Viking costume inspiration: Accessories: Tortoise brooches

Viking-style round broaches at the gift shop in the Turku Castle

Viking-style round broaches at the gift shop in the Turku Castle

Viking costume inspiration: Accessories


For jewellery there seem to be a few different items of importance, and the most visible and recognizable as “Viking” seems to be the apron brooches.

Apron brooches – Oval/Tortoise brooches

Usually seen with a half-necklace (festoon) connecting the two brooches, a pair of domed oval brooches seems to really make the costumes more “Nordic” rather than generic ‘European’ to me.


“The most characteristic items of female Viking jewelry are the pairs of Oval
Brooches, sometimes called Tortoise Brooches, from their shape, found in many
female graves from the Viking Age. The Tortoise Brooches themselves were
sometimes chained together. These Chains suspended from the pair of Brooches
also supported utilitarian objects such as Tweezers, Ear Spoon, Scissors and a
Saex. Sometimes the Brooches suspended strands of Beads of Glass, Silver, Amber
or Jet.”

The BBC website also goes on to say that these brooches turn up in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, England, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Russia – all areas visited by the Vikings. (The site doesn’t mention finding the brooches in burial sites in Viking settlements in Canada though, and no mention of Finland either.) Although the cloth in burial sites has rotted away with time, the bronze brooches remain. The website explains that the brooches are usually 10-12 cm long ovals, and were mass-produced in workshops throughout Scandinavia during the 9th and 10th centuries in two-piece clay molds and sometimes included amber or glass decorations. (There is a detailed description of how they were made on the Archaeology in Europe website.)

Oval brooch example from 'Folk Metal and a Pagan's Life' on Facebook

Oval brooch example from ‘Folk Metal and a Pagan’s Life’ on Facebook

It strikes me that this kind of item might not be something I’d be able to make reasonably well myself, so some of the sellers that I found included:

  • Redwolf on Etsy – from Washington state – prices ranged from $20-36.  They’re oval, but not especially domed.
  • RareCrafts on Etsy – from Estonia – prices range from $77-103, and while they’re much more accurate, that’s just out of my price range.
  • QuietPress – from New Mexico – prices range from $35-50 (on average, there are exceptions) – I’ve seen a number of costumers highly recommend this site, thought the design of it makes me cringe.. I’d also be adding $10.00 to the order to get them in ‘silver’ instead of bronze.

Apron brooches – Round brooches

Viking-style round broaches at the gift shop in the Turku Castle

Viking-style round broaches at the gift shop in the Turku Castle

While most of the examples I’ve seen online have been the oval /tortoise-shaped broaches, I read on a museum replica site that round brooches were also worn in pairs, mostly by women in the far north (in particular, Finnish women). Additionally men of all areas would commonly wear a single round brooch. Some examples based on historical finds from Sweden and Norway dated to between the 9th and 11th centuries are on

I think that although I really like the research that’s gone into illustrating the relevance and historical accuracy of a pair of round brooches, I think that in order to really make the costume look more authentic, the oval brooches would be better though – since few people would recognize that the round ones were also historically relevant.

Apron brooches – Trefoil brooches

I haven’t seen this design on a lot of costumes online, but it’s an interesting design. Apparently, the design originated with “Carolingian Sword Belt fittings, which were obtained in Raid or Trade by the Vikings. Initially, these pieces were simply converted into a Brooch, later on the style was replicated by the Viking Metal Smiths.” By the 9th century the design was widely used throughout Viking settlements, and were worn in pairs at the shoulder, as well as singularly in the centre on a cloak or shawl. (Source: I imagine that I haven’t seen them in a lot of photos simply because of their unusual design, which likely makes them hard to source.

Trefoil brooch from

Trefoil brooch example from

Cloak and outer-garment brooches

For cloaks and other outer garments, there seems to be a few different styles of historically accurate designs.

1) Penannular-Style Brooches: I normally associate these with Celtic costumes, but they were used by Vikings as well. The design originated in 9th century Ireland, but spread throughout mainland Europe as well, and artifacts have been found, dating from the 9th -11th centuries. (Source: I don’t have any of these yet.

2) Equal-Armed Brooch: According to, the most common piece of jewellery worn by Viking women was the equal-armed brooch. Most women had a three-piece assemble, which consisted of a pair of brooches for the shoulder straps on the ‘aprons’, and a central brooch (the equal-armed brooch) used to hold garments (both outer and under garments) together. On these garments the pin wouldn’t actually pin into the outer garment fabric, but to fabric loops which were attached to the garment.

3) Cloak clasps: less ‘brooch’ and really more of a closure, there are similar clasps available at fabric shops today. These were worn on heavy garments of wool and leather.

Equal-armed brooch example from

Equal-armed brooch example from

I think that I’d really like the equal-arm broach if I were able to find something that would work, but for summertime I don’t think I’ll need to put together an outer garment for additional warmth.

7 comments on “Viking costume inspiration: Accessories: Tortoise brooches

  1. Sanjay Kumar Rout says:

    Primarily, I have read several articles & blogs on fashion costume jewelry designs but you have brought come up some attention-grabbing points. Thanks for sharing this so we can all read it.

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    • Dawn says:

      Thanks! It’s interesting reading the blog analytics and seeing where everyone came from.. based on my analytics from the past week, my top guess is Pinterest…

  3. irish says:

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    • Dawn says:

      Thanks for the compliment! Because this is more of a dress-diary and not really a costuming blog, I’m not really looking for guest writers. If you have your own blog and want to cross-post though, I’m agreeable to that if the content is related or expands on some of what I’ve talked about. However, the other blog I write for – Happy Sushi Belly is looking for guest writers – if that’s up your alley and you’re interested in guest-writing!

  4. […] with the ‘turtle’ brooches that I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to have the half-necklace/festoon that I’ve seen […]

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