A rare piece of Viking gold dating back more than a thousand years was discovered by an amateur treasure hunter in Co. Down.

The Telegraph reports that Tom Crawford was pursuing his hobby with his metal detector in farmland in Brickland in Co. Down last year, when he made the discovery.

Crawford also discovered a tiny silver ring brooch with unusual floral imprints.

"I found a scrap piece of metal, I later found out it was a gold piece," he explained.

He added: "When you do find something it gives you a bit of enthusiasm to go on and look for more."

Experts say it could have been used as currency during the ninth and 10th centuries.

"It is all part of the big jigsaw of the history of this country," he told a Belfast inquest convened to establish if the find was treasure.

He added later: "Every little bit that is found is part of the jigsaw and when I think that I have covered a few fields in this country and there are hundreds of thousands of fields throughout Northern Ireland that no metal detector has ever been in, so what is lying out there could be all sorts of things.

"You would need hundreds of metal detectors to go over the fields but a lot of stuff could still be lying there."

According to history records, the Vikings plundered Loughbrickland in 833 AD.

An expert told the inquest that the gold could have been as a result of contact between the locals and the Scandinavians.

Dr Greer Ramsey, curator at Armagh County Museum said the ingots during the Viking period were used as currency.

"Gold is extremely rare in the Viking period, there are vast quantities of silver.

"There are very, very few parallels to the ingot," he added.

A small Viking gold ingot which was found at Brickland, Co. Down and dates to the later ninth/tenth century.Sean Barden/Armagh County Museum/PA Wire