Rings and brooches with gold filigree provide evidence of Germans working in gold dating from the mid-first century B.C. to the beginning of the first century A.D. The Germans actually preferred Roman silver to gold and evidence of them working in silver dates to roughly the same period.
While working in these precious metals was important to the Germans, and was perhaps more importantly of interest to the Romans, the Germans viewed iron-working as the most important craft of all. Evidence has been found of large iron manufacturing centers, but most iron was produced in smaller quantities by local smiths.
Thus, Tacitus’ assertion that “iron is not plentiful among them” seems to have been derived from ignorance rather than fact. Salt was also an important commodity and was often the object of tribal conflict. Pottery, wood-working, textiles and leather were also important industries. In all of these areas, Germanic technology progressed in fits and starts, often stagnating in isolated spots or progressing rapidly in others.
UP NEXT: Early Germanic Society - Sacrifice
Malcolm Todd, The Northern Barbarians