Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Houston, TX, USA
OK, first; Of course, I can't be sure with a photo, but I think that's magic marker. I'm serious; that's what the black stuff on the handle is; tell me it's not? If it is, you might get it off with careful solvents or a sharp cabinet scraper without staining or cutting the wood, because there appears to be an original built-up clear finish under it, but you probably don't want to mess with that, under your particular relationship to the piece,as a curator. The black on the sheath is a typical naturally occuring pattern in the wood; it looks like it might be caused by a tree disease (like many interesting patterns), but I don't really know; some woods tend towards colourful localized mineral deposites, too.
I've seen that mask before, on the sheath of an heirloom k(e)ris of an Indonesian restauranteur in Pennsylvania. He said it was there to guard the blade against evil spirits.
I don't know that iras gonja/gonjo iras k(e)ris were traditionally made to cut corners. Admittedly especially with kris sundang, one sees some that are pretty fancy in other ways, if nothing else. It has been my impression that such is kris is ritually/magically different; it is not bounded like an ordinary kris, not divided from the holder, the world; would this make it spiritless allowing the spirit to escape? Or would this have to do with some sort of possession/trance state? Nothing solid, mind you; impressions.
I think where you see a sword type meant as a cheaper version of kris (and one without kris' legal, ethical, religious, social, and magical limitations, as well) is the forward-leaning pedang with the double-edged tip; sorry, but I can only remember its obsolete "Western" name at the moment; the sword formerly known as tempius. Also, with gunong, especially large gunong. Some of these have a very kris-like angling and curvature.