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Fine Bhutan Silver & Gilt Dagger (Kongdi Maja) with Shagreen

18th-19th century

length: 41.4cm, weight: 526g



private collection

This very fine and unusual example of a traditional Bhutanese dagger or kongdi maja has a sharp, single-edged steel blade.

The hilt comprises a faceted grip covered in fine cream-coloured shagreen (stingray skin) and a cap-shaped pommel covered in parcel-gilt silver decorated with Bhutanese Buddhist symbols on one side and on the top and with a pierced, honeycomb trellis on the other.

The unusual and very fine scabbard comprises a fine, open-work parcel-gilt silver panel decorated with Himalayan Buddhistic symbols amid densely-entwined, lacy, fern-like leafy scroll work, over a green shagreen covering.

The reverse of the scabbard is covered with a plain panel of green shagreen covering bordered by pierced silver panels.

A dagger of this quality would almost certainly have been made for a member of the Bhutanese nobility.

A related Bhutanese dagger is in the Wallace Collection, London (inventory no. 1684). The catalogue detailing the Wallace Collection’s oriental arms and armour collection describes the Collection’s example as a ‘short dirk’ attributed to the mid-sixteenth century. This dating might seem ambitious, although it should be noted that the Wallace Collection was formed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries during which time the Collection’s Bhutanese dagger joined the collection. It almost certainly was already quite old by the time it joined the collection, judging by its patina and condition.

The example here is an excellent example of a Bhutanese dagger being of the highest quality. There is a small, age-related toss to a small section of silverwork on a border on the hilt, but otherwise, the dagger is in fine condition.


Laking, G.F., Oriental Arms and Armour: Wallace Collection Catalogues, 1964.

LaRocca, D.J., Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.

Myers, D., and S. Bean (eds), From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan, Serindia, 1994.

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