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Old 22nd February 2017, 09:16 PM   #29
Gavin Nugent
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,402

Originally Posted by Ian
I am confident that the first example in my last post here is not from the 1970s. Its condition and the amount of oxidation on the silver compare to provenanced examples of Shan knives from the 19th C.--those very familiar knives with silver hilts and scabbards. Just as you must have, I've handled scores of these over the years and older examples show similar wear and oxidation to the Lao example I show above.

Hi Ian,

A point worth noting about the oxidisation from my experience is that degrees of colour and patina is based on impurities in the silvers used.
I've found it in both 18th and 20th century silver, some with native hallmarks.
I am sure it is not limited to, but the higher quality silvers have patinated to blues and purples, whilst others from both ends of the age window have been blackish, brown copperish and even hints of gold in places where some form of flux has been used.
With regards to the hallmarks, I'd guess it is like any other known form of noting that tax has been paid on the silver sheets used. Again, I am sure it is not limited to, but those of an appearance you wouldn't consider silver until polished, I'd expect them at face value to be from more provincial areas where regulations and taxes were less exacting.

Originally Posted by Ian
But back to our two theories. If I'm stating you correctly, you believe that the Burmese developed the distinctive repoussed, segmented style of scabbard as a highly decorative and prestigious form, almost entirely for distinguished individuals and presentation pieces. You would date this development to the appearance of the British in Burma, and specifically around the mid-19th C. Therefore, the appearance of these features on Lao/northern Thai swords would have been in imitation of the Burmese style.

Not quite; I do not believe The Lao/Thai swords are an imitation of at all. If anything, and only as a matter of thought, not fact, that the Burmese "Story" Dah developed in its own right from inspiration of the repousse silver hilts swords of Thai/Lao swords. I am sceptical about the sectional repousse scabbards of Laos being any older that the 1950-70s. Has anyone an image of these reputed royal Laos swords from which Thit Thong Ratanakorn copied his swords from?

Originally Posted by Ian
My competing idea is that this style evolved from an earlier Lan Chang (i.e. Lao) style following the collapse of the Lan Chang era in the early 18th C. This would place it primarily as a Lao style, with perhaps later diffusion to Burma. [There are, of course, other explanations such as independent parallel development of the two, which seems unlikely, or that both developed from a (presently unknown) prior style.]

In support of your view, you point to the large number of Thai/Lao swords you have seen and handled (and there are many on your site), and how rare it is to see segmented scabbards on these. That's a powerful argument, but not exactly a systematic attempt to answer the question of whether these segmented forms developed from an earlier Lan Chang style. Indeed, to disprove your Burmese origin theory it would only be necessary to find one or two Lao/Thai examples that predate the mid-19th C.

I have provided pictures of what I think is a 19th C. Lao example. You question that dating. Fair enough.

As with so many competing theories in our field, we need to have clearly provenanced pieces. These are likely to be found in museums of far away places which I seldom get to these days. Or they might be located in some of the former colonial countries. Or they may reside in the hands of some of our readers who will post them here.

Let's see if anything shows up.


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