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Old 10th February 2012, 02:08 PM   #1
Loedjoe
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Default Is gold or suasa 'better'?

As I am rather new to the Forum, I am not sure whether this should be a new thread, or attached to one of the existing ones where the rival merits of gold or suasa are discussed or mentioned. I hope these early 18th-century views may be of interest. I have included the original Dutch, as my translating skills are not very good.

Rumphius (Georgius Everhardus). D'Amboinsche Rariteitkamer, behelzende eene beschryvinge van allerhande ... schaalvisschen ... krabben, kreeften ... horntjes en schulpen, ... mineralen, gesteenten, en soorten van aarde, die in d'Amboinsche, en zommige omleggende Eilanden gevonden worden (F. Halma, Amsterdam, 1705). Book III, ch. I-III (pp. 197-201), on gold and silver. Pp. 198, gold keris hilts made from gold sheet over resin core; 203, the Malays, who cover the sheaths and the lower part of the hilts of their keris with sheets [of suasa] ... the belief that he who wears this metal shall be free of all sorts of bad luck ...Therefore the Malays and Makassarese like to use suasa for keris and their weapons, for luck in war; ch. IV (pp. 202-4) on the making of suasa, and its various mixtures and colours; 204, the Javanese can produce suasa in thin sheets, and use it to mount their keris sheaths, and it can also be soldered. The Javanese esteem suasa more highly than gold, and their emperor, the Sussuhunam, wears it more than gold.

#Pp. 198, 'De goude krishegten moet men zoodaanig aanemen, dat ze maar een goude blik boven op hebben, en het overige van binnen is opgevult met eenig hers ...'; p. 203, on suasa '... de Maleijers, dewelke ... blikken om hunne krissen aan de scheede en aan 't onderste van 't hegt daar mede te bekleeden ... ... het waangeloof doet 'er by, dat de drager van dit metaal van veelderlei ongelukken zal bevrydt zyn, en, zoo hem iets geraakt of eenige siekte overkomt, de ring zal aan de hand bersten. Daarom draagen de Maleijers en Makkassaren 't zelve zoo geern aan hunne krissen, en aan hunne wapenen, houdende zich daar door in den oorlog gelukkig ...'; p. 204, (the Javanese) ' ... zy konnen 't zoo dun krygen als blik, waar mede men de kris-scheeden beslaat, en het laat zich ook soldeeren: Dit Suassa is by de Javanen in grooter waarde dan enkel gout, en hunne Keizer de Sussuhunam draagt het meer dan 't gout ...';
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Old 10th February 2012, 03:21 PM   #2
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This is interesting because most of the Suassa that I see is on Moro weapons rather than Javan .

Maybe I am mistaking it for gold ....

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Old 10th February 2012, 04:00 PM   #3
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In the mid-1990's in Jakarta I was proposed an old Solonese (kraton?) kris with a luk blade supposedly made from suasa and at a reasonable price (gold was cheap at that time). Unfortunately I did not buy it because my wife did not like it but I still regret it a bit although with time I tend to believe that the alloy was rather gongso with some gold but with a lower gold content than in suasa.
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Old 10th February 2012, 08:18 PM   #4
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Interesting question.

If we say "better", my immediate question is "better in what way"?

What we know is that gold is most certainly the very best and most highly regarded material to adorn a blade, and it is the material of choice to calm the disturbing or evil influences that may inhabit a blade.

If suasa is preferred over gold as a material for dress purposes, my own feeling would be that those who say or indicate they prefer it are making a virtue of necessity.

In the culture of Jawa , gold holds a place above all else as a material of honour. Historically rulers used to give gold in huge quantities to buy support.

Within Javanese society gold has historically been used as the measure of all value:- a debt of currency will be expressed as a weight of gold, and you repay the gold weight extressed as currency when you repay the debt. This has been the case for a very long time.

Gold is firmly fixed in the Javanese mind as the only thing of true worth --- even my own daughter-in-law will not wear any jewellery unless it is gold. I know people whom I consider to be relatively poor who will save every spare rupiah until they have sufficient to buy some gold, and along the way, they will refuse to wear costume jewellery, because if they can't wear gold, they will wear nothing.

