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Old 5th August 2021, 02:12 PM   #1
JT88
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Default Unusual Shashka

Good morning everyone, I have an unusual shashka here that I am trying to figure out. I believe the blade is an 1881 model but the fittings are very unusual. I've taken it to another group and many have said fake, but from what I can discern the ivory is authentic marine ivory. There is also aging/patina within the wire on the handle which would be incredibly difficult to do in a modern setting.

The group said the running wolf is in line with late 19th century West Georgian stamps.

The leather is clearly at least semi-new, it has some aging to it, but I'd say no more than 20 years.

I question if this is an older blade with modern fittings to be "faked" why use authentic ivory? It could still be considered a prized piece refitted with a family blade I suppose.

The style is called Skan, shown here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skan%27
A Georgian/Russian type of jewelry.

The 84 stamps mean the fittings are supposedly silver; however, I have not had the blade long enough to see any of the usual silver patina that comes with age. I do have my doubts about it being silver.

Thanks for the look!
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Old 5th August 2021, 08:58 PM   #2
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Good morning everyone, I have an unusual shashka here that I am trying to figure out. I believe the blade is an 1881 model but the fittings are very unusual. I've taken it to another group and many have said fake, but from what I can discern the ivory is authentic marine ivory. There is also aging/patina within the wire on the handle which would be incredibly difficult to do in a modern setting.

The group said the running wolf is in line with late 19th century West Georgian stamps.

The leather is clearly at least semi-new, it has some aging to it, but I'd say no more than 20 years.

I question if this is an older blade with modern fittings to be "faked" why use authentic ivory? It could still be considered a prized piece refitted with a family blade I suppose.

The style is called Skan, shown here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skan%27
A Georgian/Russian type of jewelry.

The 84 stamps mean the fittings are supposedly silver; however, I have not had the blade long enough to see any of the usual silver patina that comes with age. I do have my doubts about it being silver.

Thanks for the look!

Welcome to the forum, and thank you so very much for sharing the research and details you have already gained. Quite honestly this information on the SKAN work is most helpful so I've learned something here already.

This is area is by far not my specialty (as if I have one) but it has had my deep interest for many years. To try to gain some footing here I used probably one of the most valuable resources to date, which is by the very respected scholar on this topic, Kirill Rivkin,
" Arms and Armor of the Caucusus" , 2015.

This is an old blade indeed, and while it is suggested that those with the 'Passau wolf' are typically European imports marked as such for Caucasian use it is possible this may have been a Chechen or Daghestani product.
The Solingen blades with wolf similar are early 19th c. and on one of these with wolf are MN marks on either side of the wolf. (Rivkin fi.117)
On this the letters are without serifs and the crosses are absent.
* the Russian M1881 blades have a block ricasso.

These crosses are termed 'bees' and in group of four signify Jerusalem crosses from the Crusades.

Another blade more corresponding to the example you show is by W. Clauberg, Solingen maker of first half 19th c. On it is the Passau wolf with letters MH (as on yours) and the 'bees'.
I would be compelled to think yours is in this category early 19th c.

Too often people jump to the 'fake' term. There are so many mitigating factors and unknowns in weapons that such declarations without well supported proof or evidence against authenticity are in my opinion premature.

You well point out that the use of expensive material such as ivory, and in this elaborate type of metal work in a 'fake' would be rather specious.
Also, the '84' assay mark is something that would seem unusual on such an item.
The 84 is of course to signify genuine silver in the Russian zolotnick system. This system ceased in 1896 by decree of Czar Nicholas II who installed a different one.
This places your sword, as mounted, has a terminus ad quem of 1896, as per the Russian hallmark, which I doubt would exist on a 'fake', unless of course authentic mounts were used compositely, I think a tenuous proposition.

The styling of this shashka's mounts seems to be primarily Circassian, which was much favored by the Russian Imperial Convoy, as well as Russian nobles and high ranking officers, particularly those who actually served in the Caucusus. I would note that the combining of the 'skan'; the silver (hallmarked) and the niello (as applied to silver) suggest this shashka may have been made in St. Petersburg from c.1870s-1905 in this type case.

The use of heirloom blades was quite common in Russia, and this blade may well have been either captured, or perhaps given to a Russian officer in the Caucusus......possibly even from the Murid Wars of mid 19th c.
The use of ivory is more well known on kindjhal hilts, so perhaps the use of it here corresponds to favoring those popular weapons.

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 5th August 2021 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 5th August 2021, 09:51 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum, and thank you so very much for sharing the research and details you have already gained. Quite honestly this information on the SKAN work is most helpful so I've learned something here already.

This is area is by far not my specialty (as if I have one) but it has had my deep interest for many years. To try to gain some footing here I used probably one of the most valuable resources to date, which is by the very respected scholar on this topic, Kirill Rivkin,
" Arms and Armor of the Caucusus" , 2015.

