Excellent notes and great to see such good discussion along with such superb examples!
I very much agree on the 'rams horn' appellation applied by Dr, Mazansky, and while an interesting analogy, I have not been able to find other use of the term used on these Scottish basket hilts in nomenclature.
I looked through many references in Celtic and Pictish art and found no specific symbolic note to rams, however they did appear occasionally as a theme in drinking horns, quite appropriately .
The volute or paired discs were in a good number of representations but termed simply 'double discs', so ideas for deeper symbolism seem to have given way to more likely aesthetic instances.
As pointed out these type elements were well known on the Continent and into much earlier material culture, so placing any distinct connection would be unlikely.
So too is the problem of aligning distinct and chronological development of the basket or closed hilt, as fully developed hilt guards were developing in rapiers as well as in various form in the Continent as well as in England concurrently. These developments would seem to be understandable as armour began its obsolescence with advent of firearms, and combat techniques with swords changed.
Cathey, as always, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful examples of basket hilts!!! This thread is entirely addictive!
With the most recent one, the intriguing pierced heart motif appears, and I recall years ago trying to determine if any specific symbolism or purpose. I know this topic seems a bit fanciful, but it is believed that the Jacobites did use certain secret symbols in degree. It seems like it was Mazansky who, when asked, scoffed at the idea and claimed this was simply an easy to make style of decoration with two drilled holes and punched lines.
Have you or Rex or perhaps the Baron possibly formed ideas on this particular device in basket hilt motif? I know it was used as well on other material culture ( a Scottish chair I have).