If Javanese royalty preferred suasa to gold, I feel that perhaps a few stories may have been invented to justify that preference.
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Old 12th February 2012, 06:32 PM   #5
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ITS THE SAME IN MANY COUNTRYS PURE GOLD IS ALL THAT IS CONSIDERED ( GOLD) AND OFTEN MAKES UP A WOMANS DOWERY ALL IN THE FORM OF JEWELRY. AMERICA IS ONE OF THE FEW COUNTRYS WHERE 14 CARRAT OR 18 C. IS CONSIDERED GOLD. FOR TRUE VALUE "GOOD AS GOLD " SAYS IT ALL.
SUASA IS MORE DURABLE THAN GOLD AND WOULD DEFORM AND WEAR LESS THAN PURE GOLD SO WOULD BE MUCH MORE PRACTICAL FOR USE ON WEAPONS OR ITEMS EXPOSED TO WEAR. NO DOUBT THE USE OF PURE GOLD ON WEAPONS IN SOME COUNTRIES MAY HAVE BEEN RESTRICTED TO THE ROYAL FAMILYS. IN SUCH CASES THE USE OF SUASA MAY HAVE BEEN PERMITTED TO SHOW WEALTH AND RANK AND TO LOOK GOOD.
FOR THOSE WHO COULD AFFORD IT PURE GOLD HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE MOST DESIRABLE. PERHAPS SOMEONE LONG AGO WHO EITHER DID NOT HAVE THE STATUS OR WEALTH TO POSESS GOLD STARTED THE RUMOR THAT SUASA WAS BETTER BECAUSE THATS THE BEST HE COULD DO.

I AM CURIOUS AS TO WHAT YOUR AVATAR IS LOEDJOE PERHAPS A POST ON IT WOULD BE OF INTREST TO OTHERS AS WELL AS MYSELF.
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Old 13th February 2012, 08:48 PM   #6
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Vandoo - I have posted a response to your query about the item shown in my Avatar, on the Ethnographic Weapons Forum, under 'parang betino'.

Best wishes, Loedjoe
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Old 24th December 2015, 12:02 PM   #7
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just came up with this interesting suassa text.

It is strange though that they describe it so extendedly with name of the Javanese emperor etc. It was a very early writing, so it might be true back than, and not written and made up by the writer just to put down some text.

I could imagine there is some kind of truth in this, as there are not much Javanese weapons with suassa I know off. Maybe back than there was a period that suassa was in fashion more than gold in Java, and maybe also only to wear by a few noblemen, and not for the regular people..?
This could explain why there is more gold find on Javanese weapons as suassa.

Just a guess,

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Old 24th December 2015, 02:41 PM   #8
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There's no text in your post to read Maurice.
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Old 24th December 2015, 03:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
There's no text in your post to read Maurice.



I can read the text on my computer though Rick...
Let me know if still not visible, than I will post it again.
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Old 24th December 2015, 04:11 PM   #10
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Did you repost the text yet?
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Old 24th December 2015, 04:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
Did you repost the text yet?


REPOST:

just came up with this interesting suassa text.

It is strange though that they describe it so extendedly with name of the Javanese emperor etc. It was a very early writing, so it might be true back than, and not written and made up by the writer just to put down some text.

I could imagine there is some kind of truth in this, as there are not much Javanese weapons with suassa I know off. Maybe back than there was a period that suassa was in fashion more than gold in Java, and maybe also only to wear by a few noblemen, and not for the regular people..?
This could explain why there is more gold find on Javanese weapons as suassa.

Just a guess,

Maurice
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Old 25th December 2015, 07:13 AM   #12
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I think Maurice is referring to the text cited by Loedjoe at the opening of this topic.
Maurice, am I correct?
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Old 25th December 2015, 08:13 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I think Maurice is referring to the text cited by Loedjoe at the opening of this topic.
Maurice, am I correct?


