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The 9th century to the 15th century were some of the golden years of armor throughout Europe. During these centuries, innovation in metalworking and manufacturing techniques made a knight’s suit of armor more prized and protective, but it all came at a high cost. A typical man-at-arms couldn’t afford the same decorative armor that a nobleman could. Gilded armor made of gold could equal the price of several typical suits of armor, and some experts even estimate that the most expensive suits ever made could be worth more than $3 million today. But of course during the Medieval Times, these costs were measured compared to days wages. For example, one imported suit of Milanese armor could equal 100 to 166 days wages for the average knight. When you take into consideration armor for horses, weapons, and the amount of care that goes into protecting an armorer’s hard work, the cost of armor today would exceed tens of thousands of dollars for one simple suit– and sometimes even more than $500,000 for ceremonial armor.
We’ve seen many different types of armor throughout history, from chainmail to quilted fabric and leather to the shining metal suits often displayed in museums and the homes of the wealthy. These shining suits were often called white harnesses and contributed to knights earning the nickname “steel sculptures.” Here’s how much a knight’s suit of armor would cost today, as well as the factors that went into deciding the price of these expensive pieces of protection.
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00:31 The cost of armor, then and now
03:05 What armor was made of and how it was used
05:14 The golden age of armor
06:17 Noblemen vs men-at-arms”