This fine knife and sheaf or scabbard would have been worn by a nomad in western Tibet. The scabbard of wood or horn that has been partly clad in silver that is mounted with nine coral and turquoise cabochons and beads in silver box settings. The silver panels are engraved with Himalayan scrollwork with ‘pearled’ silver borders.
The stones and quality of the silverwork mark this set out as a particularly sumptuous piece so it would have been reserved for use during important ceremonial occasions and festivals.
The blade is of single-edged steel that comes to a point.
The blade handle is encased horn and with silver mounted with a single coral bead in a silver box setting. The handle has two rivets and one hole through which additional leather strapping could be threaded.
A leather strap is attached to the sheaf and this is decorated with four attractive silver bosses chased with flower designs. It is secured with a round, white glass bead.
The knife set has a superb patina; its significant age is obvious. There is wear to the silver commensurate with age and much use. There is a small additional socket in the sheaf or scabbard which might once have held another tiny knife or blade.
The knife is from the collection of Sir Christopher Ondaatje. Ondaatje is of Sinhalese and Dutch ancestry and was born in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was known) in 1933. A businessman, writer and Olympian, he is the older brother of author Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, among many works.