Icelandic Bind-Runes: A Source for Design Ideas

Runes are the alphabets of the ancient Norsemen; because runes were meant to be carved, and not written, they were usually made up of straight lines. In addition to being used for writing, runes were also used for divination and other magical purposes. The Icelanders expanded this idea: they created bind-runes, multiple runes put together in a single glyph, usually for a magical purpose. Whether one does or does not believe in the effectiveness of bind-runes, they can provide the modern jeweler with a source of inspiration. Because runes are made of straight lines, bind-runes are easy to carve. But bind-runes give one’s work an exotic appearance.

Here, I’m going to talk about making a pair of earrings that contain a relatively simply ‘charm for good luck’ bind-rune. It combines a G rune (resembles an X) which with an F rune (resembles a modern F with the arms lowered and tilted up). The G rune symbolizes a gift and the F rune symbolizes money or success. Thus, combined, they serve as a ‘good luck’ sign.

The first step is to carve the bind rune in a block of linoleum. Since one is making earrings, one needs to make two versions of the bind-rune that are mirror images of each other. Obviously, if one is using a design that is symmetric, so the original and mirror image are the same, one can skip this step.

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This can be treated like any texture sheet for metal clay. Lubricate with something that will cause the metal clay to not stick, roll the metal clay to the desired thickness, and then cut out the shapes for the earrings, including making holes for the earwires. Because these are to be earrings, I made them 0.75 mm thick (so they weighed less). I chose to put the bind-runes on circles, although any other shape would have done as well. I chose to use bronze, to carry the ‘archaic’ feel. Finally, I dried my metal clay on a plastic dome (half of a plastic Easter egg), because I like my work to have some three-dimensionality to it. Obviously, none of these choices are mandatory. If you want to use silver, make your earrings flat, or make them ‘puffy triangles’, there is no reason your design choices should match mine!

After firing and tumbling, the earrings looked like this.

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All that remains is applying the patina of one’s choice and attaching earwires. I chose a light patina.

Two views of the finished earrings appear below, with a coin for approximate scale.

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The number of possible bind-runes is immense. Discussing them is well beyond the scope of what I have to say here. However, finding new designs (and creating your own, if you are so inclined) is easy with a bit of internet research into runes. You don’t need to be an Icelander (or even a Viking) to find artistic inspiration in Icelandic bind-runes.

 

 

 

 

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