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Old 12th August 2017, 01:00 AM   #1
shayde78
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Default Help to identify this African(?) knife

I've had this about a year, and still don't know for sure if it represents a known style/form of knife. I learned that the script is Arabic, in the Moroccan or Algerian dialect, and approximately reads, "be merciful to the ones around you [neighbors]".

Both sides of the hilt are adorned with metal. The back of the sheath is simple leather. On the reverse from the script is a depiction of an elephant. This is the strongest indication to me it is for a tourist that would view an elephant as exotic.

For scale, the squares on the chessboard are 2"x2"

So, any feedback on the form, and is it one that represents a legitimate knife style from a particular region? As always, thank you for your insights
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Last edited by shayde78 : 12th August 2017 at 03:26 AM.
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Old 12th August 2017, 03:01 AM   #2
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Hi Shayde,
I do not recognise the particular type of knife, but the silverwork looks to be Yemeni or South Western Arabian. Nice piece......I like it very much. Others no doubt will comment in due course.
Stu
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Old 12th August 2017, 03:27 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kahnjar1
Hi Shayde,
I do not recognise the particular type of knife, but the silverwork looks to be Yemeni or South Western Arabian. Nice piece......I like it very much. Others no doubt will comment in due course.
Stu


Thanks, Kahnjar. I appreciate the feedback.
Can I assume it is actual silver, then?
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Old 12th August 2017, 04:14 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shayde78
Thanks, Kahnjar. I appreciate the feedback.
Can I assume it is actual silver, then?

It is likely to be low grade silver I think, but the only way to be sure is to have it checked by a reputable jeweller.
Stu
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Old 12th August 2017, 05:09 AM   #5
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Yemen was my first guess. I've seen silver work from Afghanistan and regions north of there that seemed similar, to my eye. Generally the stone most often seen from those northern regions is carnelian, though.
The elephant looks to be Indian, but who knows?
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Old 15th August 2017, 05:22 PM   #6
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Thank you Bob and Stu.

The elephant does look more Indian than African, but making that distinction presumes a level of artistic accuracy that may not be warranted.

I am wondering if the 6-pointed star could provide some clues. I know there is some debate as to why this image appears on blades across cultures. The consensus seems to be it was used as a proofing mark in Europe, and was subsequently copied elsewhere to make lesser blades seem of higher quality. However, it seems to me that any Arabic blade after the 1940s would be unlikely to have this image. Do you think that is a fair claim? Although, the inscription (if my translation is accurate) suggests peaceful coexistence, so that could undermine my own assertion.

One more thing, I am attaching an image of what appears to be a coin on the sheath. It is 5-sided, but it may have been cut into that shape. Does this coin help with identifying?
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Old 16th August 2017, 12:28 AM   #7
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I'm very much with Stu on this, and this seems to be likely something innovatively fashioned in Yemeni or Hadhramati regions. I would 'guess' low grade silver fabricating this pastiche, recalling other silver repousse hilts from many remounted sayf.
The demonstrably crude inscribed Arabic type script and the six point stars (star of Solomon, an Islamic symbol as well as other) seem intended to intimate a better quality blade. The elephant probably loosely intended to suggest Indian source for blade, as these were highly regarded in Arabia.
Most interesting piece from dynamic and intriguing regional circumstances of perhaps 60 or more years ago.
The star (of David, or Solomon) was used on British blades as a surround for a proof slug, begun by Wilkinson late 1850s, but contrary to suggestions never had Jewish nor Masonic connotation. It represents varied interpretation of transposed triangles, and was well known in very early Islamic contexts and often to signify quality and or other significant symbolism.

Coins are not a good indicator of date nor provenance on swords' elements or mounts as these were often used as decorative and talismanic devices regardless of their monetary value. Many coins such as thalers, pesos, and others were used on hilts as pommel cap decorations etc.
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Old 16th August 2017, 01:12 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I'm very much with Stu on this, and this seems to be likely something innovatively fashioned in Yemeni or Hadhramati regions. I would 'guess' low grade silver fabricating this pastiche, recalling other silver repousse hilts from many remounted sayf.
The demonstrably crude inscribed Arabic type script and the six point stars (star of Solomon, an Islamic symbol as well as other) seem intended to intimate a better quality blade. The elephant probably loosely intended to suggest Indian source for blade, as these were highly regarded in Arabia.
Most interesting piece from dynamic and intriguing regional circumstances of perhaps 60 or more years ago.
The star (of David, or Solomon) was used on British blades as a surround for a proof slug, begun by Wilkinson late 1850s, but contrary to suggestions never had Jewish nor Masonic connotation. It represents varied interpretation of transposed triangles, and was well known in very early Islamic contexts and often to signify quality and or other significant symbolism.

Coins are not a good indicator of date nor provenance on swords' elements or mounts as these were often used as decorative and talismanic devices regardless of their monetary value. Many coins such as thalers, pesos, and others were used on hilts as pommel cap decorations etc.


