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Old 14th February 2024, 06:33 AM   #1
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Default Rare Korean eunjangdo

I am unsure whether this is simply a jangdo (jewellery or small knife) or an eunjangdo (silver small knife). The jangdo is a small knife that was carried in the folds of clothing by both women and men, although it is sometimes called a "woman's knife.' It is a small utility knife that could be used in an emergency for self defense. When dressed with expensive materials, such as silver or gold, the little knife becomes an eunjangdo. The importance of the knife is its indication of fidelity: for a woman to her husband, for a man to the nation and its ruler.

There is a long history of women and men in Korean society carrying these knives. Women usually received the knife from their family when they got married. Adolescent boys received theirs as a rite of passage to manhood. The same knife was carried throughout their life. This tradition has slowly faded away, although it persisted until the 1970s in parts of Korea but now seems to have almost completely disappeared from Korean society.

The little knife here is clearly old. The blade shows signs of repeated sharpening. It has rayskin on the sheath and the metal fittings have a golden color that suggests a gold alloy. I will have it tested when it arrives. The wear on the rayskin and the condition of the wood peeping through suggest a 19th C or earlier piece. If the metal has some gold then the knife would be an eunjangdo. If it is a more base metal, then perhaps a jangdo. I don't know whether Koreans consider rayskin as a prestigious material.

The construction of this knife indicates considerable skill in its manufacture and fitting. There may still be a few expert knife makers in Korea making these knives. I would love to hear more about them from a native Korean if we have one here.

OAL in sheath: 7 inches. Blade: 2.75 inches

I have been looking for one of these for several years and will post more pictures after it arrives. Thoughts and comments are very welcome.
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Last edited by Ian; 14th February 2024 at 10:49 AM. Reason: Spelling ...
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Old 14th February 2024, 08:55 AM   #2
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I suspect that this is not Korean, they didn't incorporate a hollow ground fuller on these types of knives.

Possibly Tibetan or Manchurian, steppes area. Ray skin was popular in those areas, as well as in Korea, Japan, China, and SEA, and widely traded.

Nice knives, in any case.
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Old 14th February 2024, 10:15 AM   #3
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Wayne, You may well be correct. This could be from elsewhere, and that fuller had me concerned also. I had asked a colleague in London to take a look at the auction pictures. He is an expert on things Korean, although not on knives. He thought the overall "flavor" of the knife was consistent with a Korean origin, but his concern was with the hilt, which appeared to be horn/wood and capped by bone. He thought that was unusual and was also unsure about the ray skin. He thought the prominent (blackened) silver ring was very characteristic for an eunjangdo.
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Old 14th February 2024, 11:32 AM   #4
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Hi Ian,

I am with Wayne, it's not an eunjangdo.

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