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Old 22nd August 2016, 07:18 PM   #1
Cthulhu
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Default Ram's head khanjar for comment

This dagger (which I'm calling a khanjar) recently came into my possession. I'd be curious to know anyone's opinion on it. If it's old, how old and where from, or am I going to be sad to learn it's made for ebay? It has one of the more artistically accurate animals I've seen on a knife, but the horns do seem a tad outlandish and impractical for a actual-use knife. And, if it's actually period-made, if anyone would be willing to PM me a valuation, I'd be grateful.

Also I'd love to see any photos similar figural hilts in member's collections.

Thanks!
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Old 22nd August 2016, 08:47 PM   #2
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Yes, Indo-Persian Khanjar.
The handle is old, with spots of rust, tarnish and pitting.
The blade, however, is pristine and the wootz pattern is very similar to modern Indian examples.
There is some black mastique oozing from the slit in the handle. Epoxy?
Where did you get it from?
Rajastan?
I am sorry for my paranoid remarks, but that's IMHO.
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Old 22nd August 2016, 09:18 PM   #3
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Ariel you came first:-), but I would also like to know, what are the flaws on the blade in the third picture?
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Old 22nd August 2016, 09:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Yes, Indo-Persian Khanjar.
The handle is old, with spots of rust, tarnish and pitting.
The blade, however, is pristine and the wootz pattern is very similar to modern Indian examples.
There is some black mastique oozing from the slit in the handle. Epoxy?
Where did you get it from?
Rajastan?
I am sorry for my paranoid remarks, but that's IMHO.
If anything was new I would say the handle is and the blade is old and refitted to the handle, I see no signs of wear on the edges of the handle.
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Old 22nd August 2016, 11:25 PM   #5
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The black lines on the blade in photo 3 are easier to see in the photo than in person, but the upper one looks like a crack or surface forging flaw, and the lower one definitely looks like a crack, particularly because it has a similar line directly on the other side of the blade. I can just barely feel their presence rubbing the point of a toothpick across them.

I can't tell what the black material holding the blade in place is. Is black an unlikely color for an authentic piece?

The blade doesn't seem much more pristine than a real antique (authenticated by Bonham's) kard I have. But, on the khanjar's blade there's no rust/etc at the base of the blade where it meets the hilt (ie in the hard-to-clean places), that does point more towards newness, I guess, particularly with the hilt having pitting.

I didn't get the knife in Rajastan, no. It was in the US.

And I'm slightly confounded that now there are opposite opinions on what's old and what isn't. Maybe both are new? Or old?

And the hilt design; it seems plausible as an old piece?
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Old 23rd August 2016, 12:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
The blade, however, is pristine and the wootz pattern is very similar to modern Indian examples.
.
Ariel, I have not seen any newly made Indian daggers that have a wootz pattern that looks as good as this one, except when an older blade is attached to a new handle, do you have any examples. I look at the newly made Ebay examples from Indian and they do not look convincing to me.
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Old 23rd August 2016, 05:57 AM   #7
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I feel relatively certain that it's a marriage; the blade and hilt did not originate together. I base this on the condition of the hilt, especially near the blade insertion area, relative to the seeming total lack of corrosion on the blade.

When you finally decide you can no longer live with the tension caused by this dichotomy, I'd be pleased to take it off your hands.
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Old 23rd August 2016, 08:25 AM   #8
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....

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Old 23rd August 2016, 08:49 AM   #9
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It is not uncommon for broken blades from other weapons to be incorporated into daggers... I think the damage near the hilt is because of this re match.... Nice hilt and a good example of the Zoomorphic nature of these daggers.
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Old 23rd August 2016, 05:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
The blade, however, is pristine and the wootz pattern is very similar to modern Indian examples.
I thought new Indian "wootz" looked different than this........
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Old 23rd August 2016, 05:18 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cthulhu
And I'm slightly confounded that now there are opposite opinions on what's old and what isn't. Maybe both are new? Or old?

And the hilt design; it seems plausible as an old piece?
Nothing said here is absolute from what I can see. While rams head hits are common enough I have not seen this particular type before in either old or newly made daggers. I think the blade is old but determining the age of the hilt will be very difficult and in the end you will just have to make your own assessment.

