final Thoughts on Viking Rings
Throughout history, a Viking ring has remained one of the most iconic jewelry pieces in the art and religious worlds. It was the ultimate symbol of honor- something that every Viking needed to thrive.