Hi Ariel,

Yes you are right.
Sorry if I wasn't clear enough.
After rereading my post, I see it was not clear indeed and I expresses wrong.
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Old 25th December 2015, 10:05 AM   #14
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Somewhere in this Forum there is a conversation about Gold versus Suasa and one comment made was that pure Gold was not "good for a Muslim" and so Suasa was used instead. I believe that in the Koran or in the Hadith there are various comments about vain display and even an injunction not to drink from a Gold cup.
I suspect the original passage above was a reflection of this idea.
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Old 25th December 2015, 10:20 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David R
Somewhere in this Forum there is a conversation about Gold versus Suasa and one comment made was that pure Gold was not "good for a Muslim" and so Suasa was used instead. I believe that in the Koran or in the Hadith there are various comments about vain display and even an injunction not to drink from a Gold cup.
I suspect the original passage above was a reflection of this idea.


The Original passage above, is not saying that they use suassa instead of gold.
It says suassa is preferred because of thoughts that the one who wears it should be free of all kind of bad luck if something hit him, disease, or in war times.
Also it tells us that the emperor wears it more than gold, not that he did not wear gold.

Maybe gold was the most valuable bullion, but suassa could have been used more as talismanic purposes as gold, I suppose.
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Old 25th December 2015, 08:55 PM   #16
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Or perhaps, just perhaps, the quoted passage is simply incorrect. That does happen as i am sure you all know. I cannot say that is the case here with any assuredness, however, everything that i have ever read previously about gold, specifically in regards to Javanese culture, falls more in line with what Alan has said. I am away from my reference books at the moment, but i do have one that is specifically related to the use of gold in Javanese culture and i will check in with that when i return. I cannot say, however, that i can recall seeing much of any use of suasa on Javanese keris at all and find the idea that any Javanese Susuhunan or Sultan would prefer suasa to pure gold a bit of a strange one indeed.

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Old 25th December 2015, 11:43 PM   #17
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Cato in his Moro Swords states a similar idea, that suassa was preferred due to the effect of gold on men (making them weak).

I suspect also that another reason is expense as well as color variation.
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Old 26th December 2015, 12:27 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Cato in his Moro Swords states a similar idea, that suassa was preferred due to the effect of gold on men (making them weak).

I suspect also that another reason is expense as well as color variation.

Yes, i've seen that info. Even if true, however, we certainly should not make the mistake of assuming that what might be true in Moro culture is also true in Jawa, Bali or other cultures of Indonesia. Since we are on the keris forum we should probably try to keep this discussion keris specific.
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Old 26th December 2015, 02:51 AM   #19
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True enough.
But to be honest, I also think that color of swassa is richer and more exquisite than that of even high quality gold.
The reddish hue is so elegant...
Pure IMHO, of course, but I am with the Sultan on that:-)
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Old 26th December 2015, 06:19 AM   #20
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Suasa is either rose gold or pinchbeck. Both materials are called 'suasa' in Indonesia. When it is rose gold it is gold that has been alloyed with copper, when it is pincbeck it is copper that has been alloyed with zinc, which makes it a kind of brass.

I have a Balinese court keris of the highest quality that for years i thought had a suasa pendok, in fact it is rose gold of something around 19 carat. It looks like suasa, and it would undoubtedly be called suasa by an Indonesian, but actually it is pretty high carat gold.

Pure gold is too soft for any purpose other than to hold as bullion and store in a safe. The carat grade of jewellery varies over 9ct, 14ct, 18ct, 22ct.

Truly pure gold is known as:-

100 : six nines fine

24ct gold is known as 999 and is only three nines fine, but in normal understanding this 24ct, gold is regarded as pure gold, even though it is not.

I think gold of six nines fine has only been produced once, and that was some time in the 1950's by the Perth (Australia) mint.

Again I'm running on memory, but I think that in the USA any gold of less than 14ch purity cannot be claimed to be gold by the seller. This is the reason that a very large number of gold pocket watch cases are 14ct.

So when we talk about gold or suasa, what we're really talking about is a colour difference. That suasa pendok you picked up in last weekend's trash market might be 19ct gold, or it might be brass.
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Old 26th December 2015, 08:47 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Yes, i've seen that info. Even if true, however, we certainly should not make the mistake of assuming that what might be true in Moro culture is also true in Jawa, Bali or other cultures of Indonesia. Since we are on the keris forum we should probably try to keep this discussion keris specific.


