Viking brooches – trifoil

An assortment of brooches in the Iceland National Museum.

An assortment of brooches in the Iceland National Museum.

In a previous post, I showed off some of the tortoise (oval, turtle) brooches from the Iceland National Museum – along with a discussion about different artistic/decorative jewelry styles from the Vikings.  In the next four posts I’m going to look at brooches of different styles.

Tri-lobed/trifoil/trefoil brooches

Authentic tri-lobed brooches at the Iceland National Museum

Authentic tri-lobed brooches at the Iceland National Museum

Trifoil or Tri-lobed brooches are often shown either holding edges of a cloak, shawl, or coat together, or when used with a C-wrapped apron-dress, holding edges of the apron dress together.

An assortment of brooches in the Iceland National Museum.

An assortment of brooches in the Iceland National Museum.

The Iceland National Museum had trifoil brooches in a display with many others, but said about them:

“Trifoil brooches. One is ornamented with [stylized] foliage, another with an interlace pattern also common from Viking settlements by the Irish Sea. The other two are in the Borre style.”

Close up on the tri-lobed brooch on the figure at the Saga Museum

Close up on the tri-lobed brooch on the figure at the Saga Museum

At the Saga Museum, the tri-lobed brooch is shown at the neckline of the underdress.  These are fairly large brooches though- and having worn a slightly smaller brooch at this location, I’d prefer one smaller still, rather than the large tri-lobed one. More commonly I’ve seen small penannular brooches at the throat.

Tri-lobed brooch on the figure at the Saga Museum

Tri-lobed brooch on the figure at the Saga Museum

In my next post I’ll show some of the other brooch styles.

Sagamuseum – The Saga Museum
www.sagamuseum.is/
Grandagarður, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 511 1517

National Museum of Iceland
www.nationalmuseum.is
Suðurgata 41, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
+354 530 2200

Update!

Instead of doing another post about the tri-lobed brooches, I thought I would add to this one. These are examples from the Vikings exhibit in BC. For more information about the exhibit, follow my Vikings in BC tag.

The brooches from this display weren’t dated, but were referred to as a “new design” influenced by foreign interactions. The display stated “Objects from other countries and cultures often influenced Scandinavian designs. For instance the trefoil (three-leaved) design was a common decoration on sword belts in the Frankish Empire. In Scandinavia, decorated with animal ornament, it was used as a brooch in women’s costumes.”

Silver and gold Trefoil brooch

Silver and gold Trefoil brooch

This brooch is described as “of Scandinavian provenance. The triangular central part was originally filled with gold. Animal ornamentation in Jellinge style”. Found in Ostra Herrestad, Skane, Sweden.

Trefoil brooch in the Carolingian style

Trefoil brooch in the Carolingian style

This brooch is described as “of European (Frankish) provenance. Decorated with palmettes showing plant ornamentation in the Carolingian style” this brooch was found at Vasby, Skane, Sweden.

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6 comments on “Viking brooches – trifoil

  1. Dear Dawn, do you perhaps have a better photo of the trefoil brooch/sword strap devider wich is of the same type, I have ? See: http://travellingnorth.nl/Viking-artefacts/the-trefoil-brooch-wich-turned-out-to-be-a-strap-distributor.html Kind regards, Thomas Kamphuis

    • Dawn says:

      Sorry, I only have the photos that I’ve shared above. I do have a few more still waiting to be loaded, but I can’t share them yet.
      Can you explain what you mean by the brooch actually being a strap divider?

      • The Ringerike style strap devider was at first considered to be a trefoil brooch, because of it’s form. But there is no attachment to the pin, only lugs for the strap. 😉 (excuse my bad English Dwan..

  2. Dawn says:

    @Thomas – I think I know what you mean 🙂
    Looking at strap dividers, I don’t see any that look like this in the Portable Antiquities Scheme (https://finds.org.uk/database/search) but those are only items found in the UK. Alternately some from the Museum of London (http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=22438&view=next) also seem to be different in design.

  3. The author of a new book I was reading – Viking identities – Scandinavian Jewellry in England -, Jane F. Kershaw. She immediately responded to me:

    The trefoil brooch is actually not a brooch but a strap-distributor, perhaps for a harness, of a type known from Iceland and Scotland. The projections at the side near the central plate show that the design comes from Carolingian baldric mounts, which have a similar shape. The central hole will have original held a rivet. The art style is not Ringerike, but Jellinge, although it seems to have been misunderstood in places. I’d place it in the first half of the 10thC.

    She also sended me an intruiging article on these kind of trefoil mounts/strap distributors.

    In this article there from 1997 there are two examples known found at Hafurbjarnarstadir and Holl in Iceland and one known (part of) example of Jarlshof at the Shetland Isles (found 1956), and two examples found in 1996 in Skipton-on-Swale, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire and Ewerby, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

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