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Old 25th February 2020, 10:49 PM   #1
vilhelmsson
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Default New Rock Crystal Pesh-kabz

I've recently started collecting Indian arms, and, partly in response to Jens's request for more India related posts, here's a pesh-kabz I picked up recently. Comments welcome!

For comparison, I purchased a nice modern replica off of EBay for the sake of evaluating the chemistry of the two pieces with a portable XRF and better understanding the difference between an antique pesh-kabz and a modern one.

I think it should be self-evident when they are next to each other which dagger is the antique and which is modern. But the antique is the one with the classic, high quality wootz and high clarity rock crystal hilt, and the replica is the one with lower quality wootz and cloudy crystal hilt.

The antique is roughly 50 cm long and the replica is roughly 38 cm long.

The steel of the antique has the chemistry of pre-industrial steel while the steel of the replica has the chemistry of modern steel. The antique is also very sharp whereas the replica is not so sharp.

The seller dated the antique to the 18th or 19th century, and when it was at auction at Sotheby's a few years ago it was dated to the 18th century. The seller of the replica was honest in his representations and said it was modern.

The hilt is of very high clarity crystal with a carved pattern at the upper edge. It's difficult to discern a difference between rock crystal and basic glass because they share a chemistry of SiO2. Both the replica and the antique are a pure SiO2.

The bolster of each dagger is inlaid in gold koftgari, but the gold of the antique is clearly antique gold while the gold of the replica is modern gold. The koftgari on the antique is also much more finely worked and impressive in the details of its floral motifs.

The koftgari on the antique continues down the entire length of the T-section spine.

The scabbard on the replica is simple green felt and I do not depict it below. Since appearing at Sotheby's, the seller has wrapped the original wood scabbard in red antique velvet and it is set with its original gilt-bronze mounts which depict flowers and birds or butterflies or maybe bees?

As a nice bonus, the dagger also makes an appearance in Arms and Armour of India, Nepal & Sri Lanka by Ravinder Reddy (a highly recommended book written from the perspective of and for the collector of Indian, or really any, arms).

Right now, this is probably my favorite piece in my collection. It's just beautiful and substantial.

There are a few public comparables that have sold at auction over the past decade. The most notable public comparable at a museum that I've found is the one at The Met; love the enamel inlay: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/31823

There is supposedly a comparable in the Al-Sabah collection (inv. no.LNS 279 HS; published in S. Kaoukji, Precious Indian Weapons and Other Princely Accoutrements, London, 2017, p.265). I was wondering if anyone could share pictures of this item?

Any nice pesh-kabz's, with or without rock-crystal hilts, out there to share? Or other rock-crystal hilts?
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Old 26th February 2020, 04:56 AM   #2
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Very impressive piece, congratulations! On p.265 of the Al Sabah catalogue there is simply a rock crystal hilt. There are two more crystal hilted pesh-kabz in the same book, one with a hilt of one solid piece and one with a full tang and scales of rick crystal. I took quick pictures of those few pages for reference.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 26th February 2020, 07:10 AM   #3
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Double posting...

Last edited by mariusgmioc : 26th February 2020 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 26th February 2020, 07:21 AM   #4
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Congratulations! Very beautiful pieces.

Classic Indian wootz blade, probably early 19 century, with more recent (probably around 1900) hilt.

Most daggers with one piece rock hilts are not suitable for combat use as the joint between the hilt and the blade cannot withstand strong shocks, and the hilts themselves are prone to cracking. They became popular around 1900 when daggers gained more of a decorative/status role.

My two cents...
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Old 26th February 2020, 12:52 PM   #5
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Congratulations.

Great dagger. I was offered this dagger a few years ago.
But at that time already I was exclusively collecting arms and armor of Afghanistan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Classic Indian wootz blade, probably early 19 century, with more recent (probably around 1900) hilt.

Most daggers with one piece rock hilts are not suitable for combat use as the joint between the hilt and the blade cannot withstand strong shocks, and the hilts themselves are prone to cracking. They became popular around 1900 when daggers gained more of a decorative/status role.


