Thistle Brooch

Near Ardagh, County Limerick
10 century, CE
Viking Period
17.8 cm
The National Museum of Ireland

This silver thistle brooch is emblematic of a new style of  brooches which emerged during the Viking period.  The use of silver-gilt represents the popularity and prevalence of silver which was facilitated by the new Viking trade routes.  The ring of the brooch is penannular with the pin running through the gap in its center.  The pin tapers to a dull, flattened point where the tip is missing.  The pin originates from a silver-gilt ball.  Two similar silver balls form the terminals of the ring.  The silver-gilt used to create these balls is brambled, making them look texturally like thistles, hence the name, thistle brooch.

The recovery of this brooch occurred near Ardagh, where a wealth of precious artifacts were found.  A young boy digging up potatoes discovered the remains found near Ardagh over one hundred years ago.  Ardagh is most notably known for the recovery of its famous silver chalice.