The second group of the Eldar to set out were the people of Finwë. They were greater in number than the Vanyar and took longer to come to the western shores, but when they did they were ferried by Ulmo to the Undying Lands.
These Elves most loved knowledge and always craved to learn more, hence they were the called the "Noldor" meaning "those with knowledge." They were beloved of the Valar Aulë, who was a smith, and the Noldor became great craftsmen, especially in the making of jewels.
Finwë's son, Fëanor, crafted the most beautiful of all jewels, the Silmarils, which held the light of the Valar's two Trees of Light. Because of Fëanor's pride in and love of the Silmarils, the Noldor became estranged from the Valar. Melkor, who had been released from bondage by Valar, destroyed the Trees and stole the Silmarils before fleeing the Undying Lands for the far north of Middle Earth.
After this, the Noldor decided to leave Valinor and return to Middle Earth, to seek the Silmarils and where they could rule their own lands and travel freely without the Valar's oversight.
Before they left, Fëanor and his sons sworn an oath that they would always seek the Silmarils and would take them by violence, if necessary, from anyone else who held them. This oath caused the Valar to bring down a terrible doom on the Noldor, which was announced to them by Mandos as they fled Valinor. In large part it was this oath and the deeds it required of the sons of Fëanor to fulfill it that were responsible for most of the suffering of the Elves in Middle Earth.
Once in Middle Earth the Noldor established many great kingdoms, among which were the hidden realms of Nargothrond and Gondolin. Their High Kings included Fingolfin, Fingon, Turgon, and Gil-galad.
- Tolkien's first name for the Noldor was "Gnomes" which has as it's root the Greek word "gnosis" (to know.)
- The Noldor were distinquished from the Vanyar by their dark hair and grey eyes.
- When they returned to Middle Earth, Thingol, one of the two great Elf Lords there, was cool towards them. They were on friendlier terms with the second Lord, Círdan the Shipwright, Lord of the Falathrim.