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Old 14th September 2019, 10:37 PM   #1
CharlesS
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Default The Allure of Moro Silver Pommels

When I was a little boy I always watched...somewhat dismayed...when, every year my mother brought out her beloved silver, that she rarely used, and tediously polished it all.

I am afraid I have fallen into somewhat the same trap, finding myself having to clean silver once a year, or watching pieces lose their luster.

I have just finished my Moro silver pommels and thought I would post them here simply for comparison sake, and not a study of individual pieces, most of which have been posted here before.

You can't tell it now, but these generally have a very varied silver vs. alloy content, some that tarnish to black, others that don't. You will notice three of the pommels are almost, in fact, are, identical, but with over varied characteristics in the krisses.

While very little study has been done of these hilts and pommels, and much more on their blades, I have a very generalized theory that the silver pommel production among Moro krisses was a relatively short-lived fad, and my guess is that it was a late 19th-early 20th-century phenomenon. They are rarely seen on very early blades, nor or late ones. Comparatively speaking, the pommels are quite fragile and their hollow frames can be easily damaged or crushed. There are a few with solid pommels, including the smallest pommel you see among these.

I believe they are, generally, like much ethnographic weaponry denoting rank, all about the "bling". They offer little else that gives them an advantage over other pommels. I believe they are reserved for mid-level nobility and were not the most valued of Moro pommels, though they make a great first impression.

Enjoy the pics. Again, this will not be a study of individual pieces.
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Old 15th September 2019, 01:40 AM   #2
Ian
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Thumbs up Gorgeous pieces

Hi Charles.

My word you have a nice set of kris there. Am I correct in surmising that in Photo 2 these are (from top to bottom):
  • Maguindanao
  • Sulu
  • Sulu
  • Maranao
  • Sulu
  • Sulu
  • Sulu
Also, some of these appear to have some gold (suassa) fittings. If so, would not these be likely meant for royalty as only the Sultan is supposed to display gold?

Ian.
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Old 15th September 2019, 08:27 PM   #3
CharlesS
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Ian,

Thanks for your comments and response. I think you are spot on regarding the tribal origins of the krisses.

What you are seeing that looks like swassa is actually a combination of the two things. One is the lighting, but the other is the variation in the silver/alloy content in various parts of the hilt creating a variation in the silver's color. I wish there was some swassa here, but there is not.

Based on your experience and the examples you have seen, what do you think about my commentary, and strictly opinion, about the origins and lifespan of these silver pommeled krisses? I am just curious about your thoughts...and anyone else that would care to contribute.

Last edited by CharlesS : 16th September 2019 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 16th September 2019, 01:57 AM   #4
Battara
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Ian I would not say that only the sultan could sport gold of some kind. For example my Datu Piang kris sports swassa and gold. And many nobility kris have gold wash on the bands as well (I have one of those too).

However, perhaps it is the amount of gold, like higher karat that is the difference?

Or else all of these pieces with gold wash and any gold would have to be sultan's pieces (I guess it might be possible)...

Or perhaps those of rank can sport gold, but thick gold and ivory were meant for the sultan only?
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Old 16th September 2019, 02:04 PM   #5
Ian
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS
... What you are seeing that looks like swassa is actually a combination of the two things. One is the lighting, but the other is the variation in the silver/alloy content in various parts of the hilt creating a variation in the silver's color. I wish there was some swassa here, but there is not.
Too bad. Just copper mixed in with the silver I guess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS
... Based on your experience and the examples you have seen, what do you think about my commentary, and strictly opinion, about the origins and lifespan of these silver pommeled krisses? I am just curious about your thoughts...and anyone else that would care to contribute.
I think you are probably right in regard to the silver pommels that appear to be all silver (albeit hollow inside). There are certainly early examples that have silver plates nailed on to the pommels, but not covering all of them, and the ornamentation of the grips with silver bands or woven silver wire strips is a longstanding form of decoration I believe (certainly on barung hilts, so I don't see why not on kris hilts too).

I completely agree that these were made for affluent or influential Moros, but not the top leaders. They are showy and pretentious, perhaps well suited for the bourgeoisie of Moro Society. It is interesting that the examples you show all seem to have nice, well forged blades that would be sturdy and effective weapons. There are other dressed-up kris with large ivory hilts, for example, that have rather poor quality blades and look as though they were never designed to be removed from the scabbard.

In my last trip to Manila more than a decade ago, I was offered several ivory-hilted kris in finely made scabbards, but with very humble blades. The Moro trader who had these told me that they were entirely for show, so why spend more on a good blade when you would never use it. He was asking US$1,000 each based on the hilt and scabbard! I could have bargained him down quite a bit, but frankly I was not interested.

A final comment in regard to Datu Piang. He was an enormously powerful leader among the Maguindanao. Although a mestizzo (half Chinese) he was close to the royal family and indeed more powerful than them in his later life. That he would choose to flaunt his power and wealth by exhibiting gold in his dress, and get away with it, was testament to how powerful and secure in his position he felt. While somewhat deferential to the Sultan of Buayang (Datu Utu), he had no qualms about putting the Sultan's nephew and heir (Datu Ali) in his place.

Last edited by Ian : 16th September 2019 at 06:33 PM.
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Old 17th September 2019, 03:04 PM   #6
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Ian, the blades here are generally very good and made in a variety of forms and forging techniques, but no twistcore.

I think this particular group could all be considered fighting blades.
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Old 17th September 2019, 11:56 PM   #7
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Charles, sometimes your posts just bring tears to my eyes.
Thanks for posting!
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Old 18th September 2019, 03:35 PM   #8
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A bevy of beauties.
Iíve been wondering where a couple of those have gone to. Now I know.
Thanks for sharing Charles.
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