Viking Masters of the Metal Arts

If you are ever in Copenhagen,  be sure to make a trip to the National Museum of Denmark to see the Viking Jewelry Exhibit.  It is an outstanding collection the likes of which you are not likely to see anywhere else in the world.  I was lucky enough to go there recently  and I would like to share some pictures with you.


First some background: We think of Vikings as raiders and pirates.  Actually most  of them were farmers who  went on raids during the intervals between the sowing and harvest seasons.  They went  for booty and the status the plundered wealth gave them.  But raiding and pillaging was a young man’s past time.  When they got older, Viking men were expected to settle down and raise a  family.

Vikings were master craftsmen and worked in metal, stone and wood.  I imagine a lot of the gold they used and prized came from raiding  expeditions but gold was traded as well.    Jewelry like brooches served a utilitarian purpose.  Jewelry was also a mark of wealth and prestige and wearing the gold was the best way to keep an eye on it, although a number of hoards were buried.   Some jewelry was believed to afford the wearer protection or luck and a few very wealthy individuals had jewelry made to be buried with them.  Other jewelry was buried as part of a sacrificial ritual.  Every now and then a cache of gold jewelry is found preserved in a bog.


The Scandinavians and their ancestors started collecting amber in the stone age, mostly on the coast of Jutland which is the western peninsula of Denmark.  That’s amber in the above picture.  Most of the amber I saw was dark and I heard that some of the chunks that have been found weigh over 15 pounds.




I didn’t see a lot of silver jewelry; most of it was gold, amber and bronze.  The piece above looks to be a loop in loop chain.


Viking Knit copy

Oddly enough, I didn’t see much of the so-called Viking Knit although the above picture appears to be an example.

Here are some more pictures.


To see a list of museums with permanent Viking exhibitions, press here. 

In the spirit of Viking Jewelry,  I plan to post another tutorial in the next few weeks as a follow up to Viking Knit Unraveled and Revealed.

I believe that I have come up with a comprehensible explanation of  the double weave and can illustrate it clearly.  Plus I will give directions for a DIY tool that makes it easier to begin the Viking Knit.  Stay tuned!

Copenhagen’s Hidden Shopping Treasures


Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, which is supposed to be the happiest country on earth. Now I had always heard depression is more prevalent in places like Scandinavia where the winter days are short and cold. But as I grow older, I have come to realize that happiness is not having what you want; it’s being grateful for what you have.

What the residents of Copenhagen have is a city dotted with consignment shops, resale stores and thrift shops. And it’s not considered gauche to be seen patronizing these establishments. I don’t know about you but if I lived in Copenhagen, that would be enough to make me ecstatic.

I was determined to find some of these places. My quest led me away from the tourist traps and into a the residential neighborhoods of the City. Along the way, I found an area peppered with vintage and antique stores which were perfect for buying gifts and souvenirs. Here’s what I found:

Bla Kors Gebrug is located in a residential neighborhood near the Danish Museum of Art and Design. This is a charity shop meaning that it is a non-profit and less pricy than consignment shops.
The space was large but there were not many clothes at the time I was there. No matter; what they did have was quality and in good condition. I bought a striking lined felt merino wool shell and a long, wide silk-blend scarf–and I found two pair of circular knitting needles. The cost for everything was under $15.00 US. A visit to the Design Museum rounded out the day.


The next day, we spent the morning at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and then headed West on Vesterbrodgade in search of more treasure. I was not disappointed.  I checked out two resale shops: Genbrug where they sell most items by the kilo, and and Kirkens Genbrug. Both of these are also charity shops.



If you are into vintage, don’t miss Genbrug. Besides womens’s clothes (grouped by decade – 60’s, 70’s and so on) they sell accessories including a wide range of purses and pocketbooks. Not everything is in top condition, so it is advisable to examine before you buy. The store is crammed with clothes and very popular so I would bet there’s a lot of turnover.

Kirkens Genbrug sells women’s and children’s clothes, books, tchotchkes, accessories, housewares, small appliances and whatever else anyone donates. The inventory was in good condition. Their clothes were a little less retro and more to my taste. I didn’t buy anything here, but I wanted a sweater the cashier was wrapping up for someone else. Isn’t that always the way?


My big surprise was finding a cluster of curio and curiosity shops around 170 Vesterbrogade. When I started out on my shopping exploration, I did not expect to find so many interesting antique shops. Most of the items they sold fit more into the vintage than the antique category meaning that they were charming and affordable. It also meant that my gift recipients would not be getting T shirts, refrigerator magnets or Viking statues. Ok, maybe one Viking statue but that’s a special case.


I stumbled into a little place called Antike Kate at Vesterbrogade 177. The store was stuffed with china and crystal and jewelry and trinket boxes, ornate frames, vases, silver candlestick holders and vintage picture frames. And more. I bought an amber pendant on a silver chain and a vintage picture frame for gifts and a small old-fashioned flat iron that I will use in my metal work. I wish I had bought more things; I could have done most of my Christmas shopping.


Antike Kate was only one of many curio shops on that stretch of Vesterbrogade. Many of them had merchandise out on the sidewalk to lure customers. A waiter back at our hotel said that tourists routinely complained about how expensive things are in Copenhagen. And they are. So he was surprised when I told him that I found some cool stuff at a good price.

I enjoy exploring antique and curio shops when I am outside the US because the stock is different than what I’m used to and, if you ask, there’s always a proprietor to tell the story that goes with an item. I always learn something even if I don’t buy.

And looking is free.