This is a particularly fine example of a short Tibetan sword.
The good quality blade is straight, single-edged and rounded to an oblique tip. A light ‘hairpin’ pattern is visible running along the blade, likely the result of the blade having been forged in Tibetan from several rods of so-called ‘soft’ iron and several rods of ‘hard’ iron. This is typical of Tibetan blades of the period (LaRocca, 2006, p. 157).
The pommel is of trefoil form. It is of brass, iron and silver and is inset with a large coral cabochon in a silver box setting. The front is decorated with brass (possibly gilt) scrollwork. A lug on the reverse of the pommel allowed the sword to be suspended.
The grip is of square form and wrapped in silver wire. The centre of the front of the grip is decorated with an applied silver band and an unusual central roundel engraved with a yin-yang motif. The lower section of the grip is decorated with an inset rectangular plaque that is decorated with brass scrollwork.
The scabbard is of chased silver over pinewood slats, within iron and brass sides. The top of the scabbard is decorated with a superb protective silver kurtimukha face. The rest of the front of the scabbard is beautifully chased in silver with the eight auspicious symbols of Tibetan Buddhism: the parasol, the conch, the chakra wheel, the lotus, the treasure vase, and so on.
The mid section of the scabbard is inset with a large coral cabochon. The chape is similarly decorated with an especially large coral-like cabochon.
The reverse of the scabbard is undecorated and the pinewood slat is visible as is typical. The backs of Tibetan swords usually are un-embellished because this was the side that hung against the wearer and decoration would catch on the clothing.
The sword has excellent wear and patina. It is in an excellent, original condition.
Hales, R., Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion, Robert Hale CI Ltd, 2013.
LaRocca, D.J., Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.
Reynolds, V., Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.