What Type Of Jewellery Was On Display During The Medieval Period?

From Pandora to Georg Jensen, jewellery is a much-loved fashion accessory for both men and women today. Of course, jewellery has been worn since ancient times and has always had an influence on fashion even in the Dark Ages.

During this period in history and medieval times, suffering and deprivation had a devastating effect on the vast majority of Western Europe’s population. The result of famine, wars and the plague, in particular, eventually led to a decline in the production of jewellery, although the British Isles managed to show off some superb pieces despite the undoubted difficulties which engulfed much of the population.

The types of products on offer were far beyond the usual necklaces and brooches featured in medieval-themed movies or the Avalon slot game by Microgaming, which is based on Arthurian legend. Belt buckles, buttons, hat badges, arm rings, ankle rings, and a whole host of other designs were regularly snapped up by the wealthiest people.

Gold was a popular material in particular and paired beautifully with a variety of decorating techniques, such as enamelling and soldering. Gemstones were also extremely desirable in the medieval period, with the likes of freshwater pearls and coral being high on many peoples’ lists. Gems were eventually altered too, perhaps by being cut and polished into something else.

Jewellery worn during the Byzantine Empire

As I’ve touched on already, Western Europe’s lack of jewellery production certainly hindered the overall growth and production of jewellery in Europe as a whole, but the eastern side of the continent was very much still in production and continued to make a variety of stunningly beautiful pieces thanks to the stability the Byzantine Empire gave the population.

Most of the jewellery produced was influenced by religion, more specifically Christianity, and featured depictions of the afterlife and a whole host of other religious images which influenced the all-round culture and way of life of that particular empire. Earrings were particularly favoured by people also and represented an excellent gift for various rulers. They weren’t just any old earrings either, instead, being filled with coloured gems and enabling whoever wore them to make a real statement of power and style.

What about Barbarian jewellery?

Wikipedia Creative Commons Pair of showy fibulae James Steakley

Brooches and pins were particularly popular during the Migration Period, a time when the Barbarian invasion began. Germanic fibulae, which were worn as both brooches and pins, were especially popular and formed a vital part of Barbarian fashion, enabling people to fasten their clothing and illustrate some additional style in the process.

Barbarian jewellery was worn by both men and women, too, although it was mainly only accessible to the wealthy and the well known. The craftsmanship which went into an array of pieces from that time was quite remarkable also, with a wide-ranging selection of products being regularly donned. From shoulder clasps to single fibula brooches that many of the women wore, the technique on display and the quality of products were quite remarkable.

Viking jewellery

Silver was the go-to option for the Vikings, with many of it lacking the extravagance and detail of some of the aforementioned styles being worn by others. It did evolve somewhat, though, as Vikings adapted the commonly worn silver jewellery to include animals, geometric patterns, and everything else in between. The Vikings had a range of clever techniques to elevate certain pieces too, perhaps by carrying out filigree work or sprucing a piece up through repouss√® (hammered into relief work). 

*Collaborative post

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