The Viking Age saw major changes in the economy of Scandinavia. At the beginning of the Viking Age, few people in Scandinavia had any knowledge of coinage. Some foreign coins entered the region as a result of trading contacts both with western Europe and the Islamic world to the east. However, except in major trading centres such as Hedeby and Ribe, in Denmark, the idea of coinage as such was unfamiliar. Coins were valued only for their weight in silver or gold, and circulated alongside many other forms of precious metal.
This is what is known as a bullion economy, in which the weight and the purity of the precious metal are what is important, not what form the metal takes. Far and away the most common metal in the economy was silver, although gold was also used. Silver circulated in the form of bars, or ingots, as well as in the form of jewellery and ornaments. Large pieces of jewellery were often chopped up into smaller pieces known as ‘hack-silver’ to make up the exact weight of silver required. Imported coins and fragments of coins were also used for the same purpose. Traders carried small scales which could measure weight very accurately, so it was possible to have a very precise system of trade and exchange even without a regular coinage.
Precious metals were also a symbol of wealth and power. Like many peoples throughout history, the Vikings demonstrated their wealth and status by wearing beautiful jewellery, or by having expensively ornamented weapons, which were their equivalents of the Armani suit or the Rolex watch of today. In many cases, imported coins were melted down as the raw material for arm-rings, neck-rings or brooches. In other cases, coins were even mounted as jewellery. The show of wealth was more important than the idea of a coin-based economy.
One of the forms of jewellery worn was what is now termed Viking Weave where metal wire was woven into a cord, similar to French Knitting. This cord was then worn by the Viking people around their neck or their wrist for them to hack off whenever currency was required.
I really enjoy this technique and you can find many pieces within my collection including this piece. Most pieces are teamed with complementing gems to bring out the beauty and versatility of this technique.
Please have a browse through my site and see what treasures you can find.