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Burmese Niello, Copper & Silver Short Sword with Silver & Copper-inlaid Blade (Dha-lwe)

circa 1920

length: 41cm, weight: 666g



UK art market

This short Burmese sword or dha-lwe is unusual because it is made completely of metal and incorporates a mixture of metals and techniques.

It has a single-edged steel blade. The blade is inlaid on both sides not only with silver but unusually also copper. The scabbard and hilt similarly are inlaid with silver and copper. They also feature niello work whereby black enamelling also has been applied.

The decoration includes various scenes from tradition Burmese legend including one where a figure is being eaten by a tiger. There are also many cartouches of Burmese script which explain the scenes.

The end of the hilt comprises a large lotus bud finial, decorated with niello work.

Fraser-Lu (1994, p. 148) says that such silver-inlaid blades were made in Min-dan village in Yamethin district. The blades were first forged from rod iron acquired from nearby Pyaw-bwe. The area to be decorated was scored using a chisel with cross-hatching (this is visible on the blade here). Strands of silver (and in this case copper) were then carefully placed in position on the blade using tweezers, and were then hammered onto the iron, the cross-hatching allowing the silver to adhere to the iron. The blade was then gently re-heated and then lightly re-hammered so that the silver  and copper would bond further with the iron.

The dha-lwe is in excellent condition. It is a relatively rare example given the use of mixed metals.


Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.

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