Pictish chains of silver

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From Whitecleugh, Lanarkshire; Traprain Law, East Lothian; Torvean, Inverness-shire; Haddington, East Lothian; Parkhill, Aberdeenshire; Whitlaw, Lauder, Berwickshire

Postcard of Pictish chains of silver.
© National Museums Scotland

Pictish chains of silver

These six heavy silver chains were found at Whitecleugh in Lanarkshire, Traprain Law in East Lothian, Torvean in Inverness-shire, Haddington in East Lothian, Parkhill in Aberdeenshire and at Whitley at Lauder in Berwickshire.

Most of the chains are formed by linking double rings of silver. In a few cases a penannular terminal ring survives, which on the Whitecleugh and Parkhill examples is ornamented with symbols similar to those on Pictish stones, highlighted by red enamel.

Although commonly attributed to the Picts, only three of the ten surviving heavy chains have been found in the Pictish kingdom proper. They were almost certainly badges of high rank - perhaps the equivalent of 'crown jewels' in a land of many kings.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-036-326-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.FC 248
Date: 6th or 7th century
Between 400 and 800
Material: Silver with red enamel; of double rings; penannular ring engraved with two of the symbols of the sculptured stones
Silver; double rings; without terminal ring
Silver; massive; double rings
Silver; nineteen pairs of circular rings; single ring at one end
Silver; of double rings; penannular terminal ring engraved with one of the symbols of the sculptured stones
Silver; small double rings
Dimensions: 44 oz weight
53 oz 15 dwt weight
62.5 oz weight
Weight 93 oz
What: Chain
Chain / portion
Where: Scotland, Aberdeenshire, New Machar, Parkhill
Scotland, Berwickshire, Lauder, Whitley
Scotland, East Lothian, Haddington
Scotland, East Lothian, Traprain Law
Scotland, Inverness-shire, Inverness, Caledonian Canal
Scotland, Lanarkshire, Crawfordjohn, Whitecleugh
Description: Pictish chain of double rings of silver with penannular terminal ring engraved with one of the symbols of the sculptured stones, from Parkhill, Aberdeenshire
Pictish chain of double rings of silver found in digging the Caledonian Canal, near Inverness
Pictish chain of small double rings of silver, from near Haddington, East Lothian
Pictish chain of 22 double links with a penannular terminal ring, the ring engraved with designs inlaid with red enamel, found at Whitecleugh, Lanarkshire
Portion of a massive Pictish chain of double rings of silver, from Whitley, Lauder
Massive Pictish silver chain consisting of nineteen pairs of circular rings with a single ring at one end, from Traprain Law
  • Youngs, Susan (ed). 'The Work of Angels'. Masterpieces of Celtic metalwork, 6th-9th centuries AD. London: British Museums Publications Ltd, 1989, p. 28. 
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