This is an old blade indeed, and while it is suggested that those with the 'Passau wolf' are typically European imports marked as such for Caucasian use it is possible this may have been a Chechen or Daghestani product.
The Solingen blades with wolf similar are early 19th c. and on one of these with wolf are MN marks on either side of the wolf. (Rivkin fi.117)
On this the letters are without serifs and the crosses are absent.
* the Russian M1881 blades have a block ricasso.

These crosses are termed 'bees' and in group of four signify Jerusalem crosses from the Crusades.

Another blade more corresponding to the example you show is by W. Clauberg, Solingen maker of first half 19th c. On it is the Passau wolf with letters MH (as on yours) and the 'bees'.
I would be compelled to think yours is in this category early 19th c.

Too often people jump to the 'fake' term. There are so many mitigating factors and unknowns in weapons that such declarations without well supported proof or evidence against authenticity are in my opinion premature.

You well point out that the use of expensive material such as ivory, and in this elaborate type of metal work in a 'fake' would be rather specious.
Also, the '84' assay mark is something that would seem unusual on such an item.
The 84 is of course to signify genuine silver in the Russian zolotnick system. This system ceased in 1896 by decree of Czar Nicholas II who installed a different one.
This places your sword, as mounted, has a terminus ad quem of 1896, as per the Russian hallmark, which I doubt would exist on a 'fake', unless of course authentic mounts were used compositely, I think a tenuous proposition.

The styling of this shashka's mounts seems to be primarily Circassian, which was much favored by the Russian Imperial Convoy, as well as Russian nobles and high ranking officers, particularly those who actually served in the Caucusus. I would note that the combining of the 'skan'; the silver (hallmarked) and the niello (as applied to silver) suggest this shashka may have been made in St. Petersburg from c.1870s-1905 in this type case.

The use of heirloom blades was quite common in Russia, and this blade may well have been either captured, or perhaps given to a Russian officer in the Caucusus......possibly even from the Murid Wars of mid 19th c.
The use of ivory is more well known on kindjhal hilts, so perhaps the use of it here corresponds to favoring those popular weapons.
Thanks for the reply and welcome! I frequent the SBG forums but see there is clearly a high level of expertise floating around on these forums. I am also out of my element here, I generally collect Napoleonic swords only so this shashka is a bit out of place in my collection, but it was very different and unusual in an auction I was watching.

The markings apparently are a Solingen/Passau running wolf imitation, from this source. On pg 55 http://fond-adygi.ru/dmdocuments/%D0...HibnDKI2MRVvYg

The graphic used I also attached at the bottom along with the general Solingen running wolf graphic we have all seen.

I have been told in the Facebook group I have been communicating with that this is not a Circassian shashka but Georgian. It seems the Georgian's have a reputation for "fakes" currently. As I'm sure you know there is a plethora of fake shashka's on the market. I just don't see someone taking the immense amount of time and the craftsmanship to consider this "fake", it simply may be a family blade refitted even if in the modern era.

I've attached photos of the handle under a blacklight and under a 20x microscope. From everything I've read real ivory should fluoresce white the way it is. I am definitely not 100% about the ivory, it does not look like resin, however, nor have any of the qualities that make up fake ivory. I could be wrong here though, everyone seems inconclusive about it but most say it is not fake ivory even if they don't know what it is.

Attached is part of my display for eye candy
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Old 5th August 2021, 11:54 PM   #4
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As you say, it would seem that this impression of the 'Passau wolf' is quite specifically done and corresponds to the choppy 'Picasso' like examples of Passau and Solingen over centuries. The plate you show is of course from Wagner, 1967 and is misleading as it suggests a chronological evolution of this mark. These varied widely in execution and did not have such development but were simply interpretations by the workmen who applied them.

While the 'wolf' basically went out of use in Solingen (it had been gone from Passau for centuries) by the 18th century. At some point with the European imports of blades into the Caucusus, they began copying the European marks as symbolic of quality. The wolf was applied on the blades from Chechnya and somewhat Daghestan later, but usually the renderings were more realistic (as seen on the plate from the Russian book) ...........while the examples that lent more toward the choppy stylized form were termed 'ters maymal' . This is VERY loosely interpreted in Chechen as 'screaming monkey'.

As far as I have known, there are few examples of 'Georgian' shashka. These regions with Tiflis (now Tblisi) were more of a 'United Nations' it seems, with heavy trade and traffic from surrounding regions. There were strong commercial activities there which included production of all manner of weapons, many of the craftsmen were Armenians and other nationalities.
This suggestion of 'Georgian' is in my opinion a suggestion that it is made in Tblisi (modern).

The one thing I am troubled by on this item is the hilt material, which I cannot say for certain is ivory (I dont know enough of that material).
I have always thought that ivory tended to yellow, like bone, in time.

