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Old 20th February 2017, 11:51 AM   #25
Gavin Nugent
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,402

Originally Posted by Ian
Hi Gavin:

I want to press you a little further on the repoussed silver work on the scabbards of these swords. I understand that these scabbards were likely produced in Burma, either by Burmese craftsmen or imported metal smiths.

I think you would agree that it is unusual to find this segmented style of silver scabbard on Burmese dha, with the exception of these "story dha" that seem to have arisen around the mid-19th C. as commemorative items and perhaps for foreign consumption.

The arrangement of the scabbard elements into contiguous cells or segments is very similar to what has been found on Lao hilts and scabbards that pre-date this period and that appear to have evolved in the mid- to late-18th C. (from an earlier Lan Xang style). Some of the Lao silver work of that period was particularly fine, and they seem to have brought the repoussed metal technique to a fine art in the second half of the 18th C. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that Burmese repoussed metalware was found to a great degree or of a high quality in the late 18th C.--those techniques and skills being learned and adopted from the Lao around that time.

I would like to have your thoughts on this as I have several repoussed silver scabbards on Lao and Burmese swords that appear quite similar.



Hi Ian,

Segmented scabbards are very common on many types of Burmese Dah in plain and repousse styling and far less common on Laos and Thai swords which for 90+% are plain silver sheet with embellished ends...the other 10% or less that are of segmented scabbards are rarely seen and usually not repousse.

Hilts are a different story, for centuries, as you note, this aspect has been present on Thai and Laos swords...why did it not follow through to the scabbard in these countries in these times? On Royal swords it did, but not to my knowledge segmented types of scabbards but certainly repousse.
All others were suspended by baldrics could be one answer as why they weren't repousse scabbard as Royal swords had sword bearers. These Burmese swords are hung by suspension loops in a very European manner, not baldric or sash worn and can display such work.

If I understand correctly the swords you refer to, are mostly royal swords and none to my knowledge are interlocked in the manner of these "story" dah except the 1970s zodiac examples which are reputed to be based on swords held by the royal house...swords I've never seen.

Who genetically worked in these Burmese guilds I cannot say, but as a Burmese production under the British Raj and later Independent Burmese government, we are talking 150+ years here of craft here I see the people as Burmese and English. During the period of the manufacture of these prestigious swords and other fine export silver, there were clear lines/borders defined between the colonial powers of Britain and France...

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