Yes but we are talking here about the talismanic function of suassa as a material, and not only on keris hilts or pendoks. Also suassa had been used on the magic "rings" and other Indonesian weapons.

But I agree we need to stay with facts, and not by assuming. Therefore it is worth to have this discussion, as this is a second source (though also Cato made failures ofcourse) which is talking about suassa more appreciated as gold.
A good friend forwarded me some other sources, which were telling the same in suassa, but I can't find it at the moment.
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Old 26th December 2015, 09:19 AM   #22
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I have put myself into the matter of Rumphius lately.
It is much more interesting as the small text Loedjoe is quoting at the start of this thread.
Rumphius was working by the VOC. This is very important.
VOC journals are most of the time very accurate, and not over exaggerated.
They sticked only to the facts, and also tested their findings if possible before writing it in journals to their superiors.
It was important to not exaggerate, as every VOC delegation needs to forward such a journal. If something seemed to be a mythe, they needed to research that again and that wasn't in favour of the first delegation who did the exaggeration and forwarded untruths to their superiors.

Further I was impressed by the Rumphius text and research he did on suassa.
He is writing about the different suassa types, contents of materials to make the suassa alloy, and all proven and tested by western VOC smiths. After that he wrote down his findings. So the research was very thoroughly!
Also there was a particular suassa alloy of different materials which they could not make, with the info obtained by native people. He also put that in his work, and that the natives probably helt something back in the info to him. He also put it that way in the text. That it had been checked, and it had been failed to make.
This all tells me that he was very accurate and not a man who only wrote something down to make a big book!

In such accurate work, he probably would write only down what he had been tested and was assure off, and not only what he had heard from saying by a single man.
I guess there could be a big truth in his very old work about suassa!
There is a good chance that, in the course of time, it changed and gold took over the place as the talismanic value of suassa had been gone to the natives by some dark unknown reason. And by stories passing on to their next generation, they forgot about the talismanic values of suassa. Later books than refer to gold as number one.
But I think it would be wise not only to stick to the latter books about gold in Indonesia, and also don't forget about Rumphius and to take the VOC traveller very serious, who had written down this suassa chapter very early, which he got at that time out of first hand. This was what natives told him about suassa around 1700's, before times that other books stated it as gold was most favorite.
He didn't had any earlier books to read about suassa, and with an "empty thought" he did his research and work.

I assume that nowadays, if something write a work about precious metals, would also read a lot of works, and got brainwashed that gold must be it from ancient times. Ruphius however was empty minded and did his own early research.
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Old 26th December 2015, 12:34 PM   #23
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Here are two Javanese hilts made from gold, claimed to be a very early example from around the 11th century and the the from the 15th century. They are part of the Thompson collection of gold objects from Jawa which can be viewed here. I have no idea what carat any of these items are as it is not stated.
http://artgallery.yale.edu/exhibitions/objects/665820
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Old 26th December 2015, 12:53 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Here are two Javanese hilts made from gold, claimed to be a very early example from around the 11th century and the the from the 15th century. They are part of the Thompson collection of gold objects from Jawa which can be viewed here. I have no idea what carat any of these items are as it is not stated.
http://artgallery.yale.edu/exhibitions/objects/665820


Beautiful hilts David!

I am not familiar with this collection unfortunately.
Are they also collected at that early time, and by whom?