Absolutely WONDERFUL sword display!!
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Old 6th August 2021, 01:24 AM   #5
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As you say, it would seem that this impression of the 'Passau wolf' is quite specifically done and corresponds to the choppy 'Picasso' like examples of Passau and Solingen over centuries. The plate you show is of course from Wagner, 1967 and is misleading as it suggests a chronological evolution of this mark. These varied widely in execution and did not have such development but were simply interpretations by the workmen who applied them.

While the 'wolf' basically went out of use in Solingen (it had been gone from Passau for centuries) by the 18th century. At some point with the European imports of blades into the Caucusus, they began copying the European marks as symbolic of quality. The wolf was applied on the blades from Chechnya and somewhat Daghestan later, but usually the renderings were more realistic (as seen on the plate from the Russian book) ...........while the examples that lent more toward the choppy stylized form were termed 'ters maymal' . This is VERY loosely interpreted in Chechen as 'screaming monkey'.

As far as I have known, there are few examples of 'Georgian' shashka. These regions with Tiflis (now Tblisi) were more of a 'United Nations' it seems, with heavy trade and traffic from surrounding regions. There were strong commercial activities there which included production of all manner of weapons, many of the craftsmen were Armenians and other nationalities.
This suggestion of 'Georgian' is in my opinion a suggestion that it is made in Tblisi (modern).

The one thing I am troubled by on this item is the hilt material, which I cannot say for certain is ivory (I dont know enough of that material).
I have always thought that ivory tended to yellow, like bone, in time.

Absolutely WONDERFUL sword display!!
Great info about Passau/Solingen, I knew it was always a loose interpretation.

The Wolf mark is exactly the same as what is published in that Russian book, which lends it to being 19th century. The leader of the FB group thinks the blade resembles the 1881 model, but I am not sure of that myself.

The material has thoroughly confused me, a buddy of mine who's looked at it thinks it is likely either marine Ivory (possibly walrus) or mammoth, as mammoth at one point was in great supply. Ivory is new to me, I've been trying to figure it out obviously but hopefully, someone with some real experience with ivory can elucidate what better to look for.

Thank you! It has steadily grown over the past couple of years, currently, I have two on the list in my sights, an Ames 1852 Civil War era US Naval Officers sword, and most of all (has been on my list for quite some time) a French First Empire Mamelouk sabre. Just recently missed a chance to grab a stellar example because I was too slow, ugh!
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Old 6th August 2021, 09:01 PM   #6
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As always, the best thing about being confronted with a conundrum like this, is is exciting to research to learn about areas one is not familiar with. The 'ivory' material used here, from my cursory research, I think is very likely to be narwhal, which seems to have the bright white color and different from elephant, mammoth or other tusk material.

With regard to this blade, while it does have the feel of one of the Russian regulation sabers such as the M1881, as I mentioned, I see no evidence of the block ricasso which is consistent on these patterns.
It seems that there was a predominance of European blade imports into the Caucusus, up to the 1850s. While the Chechens were actively producing blades, after the 1850s the Daghestanis began producing their own if I have understood correctly.

The markings on the imported European blades became prevalently copied on the blades produced in the Caucusus; with blades out of Styria using the well known dentated arcs known as 'sickle' marks (in thier parlance the Chechens called these 'gurda' =good blade).
The running wolf, which came from Solingen blades, was copied, but in more realistic form, though the stick figure choppy ones seem to have been copied as well....these termed 'ters maymal' =screaming monkey (?).

In the attached illustrations it does seem the two letters on either side of the running wolf do appear on examples of Solingen blades FROM Solingen (one by W. Clauberg) but I would point out that almost invariably, the running wolf is upside down within surrounding letters or words on German blades.

Note on your blade, the letters AND wolf are upright. This tells us that this is NOT a European blade, and I would suspect a Daghestani product which in which the wolf and letters are duplicated.
Those crosses in the inscription I noted were called 'bees'. These are copies of strange number system used in Styria termed 'antler numbers' with dots and connecting lines, so these are likely copied from Styrian blades.

So rather than a heirloom blade, I would suggest this is possibly a Dahestan made blade in the manner of the Russian regulation form, but made without ricasso as in Caucasian manner. The markings added for 'quality' impression.

The styling of the mounts are as noted 'Circassian' using the Russian skan method of metal work. It is likely these mounts are indeed vintage and silver (84) and used in remounting the shashka in composite.
While this MAY have been done in Georgia as Russian military was indeed present there, I still believe this is likely something fashioned using older components and for a ranking Russian officer.

This is in my opinion FAR from being a commercial fake, and probably a dress shashka for a Russian officer, who was quite likely with notable service in Georgia or Caucasian regions. With the leather of scabbard relatively new its hard to say whether the assembly was done early and scabbard redone or other.

Naturally I am far from having expertise in this field, but from the past several days of research these are opinions I have formed.
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Old 7th August 2021, 01:20 AM   #7
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As always, the best thing about being confronted with a conundrum like this, is is exciting to research to learn about areas one is not familiar with. The 'ivory' material used here, from my cursory research, I think is very likely to be narwhal, which seems to have the bright white color and different from elephant, mammoth or other tusk material.

