Blog October 9th 2015

The viking ring headed pin - a distinct Hiberno-norse object

Ringed-pins were produced in Ireland from as early as the fourth century A.D., but the type was quickly adapted by the Viking settlements. In fact a workshop dedicated to the production of copper-alloy ringed pins and stick pins was found in High Street, Dublin.

The ringed pin was a form of dress fastener which developed as a result of contact between artisans in the Celtic West and sub-Roman Britain. The type became very popular in Ireland, being ultimately adopted by the Hiberno-Norse during the Viking period.

Cloaks and wraparound jackets were held in place by a pin at the right shoulder. The pins ranged from simple bone pins to elaborate gold jewelry. A common style was the penannular brooch (right top). The pin is held captive on a ring that has a break in it to allow the pin to pass through the ring after it has been passed through the fabric.

These ringed-pins transformed over time from a plain or polyhedral-shaped ringed-pin, popular in the tenth and eleventh centuries, to a kidney-ringed pin which seems to have become fashionable after the mid-tenth century. The polyhedral examples are very diagnostic and are found in Ireland from the 920s, in Whithorn and the Hebrides by the 940s - 950s, in Orkney and the Faroes by the 980s and in Iceland by the year 1000AD. One was found at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, confirming that the Vikings reached the North American continent.

Imaged beneath is a complete viking bronze ring headed pin wich is in my collection, with long slender body that flattens out slightly near the base before it tapers to the point.

Circa 9th century AD. North Yorkshire. 130 mm long.


Ring headed pins are extremely rare finds from England, especially when in complete working condition just as it was used" shape.

A drawing of how the pin was worn, can be seen also..

viking ring headed pin
viking ring headed pin
viking ring headed pin how it was worn


Fanning, T. Viking Age Ringed Pins from Dublin, Dublin, 1994;

For images of ring headed pins in the Future museum in Southwest Scotland

A very nice example of a ring headed pin on the Portable Antiques Scheme (PAS) can be seen here:

For some images of ringed pins from the Iceland National Museum: