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Worn Within: How did Sølje become Norwegian heirlooms?

By Liz Bucheit 

WATCH: Sølje is not your ordinary jewelry - it possesses magical powers.

Sølje, meaning "shiny" or "sunny" in Norwegian, is the traditional jewelry of Norway. It is the umbrella term for all Norwegian silver jewelry or adornment. 


This is Liz Bucheit. As a woman of Norwegian descent, Liz grew up with many sølje jewelry and traditions, but she never fully understood the complexity of these heirloom pieces until her schooling in Ireland and Norway. There, she learned the history and artistry of her traditional jewelry, and she now teaches, as well as repairs and designs her own sølje jewelry collection called Crown Trout Jewelers. 

Jewelry has always marked great and significant moments of my life. My mother is of Norwegian descent, and she kept many of her traditions alive and vibrant in our house as I was growing up. As a baby, she pinned a tiny silver brooch to my baby pillow to protect me from the trolls. Technically, I owned my first sølje before I was a year old!

Newborns usually receive sølje pins.
Newborns usually receive sølje pins.

When I was a youngster, I would marvel at all the varieties of sølje brooches in my mother’s jewelry chest and would try them on in front of the mirror endlessly until I was a sparkling, tinkling vision. As a young girl turning 16, I received my first significant sølje brooch, which represented my transition to young adulthood. Little did I realize that my first “real” pin would earmark the beginning of my adventure into the realm of the traditions surrounding the history, mystery and unique beauty of Norwegian silver.

When I married, my mother presented me with one of her own brooches. This piece was larger, with more drops and golden discs, and you could hear me coming from the musical sound of them moving.

The sølje Bucheit received as a newly married woman.
The sølje Bucheit received as a newly married woman.

“To keep you safe so the mountain king doesn’t kidnap you on the way to the wedding,” she laughed.

I never did figure out if the mountain king would leave me and take the silver or if the silver would simply scare him away. Needless to say, I felt a sort of magical protection on an equally magical day.

When my grandmother died, I inherited her beautiful collection of sølje brooches. By that time, I not only admired the pieces for their beauty and design. As a goldsmith, I began my true appreciation for the technical expertise that goes into the creation of this unique style of jewelry and the importance of continuing this legacy throughout my own work.

I’ve since given my baby sølje to the first newborn in our immediate family, and it continues to travel across extended households and children, always resting, protecting and sparkling on the pillow of each generation to come. This silver "thread" keeps us connected to the past and preserves this shining tradition for the future.

Want to learn about other approaches to traditional clothing? Check out more episodes of Worn Within.

Production Team: Susan Thao, Carrie Clark, Eric Pagel, and Kristen Blekum
Illustrations and Graphics: Maria Ahrens and Ben Malley 

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This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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