Viking tortoise brooch
Viking tortoise brooch
Viking tortoise brooch

Viking tortoise brooch

A viking 'Five-Lobed' Openwork Tortoise Brooch

Copper-alloy, 100.8 grams, 110.48 mm. 9th-11th century. A domed, hollow, elliptical brooch usually worn in pairs by Scandinavian women from England to Ukraine. The uppermost feature is an openwork dome with a hemispherical top-mount and a double-contour collar. From this radiate four double-contour bands which lead to the upper and lower lobes, each in the form of an animal-head with billetted neck in Jellinge Style. Between these are panels of double-contour tendril interlace executed in openwork. The outer edges of this field are pierced for rivets, of which four remain in situ. Outside the openwork panels is a solid zone consisting of two-strand guilloches interspersed with rectangular panels bearing interlocking 'T'- and 'U'-shaped motifs. Outside this is the flange of the brooch which is plain apart from the outer rim which bears animal-head decoration. The catchplate and hinge-lug are present, with remains of the substantial iron pin still in place.

Published in:

British artefacts Volume 2 - Middle Saxon and Viking by Brett Hammond (2010) page 40/41, fig. 1.1.3-c.

Although in ever viking department of a national museum, the quality of mine example is one of museum quality (wich I'm very proud of).

The most beautiful (even with the golden gilding still on top of them !) I have seen at the National Museum in Oslo. A "must do",

if you like these oval brooches to see in their most origin well preserved form !

tortoise brooch
tortoise brooch

Conservating artefacts

After some years I discovered the tortoise brooch became somewhat bleak at one side of the upper. I did not trust it and brought it to a reputable archeologist who cleaned it (among several other items). LUCKILY the brooch was saved by that treatment and had a surprise too..

Although hollow, the needle, wich priorly was covered with a thick plague of rust, was 'excavated' and was intact on the outside ! The needle, hollow inside as said, was filled with plastic and could remain intact this way. The overall colour of the brooch changed somewhat through cleaning, but what to consider that as a problem, as your gems are literally saved from detoriation ..

Now this is an serious advice to any collector:

Be sure of the state your artefact(s) are in. Both at time when you have them first in hand, as later in time. Ask yourself ALWAYS these questions:

- did the salesman (or someone who had the item before him !) something with the item to make it (look) clean ? I do not go into detail to the horror stories people can do with artefacts. 


- can I recognise the diseases wich can pop up, like bronze disease ?

In case of ANY DOUBT - show it to a reputable man who can treat the item professionally. Professionally in CAPITAL LETTERS, serious, people.

It had saved several items in my collection

How tortoise brooch was worn

Drawing above:

How where viking oval brooches worn?

Also see link:

A tortoise shell brooch from Karelia


How were viking oval brooches made?