A while back I got fascinated by a find in a Time Team episode (isn’t that show just the best? I’m an addict…). It was a series of simple silver wire hoops found in an Anglo Saxon woman’s grave. The rings were found, together with glass beads, around the neck of the woman, and I decided I wanted to try to recreate a necklace like it. But I’ve been very busy making renaissance jewelry (you can find pictures of much of it here on my Facebook page) so my Anglo-Saxon plans had to wait.
They might have waited a while, but my husband is greatly interested in the Anglo Saxon era and he wanted some new garb for an SCA event that’s soon coming up. I found a wonderful book, “Dress in Anglo-Saxon England” by Gale R. Owen-Crocker. It has so much great information but it also has a sketch of how it is thought the wire ring necklaces might have been put together! Looking at the sketch, my fingers got twitchy… could this work as jewelry that an AngloSaxon woman might want to wear?
It is a bit of a mystery how the rings were connected, as there are no remains of whatever held them together, but it is guessed that it was some kind of string. I made my necklace inspired by the sketch in the book, which is based on a find from a late 7th century grave in Winnal, Winchester, Hampshire. The author of the book theorizes that the ring necklaces were made to emulate the rich collars worn by high ranking ladies which in their turn were made to look like the amazing bejewelled collars worn in Byzantium at the time. Apparently these wire ring finds are quite common. The rings MIGHT have been sewn to the dress, but the book also suggests the string solution, and that’s what I decided to go for. I chose to use a red silk yarn and beautiful blue glass beads, as the book sais Anglo Saxons were known to love bright colors. The sketch in the book shows different shaped beads was used (including a lovely flowershaped one!), but I decided to stick to the same kind , mostly because I felt I didn’t have any other suitable ones (next time, more shapes and colors! 🙂 ), I also added two beads that are suspended from two of the wire rings themselves, a practice well documented.
The necklace in the sketch has a silver sheet disc pendant. I am not a silver smith, but I happened to have some sterling silver sheet at home, so I went for it, improvising with tools at hand. For the punched pattern I used the broken off ends of paintbrush handles, for instance. It did not turn out perfect of course, I’m such a beginner (this was my first try at anything like this), but luckily the people back then weren’t always such pros either, I found this charming Anglo saxon silver sheet pendant in an old Ebay listing (follow the link and scroll down the page for a picture) for instance, beautifully irregular and far from perfect. Things like that makes me dare to try new things, I actually think the imperfections add to the design. I much enjoyed making this, I love that the design feels quite contemporary, I think I will make more things from this era in the future, there’s some great hair sticks with dangly bits I have my eyes on…