Jim,
As always, thank you for your informed feedback
I appreciate your (and Stu and Bob's) willingness to take the time to share your thoughts. I collect so that I may learn, and the members of this forum have proven to be great teachers.
Best,
-Rob

Ps- I'm still curious to hear more opinions and learn more about this piece....any pictures of something similar being worn?
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Old 16th August 2017, 08:04 PM   #9
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You're most welcome Shayde, and I thank you for the opportunity to see this piece and offer my thoughts, which are of course only my opinion based on many previous experiences with similar items. As you note, the membership here are indeed great teachers, and we always learn together.

I look forward to hearing more from others who are interested and experienced in this field on this interesting item.
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Old 17th August 2017, 12:46 AM   #10
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It occurs to me that the leather backing of the scabbard is rather reminiscent of the jambiyyas from Yemen and Oman, which may be another pointer toward origin.

I speak from the very depths of lack of knowledge, of course.
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Old 17th August 2017, 03:44 AM   #11
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I think the "coin" is dated " .368", if my eyes are still what they used to be ???? years ago:-)

If so, - 1948-1949. I think it fits well with the crispiness of incisions on the blade.

But Jim is correct: the "coin" could have been attached to older knife or might be older than the knife itself.
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Old 17th August 2017, 09:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob A
It occurs to me that the leather backing of the scabbard is rather reminiscent of the jambiyyas from Yemen and Oman, which may be another pointer toward origin.

I speak from the very depths of lack of knowledge, of course.



Agreed. I am attaching a picture of the original lot, of which this item was a part. It may help suggest an origin if the other pieces are easier to identify. There are three pieces; a Moroccan Koummya, a Jambiya, and this knife. The leather on the back of the piece in question does resemble the jambiya, but I was told the inscription is in a Moroccan/Algerian dialect...so somewhere in between?? Or not related at all, and the estate seller just lumped the 'pointy things' all in one lot.
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Old 17th August 2017, 10:34 PM   #13
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I'm inclined to believe your pointy-thing conglomeration.

The ring attachment method on the koumaya would seem to indicate a mid-20th century date, from what I've seen, but again, I'm no expert.
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Old 19th August 2017, 03:14 PM   #14
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There are two Yemeni coins. A 1/8 Riyal and 1/10 Riyal. I would bet this is newer than the coins. Could have been made in Ethiopia or Eritrea but I'm more inclined to think this is more recently put together in Yemen since the 1970's.
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Old 19th August 2017, 11:20 PM   #15
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I believe the hilt and scabbard work is done in nickle-silver. True silver tends to tarnish with a much wider range of hues (dependent on chemical exposure over time and alloying). Whereas this only seems to have a black tarnish (suggests high nickle content). This also presents in sheen as mild yellow-green (that's your copper and tin displaying a bit).

To be clear Nickle-silver contains no actual silver (usually). It is a white brass that mimics the appearance of silver to some degree. It's actually a superior and very common material worldwide for this sort of highly detailed work.

Question: Does the metal have an acrid/sour/spicy odor?
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Old 20th August 2017, 12:27 AM   #16
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Here's a coin I found similar~ 1372 AH, Yemen Arab Republic, 1/8 Rial, Islamic Arabic Silver Coin. Denomination : 1/8 Rial. Dated : 1372 AH (1952 AD). Calendar : Islamic. Shape : Hexagonal With 5 Sided. Composition : Silver.

like this below
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Old 20th August 2017, 06:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Here's a coin I found similar~ 1372 AH, Yemen Arab Republic, 1/8 Rial, Islamic Arabic Silver Coin. Denomination : 1/8 Rial. Dated : 1372 AH (1952 AD). Calendar : Islamic. Shape : Hexagonal With 5 Sided. Composition : Silver.

like this below


That would be Pentagonal :P
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Old 25th August 2017, 01:51 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helleri
I believe the hilt and scabbard work is done in nickle-silver. True silver tends to tarnish with a much wider range of hues (dependent on chemical exposure over time and alloying). Whereas this only seems to have a black tarnish (suggests high nickle content). This also presents in sheen as mild yellow-green (that's your copper and tin displaying a bit).

To be clear Nickle-silver contains no actual silver (usually). It is a white brass that mimics the appearance of silver to some degree. It's actually a superior and very common material worldwide for this sort of highly detailed work.

Question: Does the metal have an acrid/sour/spicy odor?


Thank you for this info. Yes, I believe it is German silver (is that the same thing?). Funny that you mention the smell...this does NOT have the smell, but the koummya in the one picture of the auction lot does have that sour smell. What does the smell indicate??
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Old 25th August 2017, 01:52 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Here's a coin I found similar~ 1372 AH, Yemen Arab Republic, 1/8 Rial, Islamic Arabic Silver Coin. Denomination : 1/8 Rial. Dated : 1372 AH (1952 AD). Calendar : Islamic. Shape : Hexagonal With 5 Sided. Composition : Silver.

like this below


Outstanding directive work! Thank you
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Old 5th October 2017, 02:59 AM   #20
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I've just remembered...I never received feedback regarding the inscription:

Does it indeed read "Be merciful to those around you"?
And, is it in the Algerian/Moroccan dialect?
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