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Old 1st March 2019, 03:25 PM   #1
William Fox
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Default Wootz Dagger, Persian?

Hi gents.

Please see some photos of a dagger I purchased recently. It has a green leather scabbard, which is quite worn and so I've given it a bit of light leather oil.

The blade appears to be wootz, quite dark in colour. I would love to know what kind of wootz this is. Can anyone guess the age or region?

The handle appears to be made of bone, or horn, with a thin copper neck.

I would really appreciate any opinions on this dagger.

All the best.
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Old 1st March 2019, 06:21 PM   #2
mahratt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Fox
Hi gents.

Please see some photos of a dagger I purchased recently. It has a green leather scabbard, which is quite worn and so I've given it a bit of light leather oil.

The blade appears to be wootz, quite dark in colour. I would love to know what kind of wootz this is. Can anyone guess the age or region?

The handle appears to be made of bone, or horn, with a thin copper neck.

I would really appreciate any opinions on this dagger.

All the best.


The blade can be Persian. Handle, in my opinion, modern work from the horn of a cow.
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Old 1st March 2019, 07:42 PM   #3
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The blade is indeed Persian, it is a classic Khanjar.
I cannot see the handle well, and cannot comment on its age and material. One needs to hold it and often inspect it with a magnifier. It may be a cow horn judging from the white spots, but the tang is peaned, and this is something that is not often seen on contemporary replacements. In any case, handles were made from organic materials , got damaged and replaced. I would put any hesitations about the handle on a back burner.

The wootz... it is fine. You are asking about its name ( variety).
I think we could safely call it Khorasan, but there is a problem: there are more than 30 names for the wootz patterns in different sources, and we have reasonably uniform definition of maybe 5-7 of them. Wootz was made in multiple localities, its pattern depended in large measure on the forging technique of the smith, and we have no idea how the smith viewed his creation. Again, as I mentioned above, most names, mentioned in contemporaneous sources from different localities , have no defined equivalents in existing examples. What was called Bayaz Stambouli might have been called something different in another place. This is not what we see in Indonesian Kris pamor, where each pattern can be firmly attributed.

The very definition of wootz is a relatively novel field. Every blade with a pattern used to be called Damascus, whether it was real wootz, mechanical one or even superficially etched. Suffice it to say, that even a book by Rawson, published in 1967 did not distinguished them. Anosov is credited with reinventing the technique of wootz manufacture and claimed that he created blades with sophisticated Persian patterns, such as Khorasan and Taban. However, all his existing creations show the simplest Sham pattern. He was brought information about making wootz ingots, but lacked knowledge about forging tricks.


Even now, with extensive study of metallography, sophisticated metallurgical equipment etc, contemporary wootz bladesmiths cannot make even a short blade identical to the old ones. Long blades are even more unapproachable. I know of only one bladesmith from Georgia named Zaqro Nonikashvili, whose work come close to the sophisticated beauty of old masters.

So much of the old knowledge was lost..... Manufacture of wootz blades practically ceased by the mid-19th century and mass production of European monosteels of superior quality made wootz obsolete. The art of wootz manufacture simply went the way of Dodo.

Last edited by ariel : 1st March 2019 at 07:52 PM.
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Old 1st March 2019, 08:33 PM   #4
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Hi
Kurdish dagger northern Iran.
The blade is Persian and old 19th c. but the hilt looks early 20th c.
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Old 1st March 2019, 09:29 PM   #5
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I am so impressed by the knowledge of the people who contribute to this forum. Thank you so much for your advice.

The handle looks used, (pretty old), but I agree not as old as the blade. I attach some more pictures of the handle/grip, as well as the scabbard.

Please note the wire wrap at the tip of the scabbard, and also little strips of the same wire running through the scabbard joining seam. There are the remains of velvet at the throat of the scabbard, but it is well worn.

Is the consensus that this is a Kurdish style khanjar from Northern Iraq? I was in Irbil a few years ago, but didn't buy this dagger there.
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Old 1st March 2019, 09:46 PM   #6
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Kurdish or not can be inferred only from the handle. But if it was replaced, the only orientir is lost.

Elgood makes an excellent point that Indian swords ( and, likely, daggers) should be usually viewed as a “marriage” of unrelated blades and handles. In fact, he suggests that perfect matching usually means late 19-early 20th century manufacture in one or another Royal workshops. He stresses that Victoria/Albert collection obtained early consists largely of mismatched samples, whereas Wallace collection assembled after 1870, is virtually 100% perfectly matched:-)

