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Qajar Jambiya with Carved Walrus Ivory Hilt & Original Leather Sheaf

early 19th century

length: 41cm, weight: 436g



private collection, UK

This Persian jambiya is a finer example of this type than is usually encountered. It has a curved, double-edged, watered steel blade; an ivory hilt carved with figural scenes; and it retains its original leather-encased scabbard.

The walrus-ivory hilt shows ample wear from handling and use. It is finely carved on both sides with naked, frolicking infants and adults, and once central figure kneeling and clothed in a robe. The reverse of the hilt appears to show Adam and Eve and includes an overhead angel with wings. Christian iconography does sometimes appear on these hilts.

The top and bottom of the hilt, on both sides, is carved with a rounded catouche filled with finely rendered nasta’liq script.

Each of the four panels of script contain different messages. The top panel on the front of the dagger has an inscription that is identical to an example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see Alexander, 2015, p. 224). Both read as ‘The handle of your dagger is world-seizing’.

The scabbard has an impressed design on the front of Islamic-inspired trellised scrollwork. The chape is of silver and ends in a bud-like finial. The reverse of the scabbard has a small, damaged pouch, that would have held a smaller knife but this is no longer present. The scabbard is brittle and cracked, but importantly is still present.

Overall, this is a fine example.


Alexander, D., Islamic Arms and Armor: in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2015.

Hales, R., Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, Robert Hale CI Ltd, 2013.

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