I do not know of any newly made Indian blades that have the look of yours and as for it being fairly clean looking this can be explained in several ways. Unless someone can come up with an example of a similar looking wootz blade that is definitely newly made I would assume that the blade is old and the handle is one of two possibilities, original / old or more recent.
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Old 23rd August 2016, 07:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
It is not uncommon for broken blades from other weapons to be incorporated into daggers... I think the damage near the hilt is because of this re match.... Nice hilt and a good example of the Zoomorphic nature of these daggers.
First, I know next to nothing about Indian weapons but in my opinion you have hit the nail here! Old broken blade (from this the cracks in the blade) with an IMVHO old hilt, I see the wear in the good pictures, look the last picture in #1. And also the pitting at the handle let me think it's an old one. Both old/antique and put together I think.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 23rd August 2016, 09:21 PM   #13
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First, why Indo-Persian?! I am pretty sure this is a 100% Indian khanjar (AKA Mughal Dagger) that has nothing to do with Persia.

I like to believe that I am pretty familiar with current Indian production of swords & daggers.

In my opinion, both hilt and blade are old.

All recent production examples I have seen have hilts carved in stone (jade, soapstone, agate, jasper, etc.), bone, fake ivory, etc. but definitely not iron. Why?! Because Iron is very dificult to carve. Moreover, your hilt does not bear any characteristic of machining and is almost certainly chiseled and filed by hand. As far as I know, carved iron hilts of this type were quite popular in the 19th century, and that's precisely when I believe your hilt was made.

As with regards with the wootz blade, it appears to be crystalline wootz that was produced by the end of the classic wootz period, namely the first half of 19th century.

However, crystalline wootz quite similar to this is also currently produced but it is quite rare and definitely highly prized. Since yours displays very fine watering, as close as it gets to the classic wootz, I believe it is old because if it were newly produced, it would have been more expensive than classic wootz and would have definitely been mounted in a more exclusive hilt.

As with regards to the crack, it is possible the blade had an earlier mount but was damaged and then was remounted in the current hilt. However, I believe that this may have happened at least a century ago.

My conclusion is that you have an excellent classic example of a 19th century Mughal dagger.

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Old 23rd August 2016, 09:51 PM   #14
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While I have no problem with the idea that the blade might have been installed in the hilt after, perhaps some time after, the hilt came into being, I suspect it may have been made for a weapon of the relatively same dimensions as it currently exists. My thinking stems from the contours of the blade itself, with the gracefully thickened point and general recurved contours. In other words, the blade seems to me to be pretty much the ideal size and shape for the role it is playing.

This is not to deny the possibility of its having been broken, presumably near the hilt, in an earlier installation. This would also help account for the flaws seen near the hilt.

I'm comfortable locating its origin to an area between the Persian Gulf and the Irrawaddy River, below the Hindu Kush. It is undoubtedly older than I am.
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Old 24th August 2016, 02:01 AM   #15
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Thanks for the opinions and discussion; it's really interesting to learn a little of the thought process that goes into these evaluations.

Thanks also to Ibrahiim for the photos of other ram's head daggers. Aside from being nice pieces, they help me feel more confident that the protruding horns on my knife aren't ridiculously over-decorative.

I looked at some photos of wootz reproductions and billets on ebay, and I really can't tell the difference between them and my knife. But I also can't tell the difference between them and photos of period wootz, so I think I'm the real point of failure there. Is there somewhere (site/book/forum thread) with an explanation (and better yet side-by-side comparison photos) of what to look for? Or is it more a matter of experience and "feel"?
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Old 24th August 2016, 05:28 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
It is not uncommon for broken blades from other weapons to be incorporated into daggers... I think the damage near the hilt is because of this re match.... Nice hilt and a good example of the Zoomorphic nature of these daggers.
Ibrahiim, two of your examples are modern made.
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Old 24th August 2016, 07:13 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
Ibrahiim, two of your examples are modern made.
Without better close-up photos is hard to tell.

However, my bet is that they are both old pieces (at least the hilts) but recently decorated. The golden one appears to have a new pattern welded blade, while the silver one appears to have an original wootz blade.

It is very easy to take a dagger like the one in the original posting, replace old/damaged parts (blade, hilt or only fixtures) if necessary, clean it nicely, apply Koftgari lavishly, furbish it with a new matching scabbard and sell it for 3-5 times the price it would have raised in its original state.

