Viking costume inspiration: Accessories: Festoons

Necklace from the "Viking Answers Lady" (click for original source)

Necklace from the “Viking Answers Lady” (click for original source)

Viking costume inspiration: Accessories

Half-necklaces / festoons

When I started looking at these necklaces, I didn’t know what to call them, so most of the mentions in my posts thus far I’ve called them “half-necklaces” – because they were suspended from the apron-dress brooches rather than worn around the neck. In later reading, I found someone referring to them as ‘festoons’, so when I write about them, I’ll likely go back and forth between the two terms. (Note: added June 2014 – I’ve also seen people referring to them as “treasure necklaces”.)

According to Hurstwick, these were usually strung of glass or amber beads, and hanging along with them might be a woman’s necessary items like keys, needle cases, a knife, or a whetstone.

An Etsy seller (AlitheaAndRose) calls these half-necklaces “Festoons”, and describes them as:

“To any true Norse woman, each festoon (designed to hang between the
brooches of the apron dress) told a story. Where she or her husband had
been, what they had seen, the conquests of her life could be read in the
shimmering beads, semi-precious stones and exotic coins cascading
down the front of her gown.”

Although she shows them as multi-coloured decorations, I think I would like them much nicer as a mix of just a few colours for some sense of unity. I have a number of vintage and antique beads that would be cool to use for this.

I think that the hardest part about this will be making them NOT symmetrical, and making the colours clash for me!

Necklace from the "Viking Answers Lady" (click for original source)

Necklace from the “Viking Answers Lady” (click for original source)

“At first glance, a treasure necklace may seem to be a jumble of random beads with no order or design. However, if one carefully examines the treasure necklaces recovered from graves, it soon becomes apparent that there are rules for their construction.

  1. First, all large and unusual items such as pendants and special beads are arranged at even intervals around a circle.
  2. If more pendants are desired, take a loop of wire and string two or more beads upon it, then cross the ends and twist them to form a “stalk”, and finally the ends are wrapped around a rod at right angles to the “stalk” to provide a hole with which the new pendant may be strung.
  3. Next, begin picking up pairs of beads that are similar in size, shape, and tone (dark or light). Place these 180° apart across the circle.
  4. Continue placing bead pairs until the spaces between the pendants has been filled. Sometimes a short pattern balanced upon a pendant will be used to help emphasize the pendant.
  5. Finally, pick a point and begin stringing the necklace in the order in which the elements were laid out.

This is simple in conception, but can be difficult for those who have a hard time abandoning modern ideas about necklace construction and symmetry. The value of using this technique to create a treasure necklace today is that you may preserve very special items which have meaning for you within it, rather like a modern charm bracelet. It is very worthwhile to experiment with this technique.” – the Viking Answer Lady

She goes on to talk about colour: “the Vikings prized a mixture of colors” – which I think would be good to remember not only for the jewelry, but also for the costume itself. There are some gorgeous beads to buy (or simply inspire my stash-selection) on Asgard Crafts (who pointed me to the Viking Answer Lady).

Viking-style beads in the Turku Castle gift shop

Viking-style beads in the Turku Castle gift shop

When on vacation in Finland, there was a display of Viking-style beads in the gift shop of Turku Castle.

One comment on “Viking costume inspiration: Accessories: Festoons

  1. […] have NO idea how hard that was for me! Instead, I followed some of the advice that I posted on my research post for this project, and picked focal pieces to go in the middle, and then equally-distant around the […]

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