With regard to this blade, while it does have the feel of one of the Russian regulation sabers such as the M1881, as I mentioned, I see no evidence of the block ricasso which is consistent on these patterns.
It seems that there was a predominance of European blade imports into the Caucusus, up to the 1850s. While the Chechens were actively producing blades, after the 1850s the Daghestanis began producing their own if I have understood correctly.

The markings on the imported European blades became prevalently copied on the blades produced in the Caucusus; with blades out of Styria using the well known dentated arcs known as 'sickle' marks (in thier parlance the Chechens called these 'gurda' =good blade).
The running wolf, which came from Solingen blades, was copied, but in more realistic form, though the stick figure choppy ones seem to have been copied as well....these termed 'ters maymal' =screaming monkey (?).

In the attached illustrations it does seem the two letters on either side of the running wolf do appear on examples of Solingen blades FROM Solingen (one by W. Clauberg) but I would point out that almost invariably, the running wolf is upside down within surrounding letters or words on German blades.

Note on your blade, the letters AND wolf are upright. This tells us that this is NOT a European blade, and I would suspect a Daghestani product which in which the wolf and letters are duplicated.
Those crosses in the inscription I noted were called 'bees'. These are copies of strange number system used in Styria termed 'antler numbers' with dots and connecting lines, so these are likely copied from Styrian blades.

So rather than a heirloom blade, I would suggest this is possibly a Dahestan made blade in the manner of the Russian regulation form, but made without ricasso as in Caucasian manner. The markings added for 'quality' impression.

The styling of the mounts are as noted 'Circassian' using the Russian skan method of metal work. It is likely these mounts are indeed vintage and silver (84) and used in remounting the shashka in composite.
While this MAY have been done in Georgia as Russian military was indeed present there, I still believe this is likely something fashioned using older components and for a ranking Russian officer.

This is in my opinion FAR from being a commercial fake, and probably a dress shashka for a Russian officer, who was quite likely with notable service in Georgia or Caucasian regions. With the leather of scabbard relatively new its hard to say whether the assembly was done early and scabbard redone or other.

Naturally I am far from having expertise in this field, but from the past several days of research these are opinions I have formed.
I have a friend who's a long-time antique dealer and expert who I've been conversing with at length about this shashka, I've provided every picture I could possibly summon to him and he is certain it's ivory. He believes its mammoth simply due to the availability of the material during the time this was potentially made. If it is narwhal that would lend to the theory it was refitted potentially in Russia itself as narwal marine ivory would've been rarer and more expensive. I've never handled any other ivory before, but it sure does feel buttery smooth in the hand. I think I can close the door on that theory.

Using a 20x lense I've taken a look at the carvings of the fittings, there is zero evidence of any dremmel or power tool being used here. That of course does not guarantee it is not of modern make, but it continues to add the extreme care that someone put into making this sword whether it is modern or not.

The blade stamp looks exactly the same as the one produced in that Russian PDF, while I studied Russian in college its been more than ten years and I could never read at a technical level anyway, I translated the pages surrounding the diagram but found nothing to indicate where the FB group owner was generating his analysis that the stamp was common in Western Georgia. The blade is still period sharp, probably the sharpest of any of my antiques. Someone took a significant piece out of it at some point swinging it against something hard.

The 84 stamps I'm not entirely sure about, if the work were done in Russia it would have a stamp next to the 84 indicated who the silversmith was, given 84 is .875 pure silver on the Russian zolotniki scale, I think I should be able to determine whether or not it is genuine silver after some time. I have a number of other pieces with solid silver fittings and they patina rather quickly, especially when touched. I've owned this sword for 6 months now, and I've seen no signs of aging after handling so I'm highly skeptical about the purity of the silver.

I appreciate the well-thought-out response and research, this has surely been the most interesting blade that I've owned. I've been pressed to do a write-up on my findings for this blade for quite some time now, and as I am currently on paternity leave I have a goal of finishing the write-up next week of my findings for this beautiful sword.

I'm of like mind that I believe this sword is likely a composite assembled probably late 19th century, with an older blade. The leather has likely been redone in the 20th possibly 21st century. I found it amusing that one of the shashka "experts" in the FB group immediately went to "fake!" then later admitted the Georgians did fashion a small number of swords like this one in that time period but there was "No way" that this was one of those swords, more likely that I was able to attain it. I will add again, I grabbed it at auction in the presence of another 20 legitimate high-quality niello shashka's and other trooper shashka's. I had the chance to nab one of those but this one seemed so out of the ordinary I went for it.

Cheers
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Old 7th August 2021, 04:42 AM   #8
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I have a friend who's a long-time antique dealer and expert who I've been conversing with at length about this shashka, I've provided every picture I could possibly summon to him and he is certain it's ivory. He believes its mammoth simply due to the availability of the material during the time this was potentially made. If it is narwhal that would lend to the theory it was refitted potentially in Russia itself as narwal marine ivory would've been rarer and more expensive. I've never handled any other ivory before, but it sure does feel buttery smooth in the hand. I think I can close the door on that theory.

