Hunterston Brooch

Type: Brooches, Jewelry
Date: 700, 900
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Scotland
Medium: Silver, Gold, Gems
Dimensions: H 3.6 cm, diam. 12.2 cm
Description: The Hunterston Brooch was produced around the year 700 by a craftsperson familiar with multiple materials and metalworking techniques. It is made of silver, embellished with amber studs and with gold filigree and granulation that form tiny animals, birds, and interlaced patterns. A small cross motif is outlined in a rectangle near the lower front edge. The brooch is larger than other contemporary examples and was probably made in a royal workshop for an unknown wearer. Two centuries later, a runic inscription added to the flatter back side asserts that "Malbridga [a Scottish or Irish name] owns [this] brooch." Another rune may identify a different owner, Olfriti—a Viking name. Additional runelike marks may have been intended to fill the available space and leave no room for more owner's marks.

Brooches like this fastened both men's and women's clothing and were sometimes buried with their owners, making them powerful statements of status across an individual's lifespan. Its nearly pristine condition means that the Hunterston Brooch was prized as jewelry, not hacked up for the value of its metals. It was found in 1830 at Hunterston, on the west coast of Scotland, and is now at the National Museum in Edinburgh.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 4, 7
Image Credits: Linda Safran

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Hunterston Brooch, back, with runes Hunterston Brooch, detail of lower front Hunterston Brooch, detail of pin