Sunday, September 6, 2009

Today's Vintage Jewelry Word - Solje

Today's vintage jewelry word is solje. Solje jewelry is a particular style which is the traditional national jewelry of the Scandinavian country Norway.

The jewelry normally consists of a setting of sterling silver from which hang tear shaped "spoons" in either silver or gold metal. The background piece will often have an interesting edge design, such as a crown, or a scalloped surround. The piece normally has a repoussé finish.

Many of the pieces are marked 830s, or 830s Norway which is a hallmark for the metal content (similar to 925 for sterling silver). Each region of Norway has its own style of Solje.

Solje pieces were used, at one time, to add accenting to the traditional Norwegian costumes, which are called Bunads. The Solje pieces were meant to represent the sun, and were worn on collars and cuffs, normally as brooches and pins.

It was not unusual for a Norwegian woman to wear three pieces of this jewelry at once - one at her throat, one over her heart and another at the bodice opening. The art has evolved over time so that one can now find earrings, necklaces and other pieces of jewelry in the Solje style.
Pieces of Solje jewelry were often given as wedding presents, for Christenings and other special occasions, etc. The size of the piece of jewelry is a good indication of the use that it may have had. Smaller pieces up to about 1" in size, such as the circle brooch shown here, were probably given as gifts to babies and children. Larger pieces were more likely worn by women.

Since Solje jewelry is traditionally made from silver, it will tarnish over time - sometimes quite heavily, although this gives it an aged patina that many vintage jewelry collectors appreciate. This is an example of a piece of solje jewelry with a very dark patina. The tarnish is so strong that, at first, I couldn't make out the 830s mark on the back of the piece. Notice how the setting has much more of a patina than the "spoons." This seems to be the case on most of the Solje jewelry that I find in estate collections.

Some care in storage and cleaning will be required if you wish to keep Solje jewelry looking fine. The first step in the procedure is storing your Solje jewelry in the original box if possible. If the original box is not available, store the piece in anti-tarnish paper, bag or cloth and place in an air tight container such as a zip lock bag, to reduce tarnishing.

I have read many articles discussing the polishing of Solje jewelry and most of them recommend a silver dip. I don't believe this is a good idea, since these are often very harsh and the settings of Solje jewelry can be quite delicate. My advice is to use sunshine cloths if the tarnish is not too great, or a cream style of silver cleaner and a soft, clean cloth, such as a piece from an old soft cotton T shirt.

If your piece of Solje jewelry becomes dirty over time, a gentle soak in a mild detergent and warm water should do just fine. Be sure to dry it thoroughly before storing the piece. As with all jewelry, when you wear your Solje jewelry, put it on after using hairspray or perfume and this will decrease the likelihood of tarnish. With a bit of care, you will be able to keep your Solje jewelry looking good for years to come.


  1. Thank you for this informative article. My New Zealand father gave me a brooch many years ago and told me, "this is from your Norwegian great grandmother." Being young at the time I did not appreciate the history. I have since researched my Norwegian ancestors were shipwrecked off the coast of New Zealand in 1879 after sailing from Norway, via England.
    A Norwegian visitor identified the brooch for me yesterday as an authentic solje. It is in good condition and stamped with 830S on back. It has 6 spoons, with heart shaped twirls and tear drops. How would I go about finding out which region of Norway the brooch may have come from?

  2. I'm afraid I don't have that information from you. There are 18 regions in Norway and each region has at least one style of bunad. In addition, each of the regions may have different styles of solje.

    I have not been able to find information about the individual styles of solje, however.

    Perhaps a study of the different types of bunads may give you more information to help you in linking your pin to a specific region. If the brooch came from your Norwegian great grandmother, the area she was born in may be the region for the solje that she purchased.

    I'm sorry that I don't have more information for you.



  3. I have a wedding solje given to me by my grandmother. The maker's mark on the back says Wikanta. The piece is 4.25 inches long, has gold spoons and 5 pieces hanging from the heart. The crown is unusual in that is also filigree. I think the brooch is probably 100 years old. Can you tell me anything about the Wikanta mark?

  4. I'm not familiar with the particular mark. There are many designers in Norway, and any of them could have made the piece and put their mark on it. I had a look in a website called Mystery Marks, which has a comprehensive list of different silver marks and this one is not listed.


  5. I just want to correct you a little bit: Soljes (søljer) and bunads are still produced and worn i Norway, they don't need to be antique. You can have a look here: and here
    if you want to see more søljer.