Using a 20x lense I've taken a look at the carvings of the fittings, there is zero evidence of any dremmel or power tool being used here. That of course does not guarantee it is not of modern make, but it continues to add the extreme care that someone put into making this sword whether it is modern or not.

The blade stamp looks exactly the same as the one produced in that Russian PDF, while I studied Russian in college its been more than ten years and I could never read at a technical level anyway, I translated the pages surrounding the diagram but found nothing to indicate where the FB group owner was generating his analysis that the stamp was common in Western Georgia. The blade is still period sharp, probably the sharpest of any of my antiques. Someone took a significant piece out of it at some point swinging it against something hard.

The 84 stamps I'm not entirely sure about, if the work were done in Russia it would have a stamp next to the 84 indicated who the silversmith was, given 84 is .875 pure silver on the Russian zolotniki scale, I think I should be able to determine whether or not it is genuine silver after some time. I have a number of other pieces with solid silver fittings and they patina rather quickly, especially when touched. I've owned this sword for 6 months now, and I've seen no signs of aging after handling so I'm highly skeptical about the purity of the silver.

I appreciate the well-thought-out response and research, this has surely been the most interesting blade that I've owned. I've been pressed to do a write-up on my findings for this blade for quite some time now, and as I am currently on paternity leave I have a goal of finishing the write-up next week of my findings for this beautiful sword.

I'm of like mind that I believe this sword is likely a composite assembled probably late 19th century, with an older blade. The leather has likely been redone in the 20th possibly 21st century. I found it amusing that one of the shashka "experts" in the FB group immediately went to "fake!" then later admitted the Georgians did fashion a small number of swords like this one in that time period but there was "No way" that this was one of those swords, more likely that I was able to attain it. I will add again, I grabbed it at auction in the presence of another 20 legitimate high-quality niello shashka's and other trooper shashka's. I had the chance to nab one of those but this one seemed so out of the ordinary I went for it.

Cheers
I think I'm the same, or I was in my collecting days (long ago, retirement is not conducive monetarily to such expenses). I was always attracted to the anomaly and that proved very intriguing as years went by and I found more evidence on the items I acquired.
Many swords with silver mounts I have had do not tarnish etc. unless a very long period, or any discoloration is very subtle, just dulling. They always say the magnet test will tell. With ivory they say red hot pin will turn it black .

I think this is narwhal because of the remarkable whiteness.

Not sure what they mean about stamps common in Georgia. As I noted, this running wolf is upright along with the letters, where on German blades the wolf is upside down.
On that Clauberg blade I mentioned from first half 19th c. (Rivkin, op.cit. fig.135, p.232) the ricasso is marked to the maker.......the blade is used in a shashka 1870-90, the running wolf, MH letters and 'bees' are crudely scribed in with all in same configuration as yours.
Again, Daghestan started producing European style blades after 1840s, which is why your blade may fall into that category. ...with resemblance to the M1881 without ricasso.

BTW, you're on paternity leave ? Congratulations on the little one!
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Old 7th August 2021, 12:55 PM   #9
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I think I'm the same, or I was in my collecting days (long ago, retirement is not conducive monetarily to such expenses). I was always attracted to the anomaly and that proved very intriguing as years went by and I found more evidence on the items I acquired.
Many swords with silver mounts I have had do not tarnish etc. unless a very long period, or any discoloration is very subtle, just dulling. They always say the magnet test will tell. With ivory they say red hot pin will turn it black .

I think this is narwhal because of the remarkable whiteness.

Not sure what they mean about stamps common in Georgia. As I noted, this running wolf is upright along with the letters, where on German blades the wolf is upside down.
On that Clauberg blade I mentioned from first half 19th c. (Rivkin, op.cit. fig.135, p.232) the ricasso is marked to the maker.......the blade is used in a shashka 1870-90, the running wolf, MH letters and 'bees' are crudely scribed in with all in same configuration as yours.
Again, Daghestan started producing European style blades after 1840s, which is why your blade may fall into that category. ...with resemblance to the M1881 without ricasso.

BTW, you're on paternity leave ? Congratulations on the little one!
Brilliant, the magnet test! I had not thought of that for some reason. Here I was considering how I could shave off a piece to test. The fittings do not attract the magnet I have in the slightest, and it is an extremely powerful magnet I have to try. The 84 does actually appears in line with Rivkin in the diagram on page 63, this is explained on the next page that Egor Blumberg was the official essayer for silver objects in Tbilisi until 1885. One of his stamps in the diagram is the plain 84, though mine are not perfect rectangles...

I may try the ice test as well carefully to see. I have non-antique silver fittings on two sgian dubhs and a dirk that patina inordinately quickly. Nearly every time I handle them they seem to patina, but the vastly different quality of silver I imagine.

