The Manufacture of Viking Oval Brooches
Many objects of personal adornment, such as brooches, were mass-produced in the Viking Age.
The technique of producing a mass-produced oval brooch, such as the 9th century example from Meløy, Norway shown on the right, is explained below.
The illustrations and descriptions are taken from “Mass Production in the Viking Age” by Signe Horn Fugelsang, in “From Viking to Crusader”, Else Roesdahl, et. al. (eds), 1992.
The image on the right shows Tortoise brooches from a grave in Hemlanden, Birka
Image: Wikimedia Commons (click on the image to enlarge)
| A master mould is made bearing the
impression of either a ready-made brooch,
or a newly-designed model.
| Casting models are formed in this master.
Each wax model is retouched and details
may be added.
| A mould is made by covering the wax model
with many thin layers of tempered clay.
| The wax having been melted, runs away
(known as cire perdue). Wax pegs are
inserted for the hinge plates and catch-plate.
| A small piece of cloth is dipped in melted
wax, and while still warm and flexible is
pressed into the mould. This determines the
shape and thickness of the resultant
| The lower piece of the mould is built up over
the cloth with tempered clay. The complete
mould is heated and the melted wax runs
| The two pieces of the mould are separated
and the cloth removed. The mould is
reassembled and the edges sealed.
| The mould is heated and bronze melted in a
crucible. The molten metal is poured into
the mould while it stands in the hearth.
| The mould gradually cools down. It is
broken and the brooch removed.
| The upper surface of the brooch is
| The catch-plate is bent, holes are bored in
the hinge plates and the pin attached.
The brooch is ready.
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