This is a very, very widely spread practice in India these days as Koftgari artists are abundant and their work comes cheap.

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Old 24th August 2016, 08:13 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Without better close-up photos is hard to tell.

However, my bet is that they are both old pieces (at least the hilts) but recently decorated. The golden one appears to have a new pattern welded blade, while the silver one appears to have an original wootz blade.
Both are completely modern. No mention of wootz on the first and I think they were being very liberal with this "first quarter of the 20th Century" The second one does not even give a date, look at the sales price / estimates, the auction house knew what these were.

Quote:
Lot 170: A kardThe Great Sale of Fine & Scarce Antique Arms & Armour, Day 1by Czerny's International Auction HouseMay 25, 2013 Sarzana (SP), Italy

Realized Price: Ä400 Verified
Estimated Price: Ä400 - Ä600
Description: Curved, toothed, double-edged blade, ribbed at the centre, at the forte a mount decorated with silver-inlaid floral motifs; fine, iron grip with pommel shaped as a ram head, entirely silver-inlaid with effigy of peacock among racemes; wooden scabbard with green velvet covering.
provenance: India
dimensions: length 32.5 cm.
dating: first quarter of the 20th Century

Quote:
A FINE INDO PERSIAN DAMASCUS GOLD NIELLO DAGGER. The slightly curved Damascus steel blade with
Jackson's Auctioneers

Lot closed:
Apr 06, 2013 9am CDT
Estimate:
150 USD - 200 USD

A FINE INDO PERSIAN DAMASCUS GOLD NIELLO DAGGER. The slightly curved Damascus steel blade with saw tooth back, the handle and rams head pommel with ornate gold niello foliage. The velvet covered scabbard with similarly decorated gold niello mounts. Overall length 16 inches (40.7 cm).
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Old 24th August 2016, 08:33 AM   #19
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There is a good reason to be a bit suspicious when in doubt.
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Old 24th August 2016, 08:39 AM   #20
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Here is one from the Art Institute of Chicago, I have some doubts about this one as well, 17th to 18th century????

Quote:
Curved Dagger (Khanjar) with Ram-Head Pommel, Mughal period, 17th/18th century

Watered steel inlaid with gold and silver in the kuftgari technique
28.6 x 5.7 x 2.9 cm (11 1/4 x 2 1/4 x 1 1/8 in.)
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Old 24th August 2016, 08:47 AM   #21
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Now this one shows some real wear, what you would expect from a genuinely old dagger.

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17th Century

India

Wootz Steel.

Lenght: 34.9 cm.

North Indian Khanjar dagger. The hilt is of chiseled steel, with fully-modeled ramís head pommel. The knucklebow issues from a makaraís mouth and terminates in a horseís head, while the guard is chiseled with elephantís heads in relief.

The broad, curved double-edged blade forged of fine silver wootz damascus steel, bears two deep fullers and a pronounced median ridge, developing into a thick armor-piercing tip.
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Old 24th August 2016, 09:58 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
Here is one from the Art Institute of Chicago, I have some doubts about this one as well, 17th to 18th century????
You have doubts and rightfully so. This one is 19th century at best, but then again, I suspect new Koftgari. So if the Art Institute if Chicago can be so obviously wrong, then...

Possibly the golden one to be completely new, blade scabbard and all Koftgary for sure but the hilt not so sure. It can simply be an old hilt cleaned and decorated anew. Since the whole surface of the hilt is covered in Koftgari, it would be almost impossible to say whether is old or new.

As with regards, to the auction house knowing very well what they were selling... based on my experience with quite reputed auction houses, I have serious doubts about that as well.

I have seen myself magnificent antique pieces selling dirt cheap (even acquired a couple of such pieces) and obvious modern replicas selling for extortionately high prices. And I'm talking about reputed and specialised auction houses not about obscure/unknown back-yard ones.