Yes, that Clauberg blade has the same markings and Rivkin says it is a German blade. Without a ricasso though does lend to Daghestan. I am still currently reading through Rivkin, I had bought it and simply thumbed through it before looking for evidence of "skan" craftsmanship but didn't find any.

This has made me want to find a kindjal worthy to pair to this shashka!

Yes, on paternity leave! Great chance with little sleep to research! Slowly trying to finish doing writeups about each of my blades:
https://sbg-sword-forum.forums.net/t...pdated-28jul21

I'd say the last piece of the puzzle would be trying to find other's with "skan" styled silver work. I cannot find any, I think if I could find at least one other with provenance it would help tell its story.

Thanks for the comment!
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Old 7th August 2021, 02:23 PM   #10
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Gentlemen could you, when quoting previous posts, reduce the size of the text to the paragraphs you wish to emphasize ?
Bless you .
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Old 7th August 2021, 04:12 PM   #11
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Gentlemen,

This is a recent example made in Tbilisi, using what appears to be an older blade with the wolf mark likewise recently applied. I have seen them offered in profusion at flea markets and roadside markets.
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Old 7th August 2021, 04:53 PM   #12
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Gentlemen,

This is a recent example made in Tbilisi, using what appears to be an older blade with the wolf mark likewise recently applied. I have seen them offered in profusion at flea markets and roadside markets.
What is the ivory then? It has been checked out but multiple people who all agree it is genuine marine ivory.

I think that is too simple of an explanation. The fittings pass the magnet test as well.

Do you have some examples or pictures of these flea market shashka's for comparison?
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Old 7th August 2021, 05:02 PM   #13
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Gentlemen, what a fascinating discussion. Thanks for the skan reference. I love having better descriptive words, I would have used filigree before. Circassian? I'm not sure? Georgian in a Circassian style, though with the skan I don't know if I would even say that. The motifs that aren't skan seem too non-abstractly floral and make me think eastern Caucasus .There is also a chape present, though without a drag, which older Circassian sheaths did not normally have. On the original sheath galloon would have been a Circassian tell. JT, have you been able to inspect the wood in the sheath in any way to see if it is original? On the subject of a block ricasso, could the blade be shortened? How long is it? All in all I would say Russian or made for a Russian considering the essay marks or lack there of. I have read something concerning the neillo motif on the throat stating that this was favored by Russians, but I can't find the reference. Jim has an argument for pre 1896, but my gut says early 20th century Dagestani fittings with an older blade. I would love for some of our Russian friends to weigh in on this subject.

Now that I am done throwing out unfounded assertions. Three things popped into my head while reading this thread.

1) Jim in #6 the "watercolor" diagrams show the mountings that carry the blade edge up, but the 1877 does not carry vertically, over all they seem in a 19th century Caucasian style shaska configuration. Was this standard for Russian cavalry at the time, or just specialized for units in the Caucasus region, or simply artistic license? While a vertical carry was said to be good for moving on foot through brush and had obvious edge retention advantages it would seem to a bit of an awkward draw for a guarded saber.

2) Not all silvers tarnish equally. Depending on what the silver is alloyed with, often copper, effects how much the silver tarnishes and how quickly. Apparently humidity and exposure to sulfur have a large role in the chemical reaction as well.

3) I found this sight useful while having internal debates on which ivory I am looking at. https://www.fws.gov/lab/ivory_natural.php
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Old 7th August 2021, 05:07 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Oliver Pinchot View Post
Gentlemen,

This is a recent example made in Tbilisi, using what appears to be an older blade with the wolf mark likewise recently applied. I have seen them offered in profusion at flea markets and roadside markets.
Oliver I stand corrected.
Do you have an opinion on the handle material?
Is it a composite in your opinion? The band in the middle of the hilt seems to have more wear than the other elements.

Last edited by Interested Party; 7th August 2021 at 05:10 PM. Reason: incomplete thought
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Old 7th August 2021, 07:44 PM   #15
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Gentlemen could you, when quoting previous posts, reduce the size of the text to the paragraphs you wish to emphasize ?
Bless you .
Understood Fernando
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Old 7th August 2021, 08:14 PM   #16
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This has indeed been a fascinating discussion, and as always a total learning experience.
It has been for me more of a 'by the numbers' probe into examination of an example from photos alone, so my observations are admittedly rather arbitrary as derived from resources available.

I first began to learn about shashkas in around 1993, and through Oliver Pinchot, who honestly knew more about them than I could imagine, and most of it from first hand knowledge through many connections in these and associated regions. Though being disappointed in the outcome, I would not by any means dispute his assessment.

I.P. in your post #13, you note the pre 1896 suggestion I made, which I meant to be toward these fixtures in the mounts. It would seem surprising that the silver hallmark would be spuriously applied. Very good note on the chemical anomalies which occur in silver as well.