With better pics: blade Persian, scabbard Ottoman, handle replacement. Overall, looks good and sufficiently old to be real.
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Old 2nd March 2019, 11:05 AM   #7
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I agree 100% with Ariel, but I disagree on the last sentence.
The scabbard is pure Persian, I have seen many like that.
Persians liked the green, color of islam and shiaa.
The scabbard is 19th c and matches perfectly with the blade.
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Old 2nd March 2019, 07:29 PM   #8
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I am curious about the varying quality of wootz steel. This dagger blade is attractive, but the pattern appears crude compared with the Persian sword I own that I posted on this site some time ago. I guess as with any art, the level of excellence of wootz steel blades varied over time and place, from smith to smith.
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Old 3rd March 2019, 12:12 AM   #9
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My attribution of the scabbard to Ottoman Empire stems purely from the wire stitching.
If we assume that the handle ( likely the most recent component) is N. Iraqi, that area till the end of WWI belonged to the Ottomans. Persian blades were sold all over. Iraq has large Shia populations, and even Sunni had nothing against the color of Muhammed’s Banner.
All these assumptions are exactly that and no more. I might be wrong, but at least I have some potentially supportive arguments. If anybody points out to their lack of validity, I will not argue.
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Old 3rd March 2019, 03:45 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
My attribution of the scabbard to Ottoman Empire stems purely from the wire stitching.


Incorrect you have also wire stitching in the Persian empire

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
If we assume that the handle ( likely the most recent component) is N. Iraqi,


Incorrect the handle is North Iran where you have also Kurdish people

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
even Sunni had nothing against the color of Muhammed’s Banner.


Correct

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I might be wrong, but at least I have some potentially supportive arguments. If anybody points out to their lack of validity, I will not argue.


Please look at catalogues, museums and even on the web, you will see that you are wrong.
And there is nothing bad about it, i do mistakes every single day. But i learn.
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Old 3rd March 2019, 04:03 AM   #11
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Ready to learn: can you show examples?
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Old 3rd March 2019, 09:07 AM   #12
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My pleasure
But you have a lot of books, just look in Khorasani you'll find some too.
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Old 3rd March 2019, 10:58 AM   #13
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You might be right: 100% or predominantly Persian.
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Old 3rd March 2019, 12:34 PM   #14
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Very similar
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Old 5th March 2019, 02:04 PM   #15
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I have heard that the green colour in the leather scabbards (which is often the colour on the leather of the scabbards of cretan knifes) is due to its treatment (tanning) inside a liquid consisting of water and trims of bronze. These trims oxidise and give this green colour, which helps in the preservation of leather. I dont know if thiw explanation is valid.
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Old 7th March 2019, 01:58 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eftihis
I have heard that the green colour in the leather scabbards (which is often the colour on the leather of the scabbards of cretan knifes) is due to its treatment (tanning) inside a liquid consisting of water and trims of bronze. These trims oxidise and give this green colour, which helps in the preservation of leather. I dont know if thiw explanation is valid.


It's interesting
i ve seen many Greek knives Cretean with green scabbards from the 19th c
now it seems that they are black, am i wrong?
Do you know when they change from green to black??
if it's after the independency then maybe it's linked to the Ottomans departure...
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Old 7th March 2019, 02:58 PM   #17
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Hi William,
I am not an expert like Ariel and Kubur, so I can only join in with what is already said. Quality Persian Khanjar blade, re-mounted in the Kurdish style. The hilt material is horn, probably not water buffalo horn like most Kurdish daggers, but could be cow, goat or sheep-hard to say. There is no reason to think that the hilt is modern in any way. It is also hard to say whether the sheath is as old as the blade or as the hilt, but it is of good quality.
Some collectors may look down on such pieces because they are not in their original condition, but I think it has its charm, because it shows how these quality blades were valued and reused, something that is very common in swords, but less so with daggers.
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Old 8th March 2019, 09:45 PM   #18
William Fox
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motan
Hi William,
I am not an expert like Ariel and Kubur, so I can only join in with what is already said. Quality Persian Khanjar blade, re-mounted in the Kurdish style. The hilt material is horn, probably not water buffalo horn like most Kurdish daggers, but could be cow, goat or sheep-hard to say. There is no reason to think that the hilt is modern in any way. It is also hard to say whether the sheath is as old as the blade or as the hilt, but it is of good quality.
Some collectors may look down on such pieces because they are not in their original condition, but I think it has its charm, because it shows how these quality blades were valued and reused, something that is very common in swords, but less so with daggers.


Thanks Motan. So true.
I have a Japanese sword with a 15th century blade in WW2 mounts. British officers remounted Persian wootz shamshir blades in 19th regulation century cavalry hilts. Quality and prestigious blades were hilted throughout history.

I'm fascinated by the different patterns of wootz steel created in Persia. Can anyone recommend the best books on the subject that would help me identify the different styles of Persian steel?
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Old 9th March 2019, 06:23 PM   #19
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G'day William,
This style of Persian khanjar blade can be found on a variety of different hilts from all over the place, but almost always seem to be made of good quality Wootz. Does this tell us that these blades were widely prized, but all produced in a relatively tight time-frame and location?
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 9th March 2019, 08:49 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Fox
I'm fascinated by the different patterns of wootz steel created in Persia. Can anyone recommend the best books on the subject that would help me identify the different styles of Persian steel?


On Damascus Steel by Leo Figiel would be a starting place.
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