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A collection of cheap costume jewelry that a woman in Norway bought in an online auction has yielded a rare treasure: a gold ring believed to have been worn by a Viking chief.
After Mari Ingelin Heskestad received the stash of jewelry she bought from an auction house and started combing through it, one piece particularly caught her attention.
Heskestad had a feeling the twisted gold ring was not costume jewelry. “It was really heavy, and shiny,” she told the Bergensavisen, BA newspaper. “It looked very special.”
After her father-in-law suspected that the ring might be from the Viking Age, Heskestad brought it to the Vestland County municipal cultural heritage department in Western Norway. The acting head of the department, Karoline Hareide Breivik, confirmed in a statement that the ring does date to the late Iron Age or Viking Age. She also noted that it’s an extremely rare find and the first time she has heard of a ring from the Scandinavian Viking Age being found in an online auction.
County officials said that the size of the ring, which weighs nearly 11 grams, suggests it likely belonged to a powerful and wealthy Viking chief. Gold was rare and reserved for society’s most affluent during the Viking Age.
“We’re so impressed with her — the fact that she reacted exactly as you should when you find something you might believe is of historical value,” archaeologist Sigrun Wølstad told Science Norway of Heskestad.
After being contacted by the county to find out more about the jewelry collection, the as-yet-identified auction house was unable to give any further details beyond the fact that the ring came from an estate whose contents arrived there in 2021 in banana crates.
Although there are no records on this ring, a similar one was found in Norway in 2019 by someone using a metal detector. That one, too, belonged to a Viking chief.
Both men and women wore jewelry during the Viking Age, and it was a symbol of the individual’s wealth. Silver was common, but gold pieces showed the wearer had a high status within their community.
The University Museum in Bergen has since been given the ring and plans to put it on display this fall.