What Are Viking Beard Beads? A Brief History

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1909
Viking Beard | Image via Lakeview Jewelry
Viking Beard Beads | Image via Lakeview Jewelry

What are “Viking beard beads”?

It might surprise you to find out that the trend of putting ornaments and trinkets in your beard started long before the 2010s. Like 1000+ years before. In fact, beads and rings were used by the Vikings themselves. Or rather, we think they might have been. Confused? Well, beads and rings and other bits of jewelry are pretty common finds in Viking graves and burials. But there’s relatively little conclusive proof that the Vikings used beads or rings in their beards. Regardless, today there is a whole new beard trend using beads and rings in Viking-style beards.  

I’ve always loved the Vikings, and I recently wrote an article on Viking beards. As a follow-up, this post will look at what Viking beard beads are and how they are used in beards today. We will start by asking some simple questions.

Are “Viking beard beads” actually Viking?

Short answer: no one really knows  As noted above, the Vikings seem to have been pretty big fans of jewelry. In addition to rings, they wore amulets, necklaces, and bracelets. So it’s pretty easy to imagine that they may also have worn jewelry in their hair, and possibly in their beards. When a Viking hoard or a Viking burial site is discovered today, human remains tend to be in pretty rough shape due to age and weathering conditions. That makes identifying jewelry difficult; it’s hard to tell what might have been used where. So while the idea of Vikings using beads (which were valuable commodities back then) or rings in their hair isn’t entirely far-fetched, there’s no definitive proof to indicate it actually happened.  

Regardless of what may have actually been the case, today we often think of Vikings as wearing ornaments in their beards. A lot of this stems from popular culture. The Lord of the Rings movies, in the early 2000s, gave their dwarves long beards with rings in them, along with other Norse elements. The very popular Vikings TV show, still on the air today, took the idea even further. Half of the Viking warriors in the show, at least, are portrayed with either beads or rings.  While “Viking beard beads” may not be entirely accurate, today most people associate beard ornaments with a Viking style.

Are “Viking beard beads” actually beads?

Yes! But they’re not ONLY beads. In Viking times, beads were valuable pieces of jewelry, like gold or silver rings. So while beads may have been used, metal rings and even simple leather ties or straps could have also been employed.  Today, “beard beads” is a pretty generic term. Most of what passes as Viking beard jewelry are rings. A quick search will show you very generic rings and more ornate ones, frequently based on Norse or Viking designs.

When I think of beads, I think of small round bits of colored glass, but if you search “Viking beard beads” on Amazon, you’ll find far more beard rings than true beads. Few bear any resemblance to the round pebbles my mind associates with the word. Many beard rings are wrought in the shape of animals typically associated with Norse or Viking culture.  These rings are shaped liked a raven’s head, and this one features a wolf.  Others feature Celtic designs, like the ones below. Celtic or Irish knots are other common themes.

So they’re not really “Viking,” and not really “beard beads;” what are they then, and what are they used for?

Today, I would define “Viking beard beads” as “Norse or Viking-inspired beard jewelry.”  These aren’t the baubles shown at the top.  Most will have Celtic or Norse designs, and they might even be modeled after actual Viking jewelry.  

I think there are two primary uses for them today. The first doesn’t have much to do with beards at all; the beads have become very popular today in dreadlocks. Viking beads aren’t the only ones used that way, but many are sold on Amazon as both beard beads and dreadlock beads. The second use is as part of the classic “Viking beard” look. In a modern Viking beard, the beard is frequently either braided or held in shape using beard beads. Either one or both are required to make a beard a “Viking beard.”  

Beard Bead Tips

When you use your Viking beard beads, use a smaller size than you think you will need. You want the rings to “grip” your hair; if they’re too big, the rings will just slide off. If you’re the kind of guy who wants a distinct style, look for rings that are copies of actual ancient Viking designs. Need an actual tutorial to help you figure it out?  Check out this super-helpful YouTube video.

Conclusion

Viking Beard Beads is a bit of a misnomer, but the items themselves are increasingly popular today. They are nearly always rings of some kind, and they are used either as fashion accessories or to help hold a beard in a particular style. The history of Viking beard beads is murky, but most of the designs today feature Viking, Norse, or Celtic designs or inspiration.

Should you wear beard beads?  Well, that question is up to you; not everyone can pull off a Viking beard, and beard beads take an extra level of commitment. I hope you enjoyed this article!  I’ve tried to answer the basic questions about the origins of Viking beard beads. If there are any that I’ve missed, leave the additional questions in the comments below.

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