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Old 21st February 2017, 11:30 PM   #26
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Little House on the Prairie
Posts: 2,383

Originally posted by Gavin Nugent:

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...

Hi Gavin:

Hmmm. Perhaps we are talking about slightly different things.

In any case, I am posting here two swords that I think show the segmented Lao scabbards. The first also has a segmented hilt.

The first one I posted here about eight months ago when I picked it up online. Having cleaned the hilt and scabbard, the silver work has come up rather well to show some nice repousse work and an unadorned segment on the scabbard where the rope baldric would have been attached. In fact, there are still very faint impressions of the rope that once wound around it. Judging from the condition of the silver work, its style, and quality (good but not great) I would think it is from the 19th C. Incidentally, the blade that came with these fittings was a late 20th C. replacement and a piece of junk!

The second is a late 20th C. sword made by a Lao craftsman whose name I knew once but now cannot find in my records. There are at least three or four of these swords that he has made, maybe more. I purchased this one in the 1990s. The silver covered scabbard has a series of segments in which a different animal is depicted. The ivory hilt on this one is not segmented, but I like the "naked" ivory tusk and silver work. (Incidentally, Scott Rodell has a fine Cochin saber with a similar hilt that appears on his web site. I had the pleasure of handling this sword a few years ago at Timonium and it was beautifully balanced.)

I have another two or three examples similar to the first one, so I don't think that these segmented scabbards are necessarily "rare" on Lao swords, however I do believe they are a distinct style that the Lao developed.

When it comes to Burmese scabbards, I think we are probably talking about different things. To get a handle on your impressions, I went to your web site and looked through all your old pics. I found four Burmese dha with what I would call segmented scabbard decorations--these were all high end, presentation type swords. I excluded Shan and Yunnan decorated dha that might give the appearance of segmented patterns along the scabbard, but which have cut out areas where the wood shows through--clearly a different style from the Lao segmented scabbards.

The numbers of Thai and Lao daab on your site were too numerous to count, but a quick inspection showed few, if any, with the segmented patterns that I show below. A substantial fraction had no scabbard.

It seems that the segmented pattern of which I am talking is not common, on either Burmese or Thai/Lao swords. I know there are others here who collect dha/daab and perhaps they could share some of their examples.

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