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Old 24th August 2016, 10:07 AM   #23
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Not wanting to get into a ravel over age on examples of rams heads I have posted I simply loaded on some Rams Heads...Clearly these Hilts have entered the traditions ...and should be viewed as such. The project dagger with probable replacement blade is typical of Indian style.. and is a good example.
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Old 24th August 2016, 10:49 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc

Possibly the golden one to be completely new, blade scabbard and all Koftgary for sure but the hilt not so sure. It can simply be an old hilt cleaned and decorated anew. Since the whole surface of the hilt is covered in Koftgari, it would be almost impossible to say whether is old or new.
That is why a data base of images is very valuable. Now when you say "As far as I know, carved iron hilts of this type were quite popular in the 19th century" the currently available images do not back this up, yes there are Indian rams head daggers but I know of only a few that are carved iron, this is why when one shows up it gets questioned. Take a look at the photo below, both daggers newly made without a doubt in my opinion.

If anyone has another image of an Indian dagger with a carved iron rams head hilt I would like to see it.
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Old 24th August 2016, 01:31 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
That is why a data base of images is very valuable. Now when you say "As far as I know, carved iron hilts of this type were quite popular in the 19th century" the currently available images do not back this up, yes there are Indian rams head daggers but I know of only a few that are carved iron, this is why when one shows up it gets questioned. Take a look at the photo below, both daggers newly made without a doubt in my opinion.

If anyone has another image of an Indian dagger with a carved iron rams head hilt I would like to see it.
So what do we have here?!
Two almost identical new pattern welded blades.
Two almost identical new scabbards.
Two almost identical new koftgari works.
Two almost identical ram hilts... that are almost certainly new. So, in this case I believe there is very little doubt.

Excellent point!

Yet, this doesn't impair my initial oppinion that the dagger of the original posting is a 19th century piece, both hilt and blade.
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Old 24th August 2016, 05:11 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
That is why a data base of images is very valuable. Now when you say "As far as I know, carved iron hilts of this type were quite popular in the 19th century" the currently available images do not back this up, yes there are Indian rams head daggers but I know of only a few that are carved iron, this is why when one shows up it gets questioned. Take a look at the photo below, both daggers newly made without a doubt in my opinion.

If anyone has another image of an Indian dagger with a carved iron rams head hilt I would like to see it.
Is not the dagger that you have accepted as old in your post #21 a "carved iron hilt"? Does the existence of this dagger therefore not make a case that such hilts existed in antiquity?
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Old 24th August 2016, 05:27 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Is not the dagger that you have accepted as old in your post #21 a "carved iron hilt"? Does the existence of this dagger therefore not make a case that such hilts existed in antiquity?
David, while we have evidence of rams head hilts, there are not many known examples of carved iron rams head hilts. If they were actually popular ("As far as I know, carved iron hilts of this type were quite popular in the 19th century") were are they?

The one in question seems to have no wear to the edges and in fact has red rust which is sometimes a sign if a newly made iron item. As for the pitting, this can be made through various methods but how do you explain the lack of wear as seen in the hilt of #21?

It may be old and then again it may be new, you have to be a bit skeptical in cases like this.
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Old 24th August 2016, 06:21 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
Now this one shows some real wear, what you would expect from a genuinely old dagger.
Estcrh, i was referring to THIS dagger (below) of which you made the remark above in post #21, not the originally posted dagger. Then you then asked in post #24:
"If anyone has another image of an Indian dagger with a carved iron rams head hilt I would like to see it."
My point is that apparently one that you have already accept as old has indeed been posted, establishing that such hilts did exist in antiquity.
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Old 24th August 2016, 06:35 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Estcrh, i was referring to THIS dagger (below) of which you made the remark above in post #21, not the originally posted dagger. Then you then asked in post #24:
"If anyone has another image of an Indian dagger with a carved iron rams head hilt I would like to see it."
My point is that apparently one that you have already accept as old has indeed been posted, establishing that such hilts did exist in antiquity.
David, I know which one you are referring to, and it has signs of use as you can see, but were are the other examples if a carved iron rams heads was a "common" hilt type?

I am asking if anyone has any other examples to compare with.
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Old 24th August 2016, 07:34 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
As with regards, to the auction house knowing very well what they were selling... based on my experience with quite reputed auction houses, I have serious doubts about that as well.

I have seen myself magnificent antique pieces selling dirt cheap (even acquired a couple of such pieces) and obvious modern replicas selling for extortionately high prices. And I'm talking about reputed and specialised auction houses not about obscure/unknown back-yard ones.
Same experience!
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