This blade is as agreed an older blade with the running wolf grouping more recently applied.
I had not noticed the reverse carry on the Russian swords, and I do not have 'Mollo' handy, but if I recall, the reverse carry was adopted by mounted troops after the Caucasian fashion in the Cossack units. This was I think also put into use in the line units.
In the one sword in the drawings the scabbard mounts show the cross type apertures to place the Moison-Nagant socket bayonet from the 1891 rifles.
This would suggest infantry if not mistaken.

Eduard Wagner, the artist and author of the book "Cut & Thrust Weapons" from which this is derived, was not one for 'artistic license', in fact his penchant for detail was beyond reproach in my opinion. So I would think this interpretation on the carry mounts is correct.

At this point I am still unclear on the definition of skan, and still puzzled at the grip and decorative elements in the mounts material.

I would also appreciate a more objective description of 'Circassian' style. It seems that the Circassian groups were thoroughly dispersed over much of the western Caucusus transcending regional borders.
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Old 7th August 2021, 08:36 PM   #17
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The grip material may be ivory or it may be bone. The issue isn't about materials; the maker used whatever he had access to and then aged it, more or less cleverly creating something of a patina. The metal may be silver, German silver or even white brass.

Any of the forum members who are knowledgeable about Caucasian arms (notably Ariel, among others) will note that only the general form of the sword is Caucasian. The embellishment is vaguely Georgian, with its panels of filigree. The sections of carved ivory, or whatever it is, are decidedly modern-- they have no precise analog in the historical period of production. And as I noted above, the wolf, poor thing, is recent and poorly aged to look antique. the 84 mark is made with a recent stamp, slight differences are identifiable by comparison with period silver stamps.

As well-intended as much of the rest of this discussion is, it's frankly pointless. The form of the ricasso, Circassian influence on Georgian work (an existing and interesting type, but there is none whatsoever here) do not enter into the most basic characteristics of attribution: there is, as noted above, no such historical example of this type-- it is simply the modern... imagining... of a craftsman who, like many other Georgians attempting to augment their income in difficult times, engages in cottage industry. He has jeweler's skills, forming, soldering, filigree, carving, engraving and setting. If he can get hold of a blade, he's all set to create.

No, I do not have photos, I never thought them worthy of memorializing. I did comment to one bright young guy who was selling these that he was close to making genuinely good copies; why didn't he replicate what he saw in museums and books instead? Marketed as fine copies, he could do well. Too much work, he replied. Tourists have to think they stole a treasure from you. They wouldn't know the difference, anyway.
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Old 7th August 2021, 08:50 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Oliver Pinchot View Post
The grip material may be ivory or it may be bone. The issue isn't about materials; the maker used whatever he had access to and then aged it, more or less cleverly creating something of a patina. The metal may be silver, German silver or even white brass.

Any of the forum members who are knowledgeable about Caucasian arms (notably Ariel, among others) will note that only the general form of the sword is Caucasian. The embellishment is vaguely Georgian, with its panels of filigree. The sections of carved ivory, or whatever it is, are decidedly modern-- they have no precise analog in the historical period of production. And as I noted above, the wolf, poor thing, is recent and poorly aged to look antique. the 84 mark is made with a recent stamp, slight differences are identifiable by comparison with period silver stamps.
Well, I very much appreciate the expertise, I know nothing about Caucasian weapons I am quite out of my element here. They do seem to be extraordinarily complicated compared to what I generally deal with: Napoleonic weapons. I would like to still own a kinjal and perhaps another shashka someday as they are aesthetically pleasing and have an interesting history. Next time I'll consult someone with more knowledge!

Thanks again for the detailed response! /thread
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Old 7th August 2021, 11:04 PM   #19
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Thank you so much for the detailed explanation Oliver!
Collecting in our time, more so than ever before, is perilous as these 'craftsmen' in their cottage work become more skilled.
As I have always thought, the most important weapon an arms collector can possess is knowledge, and one never stops learning.

The audacious comment by the bazaar seller, says it all, and the thing is...if you're going to buy and collect.....KNOW the difference!
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Old 8th August 2021, 02:49 AM   #20
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JT, we all find ourselves in your situation from time to time. I would urge you to visit a reliable forum (there are many out there,) and perhaps inquire before investing in an antique arm beyond your specific knowledge? It will save you a buck in the long run. This time, just consider it tuition. That's what the rest of us do ;0)
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Old 8th August 2021, 03:41 AM   #21
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JT, we all find ourselves in your situation from time to time. I would urge you to visit a reliable forum (there are many out there,) and perhaps inquire before investing in an antique arm beyond your specific knowledge? It will save you a buck in the long run. This time, just consider it tuition. That's what the rest of us do ;0)

