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Large / Heavy Viking Silver Trichinopoly Torc

Northern Europe, Viking / Norse culture, ca. 10th century CE. A heavy, large silver torc (torq, torque), exquisitely constructed. The majority of the torq is a densely woven silver trichinopoly chain - also known as "Viking knit." This forms a flexible ring that terminates in hammered silver sheet wrapped around its ends. The sheet tapers to thick silver wires that wrap around each other to form a permanent clasp. This is really a gorgeous item that would have signified wealth and high social status for its wearer, who may have been a man or a woman in Viking society. The torc likely ended its functional life deposited in a river or lake, probably as an offering to the gods. Size: 11.4" W (29 cm); 90.1 grams

Old Icelandic Viking literature brings us a story about the power of torcs like this one. The goddess Freyja owned a torc called Brisingamen, of which the first half of the compound word, brisingr, means "fire"or "amber", and the second half, "men", means "neck ring/torc of precious metal". This gleaming torc is so famous that it is mentioned in "Beowulf", the "Poetic Edda", the "Prose Edda", and the "Flateyjarbok Saga" (and later inspired a story in J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Silmarillion"). In various stories, it is stolen, often by the trickster god Loki, and Freyja's wrath is terrible until the necklace is returned to her. In the "Poetic Edda", Thor borrows Brisingamen to disguise himself as Freyja and attend a wedding in the homeland of the giants, Jotunheimr. The importance of the torc as a signifier of social standing - especially related to one of the most powerful women of the Norse pantheon - emphasizes what a fine item this example is.

Condition: Dark patina on much of the surface, with a small area of copper patina near one of the terminals, probably related to depositional environment. Amethyst in photo for display purposes.

Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection

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