I agree with Marius.
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Old 26th February 2020, 02:03 PM   #6
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I had to go back and forth to figure out which one is which:-((
Do both of them have chamfered edges? Those were often seen on Afghani pesh kabzes , including Mahsud ch’huras. Blades of that nature were produced en masse and hilted and rehilted repeatedly with whatever handle happened to be available for irrespective of their age and origin.

Just looking at the pics, I am not sure whether wootz on the smaller one is modern. Wootz patterns varied enormously and while a classy Kara-taban is highly likely to be old and Persian, the indistinct and undistinguished ones could have been made any time and anywhere. Attaching a handle is the easiest part.

Single piece rock crystal handles had an unsolvable problem: they were designed for beauty, but strong, large, crudely patinated tangs ruined the image. They had to make their tangs short and skinny ( mouse tail), with all the mechanical problems of Indonesian Kris, only worse. I fully agree with Marius: those were status symbols devoid of any practical value short of spearing a strawberry.

I would be very cautious relying on al Sabah book: they apparently had an agenda to date and attribute their collection items according to the wishes of the owner.

Last edited by ariel : 26th February 2020 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 26th February 2020, 03:57 PM   #7
Jens Nordlunde
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Here is one of my crystal hilts. Not with a Pesh Kabz blade - but still a nice hilt.
In one of his books Robert Elgood mentions that Belgien exported glass hilts to India.
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Old 28th February 2020, 03:51 PM   #8
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Basically glass is warm to the touch and crystalline materials are cold. Use your lips to see the difference. Glass warm, quartz cold. Any piece of glass can be used a comparison.
Quartz is doubly refractive: if you look through the stone at a spot on the other side the spot looks doubled. Glass does not do this.
Scratch tests are never recommended for precious objects: as mentioned above, glass can scratch glass, quartz will scratch quartz.
Any curious and helpful gemologist can check it and tell you with very little effort, and they should do it at no charge.
I was s professional gemologist for 39 years 😉
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Old 5th March 2020, 03:58 PM   #9
Jens Nordlunde
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Marius,
According to the al-Sabah catalogue, your nice crystal hilt, is showing the head of an Arabian breed.
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Old 6th March 2020, 05:20 AM   #10
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I thought about it, but we need an en face picture of the head.
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Old 6th March 2020, 02:54 PM   #11
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You are right Ariel, here are two pictures attached, and according to the text, it is not only how the horse is holding/turning the ears, it also has something to do with the way the head is sculptured.
Presious Indian Weapons, and Other Princely Accoutrements. The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait. Thames and Hudson, 2017. The author is Salam Kaoukji.
The one with the rubies is cat. no 67 and the other one is cat. no 67
No 67 is said to be a Marwari horse head and no 68 is said to be an Arabian horse head.
The same pictures can also be found in Treasury of The World, Jewelled Arts of India in the Age og the Mughals. Thames and Hudson, 2001. Here the authors are Manuel Keene and Salam Kaoukji. Nos. 8.18 and 8.19.
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Old 7th March 2020, 05:14 PM   #12
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Very interesting!

However, mine seems to have bigger ears... maybe is a donkey?!
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Old 15th March 2020, 04:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vilhelmsson
Comments welcome!

The bolster and the blade not later than the first half of the 18th century. I know that for sure
And there is reason to believe that this is from Hyderabad.
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Old 15th March 2020, 05:51 PM   #14
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Mercenary,
Please let us know the reasons why you think it is from Hyderabad, and at the same time let us know if you mean Hyderabad in Pakisthan or in the Deccan.
It will be easier for the readers if you tell us the reasons and give us the precise place.
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Old 15th March 2020, 10:22 PM   #15
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This is a fairly unique style of design. Usually items decorated in the same style erroneously dated back to the first half of the 17th century and attributed to the Deccan, less often to the Mughals. I met such a style on objects with excellent provenance no later than the first half of the 18th century. Among some items from Hyderabad (Deccan), but this may be a coincidence.
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Old 15th March 2020, 10:44 PM   #16
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Thank you for your answer.
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