OUCH! wow, there's some sage advice.......go out and find a 'reliable' forum! Gee, wish I would have had those back when I was just getting into it all.
Well noted on tuition, and I spent a LOT to get what knowledge I gained, but clearly not quite enough.
Thank you JT for giving us a shot here, I learned a great deal here myself, still learning........still a novice after 40+ years of study.
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Old 8th August 2021, 03:45 AM   #22
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But you can sure wear the heck outta that ascot, Jim!
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Old 8th August 2021, 03:03 PM   #23
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I am not going to add much to the argument but I am going to say that the metal work with twisted wire soldered on plates is abkhzian and Western georgian metal work characteristics, here is an example
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Old 8th August 2021, 06:01 PM   #24
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I am not going to add much to the argument but I am going to say that the metal work with twisted wire soldered on plates is abkhzian and Western georgian metal work characteristics, here is an example
Interesting, how old is that piece, and what is it on? Do you have a better descriptive word to describe it?
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Old 8th August 2021, 06:33 PM   #25
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In my opinion this is a fairly recent work, but sporting a probably old blade

I know of modern resins that imitate ivory even to the cracks... but NOT in the Schreger lines. Does your hilt show any sign of Schreger lines?

Moreover, while the hilt may be ivory, the carved panels on the scabbard most certainly are not. I have seen this type pf ivory imitating resin or bone on recent kindjals.

Last but not least, I find it very strange that the "ivory" of the hilt is not braced in front bolster.
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Old 8th August 2021, 06:43 PM   #26
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I’ve found no resin lines, though the antique dealer that has been looking at it thinks it is marine ivory and he said they would not be discernible that way.

Using the black light test resin should show dull/green and not blue/white
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Old 13th August 2021, 03:09 AM   #27
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I noticed this tread just now . I am very busy these days editing a big textbook about pituitary diseases ( which is my speciality and real expertise) and go to my favourite Fora only occasionally, irregularly and briefly.
I was flattered by Oliver’s calling me “ knowledgeable” about Caucasian weapons. These are one of my interests, but in no case I am comparable to Oliver himself, Kirill Rivkin and a coupe of people on Russian Fora.

I tend to stay away from Caucasian filigree, mostly because I do not have very sharp eye for their quality. There was a Georgian jeweler Dzadzamidze working mainly at the beginning of the 20 century. He was producing filigree that makes Russian collectors “ o-oh-ing and a-аh-ing” , but somehow it always seemed to me very “ womanly”, decorative and not suitable for battle. Then I learned that filigree was the easiest decorative technique and that contemporary mass producers of artificially aged replicas of shashkas and kindjals hired girls, recently graduated from high schools and looking for some kind of their “ first jobs” , trained them for literally couple of days and then allowed them to decorate handles and scabbards. These girls worked for a pittance, just like their Guatemalan or Chinese counterparts sewing underwear for K-Mart. Some did pretty crude jobs ( even I could see it), but some with a couple of months experience produced very good ( again, for my eye) examples. That firmly pushed me away from Georgian filigree.

Repousse and niello are much more complex, and there are heated arguments on the Russian Fora whether a particular design was produced by a Lak or an Avar master. However, most genuine items ( end of 19-beginning of 20 century) were made not in ethnic villages, but in large workshops in Tbilisi, Vladikavkaz and even in some Ukrainian and Russian towns. These workshops employed masters from multiple localities and the styles became universal: a Lac master made Avar designs, a native Armenian decorating in the old Circassian style and vice versa and so on.

I can figure out Russian/Ukrainian niello and just for the fun of it bought a shashka made somewhere there. But again real gurus will find some minutiae of major importance.

Thankfully, I know my limitations and consult the real gurus when and if needed, but luckily I am into fighting weapons, historical weapons and more and more into history and books. I buy new stuff very infrequently and only if it hits me as a puzzle. But show me an old giant South Indian spear blade with a Basket Khanda handle or an old Indian damascus saber with a modified British 1821 handle and I get excited:-) There are some risks in this approach, but I am willing to take them. Perhaps it is silly, but what the heck! There are as many collections as there are collectors.....
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Old 28th August 2021, 04:33 PM   #28
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I was flattered by Oliver’s calling me “ knowledgeable” about Caucasian weapons. These are one of my interests, but in no case I am comparable to Oliver himself, Kirill Rivkin and a coupe of people on Russian Fora.

I tend to stay away from Caucasian filigree, mostly because I do not have very sharp eye for their quality.
Thanks for the response! You were named as someone who has a great amount of expertise on Caucasian weapons, as I previously stated my normal area of weapon collection are Napoleonic sabers, with increasing expertise into modern firearms, and I can be considered an actual expert of Blackhawk helicopters

I have now read both of Rivkin's books, and I did find this snippet that seems to be contrary to what most people have said regarding filigree being used on shashkas. Clearly not the exact style, but it is relatively close minus the ivory. I'm convinced this is ivory, the blacklight doesn't lie and the synthetic stuff shows up green. This sword remains a mystery.
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Old 28th August 2021, 06:14 PM   #29
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JT88, you have a PM.
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