I have no doubt that they did adorne gold.
But I have doubts and believe that suassa at that time is underestimated by todays collectors.
As the text by the VOC'er tells us, there was gold used also. But talismanicly more preferred as gold. Not that they didn't use gold and had everything made from suassa.
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Old 26th December 2015, 01:12 PM   #25
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Most of the items in this collection seem to be from the early and middle Classic Periods of Jawa (some a bit later) and you can find this collection in book form as Old Javanese Gold.
http://artgallery.yale.edu/publicat...ity-art-gallery
I would love to see such a collection of suasa items from Jawa or more examples of images of suasa used on Javanese and Bali keris that can help support Rumphius' assertion that it was preferred over gold. I really cannot think of too many examples that i have actually seen of suasa on Javanese or Bali keris (that is to say my idea of suasa, since Alan has stated that the 19k rose gold in in the Balinese court keris would perhaps be called suasa by an Indonesian).
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Old 26th December 2015, 01:20 PM   #26
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Here is what Frey has to say on the Talismanic use of gold on keris. Like most writers on keris we all know that Frey has had his own problems with accuracy.
http://tinyurl.com/pqf4vfh
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Old 26th December 2015, 01:38 PM   #27
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A Javanese keris from the late 18th century that once belonged to the Regent of Yogyakarta. The pendok is gold with green enamel inlays.
It also seems to me that the preferred material for kinatah is generally gold, not suasa.
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Old 26th December 2015, 05:20 PM   #28
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Nice kris David!

I agree about the prefered golden kinatah. And also I agree that most kerisses we know off use gold instead of suassa.
But that is not what I am trying to deny here.

A friend has a lovely Javanese keris with suassa pendok. Not much seen, but he has. And also I have seen a Javanese pedang lurus completely made of suassa instead of silver, which we normally see. This because they prefer silver over suassa? I don't think so. Suassa is much more rare in use somehow, and it is easy to say that because gold is more widespread that this was preferred over suassa.
As I can't imagine that silver is prefered above suassa also, and only know of one pedang lurus in suassa dress and lots of them in silver dresses....

Also I have seen Palembang kerisses with ivory hilt, suassa mendak/selut and also golden fittings here and there. Why not choosen for a golden mendak/selut?

Rumphius also is writing about gold in Indonesia. He writes the same you are telling, that everybody wants gold, and that they hammered it really thin to make krishilts, made from resin within and covered in a thin goldcover.
Btw he seemed not to be very fond of this gold over resin, and sees it as a falsification.

Rumphius also is telling a similar version which Alan is telling about the gold.
"Any native wants some gold in their houses, and no family was happy without having a piece of gold in their possession." But he is referring that back in those days it allready was not that much gold available as rumors were telling. Therefore they hammered it very thin, used plating etc. because it was so precious for everybody to own.
After this he is describing some gold and silver testings, and than the chapter of Suassa starts.
So he also was able to compare it with gold, and still needs te urge to mention the talismanic preference of suassa over gold (which was most wanted in the native possessions).
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Old 26th December 2015, 08:05 PM   #29
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In this matter under discussion, this is the situation as I understand it:-

The notes that G. E. Rumphius used to produce his masterwork were gathered in the 1600's and not published until the 1700's.

In this work he makes a comment based upon (at best) third or fourth hand information that infers a talismanic quality being attributed to suasa in what, at that time, was Mataram (Central Jawa).

So let us assume that it was at least rumoured that at some time, in some place suasa might have had some sort of talismanic quality attributed to it. Let us further assume that during the 1600's, in Central Jawa, suasa had a talismanic value attributed to it.

Personally, I have no problem at all with this, because in Jawa, talismanic values are attributed to just about everything under the sun (& moon & stars). Nothing exists or happens without having some sort of value being attributed to it by somebody.

However, I do have a couple of questions in respect of the comments attributed to G.E. Rumphius:-

1) are these comments on suasa sourced from a VOC journal?

2) in what published work are the reports of metallurgical examinations of suasa, sourced from the Dutch East Indies, reported?

and

3) do we know of any other historical reports that attribute talismanic qualities to suasa, in any other place in the geographic locations where suasa was produced?
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Old 26th December 2015, 10:50 PM   #30
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Well, for me the question isn't so much as to whether or not talismanic properties were attributed to suasa in 17th or 18th century Jawa. As Alan points out, talismanic properties are attributed to just about everything, especially things considered precious such as valuable metals. What i am questioning here is the claim that suasa was preferred over gold. If it was one has to wonder why then there are so many more existing examples of the use of gold on keris than there are suasa, especially when one considers that suasa has a lower monetary value than gold. I could literally fill pages upon pages here with photographs of examples of the use of gold in this context, however the existing examples of suasa used on keris seem substantially lower. Why would this be the case if indeed suasa was a preferred metal?
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