The khanjar is a style of knife that originated in the Middle East and spread with the Mughal Empire to India, where gem-inlaid jade hilts became the norm.
This finely worked jade has an appeal that extends well beyond the ordinary arms and armour fraternity and interest from works of art dealers meant there was plenty of competition for the best examples.
Other plus-points were evident, as Thomas Del Mar observed: “The daggers in the collection were from an old princely family. They had been acquired soon after the last war, with good advice, and were largely untouched.
“They were not 17th century or made for the Mughal Court, but they were high quality and very well worked. The estimates were set cautiously and we were rewarded with some strong prices.”
Strongest of all was the £18,000 paid for a late 18th or 19th century Indian khanjar, featuring a recurved blade reinforced along the back with a cusped metal strip and a pistol handle of light-green jade.
This hilt was particularly well decorated with carved lotus flowers and foliage in relief along its length and bold floral roundels of inset garnets and other stones in fine gold mounts on the lobed pommel.
Like many of the knives in this collection, the blade showed signs of light rust, but that only strengthened its credentials as part of a long-standing collection – and clearly the money was in the hilt.
Two more jade-hilted khanjars in similar style started this section of the sale with hammer prices of £9500 and £8000, the higher figure going to an example with a gold and gem-set hilt and a scabbard en suite.
The collections also included a number of jade-handled daggers of the chilanum type which incorporate curved knuckle guards in the hilt.
Bidding for these peaked at £4000, but the other major bidding battle was for a dagger with a strongly recurved blade that appeared to have been cut down from a much longer talwar sword.
Certainly the jade hilt was of typical cruciform talwar shape, beautifully carved and inset with green and red gems in fine gold mounts. Once again the money was in the hilt and this time that amounted to £17,000.
Overall, the 27-lot collection contributed over £80,000 to the £400,000 hammer total.
One Indian rarity from a different source was an iron throwing ring or chakram. The chakram was the warlike ancestor of the modern Frisbee or Aerobie, a hollow disc with a sharpened outer edge which could be launched at an enemy from up to 100 yards away.
Such weapons are rare and are as likely to appear in a decorative arts sale as a specialist arms auction.
A group of three with an illustrious provenance turned up in Sotheby’s Of Royal and Noble Descent sale last year, making £26,000. The unprovenanced and unsung ring in the Del Mar sale was 8in (20cm) in diameter with inlaid silver foliage on both faces and sold for £4000.
Japanese swords on the rise
The other big contributor to the Eastern flavour of this sale was a 120-lot opening section of Japanese weapons. This produced a £12,000 bid for a tachi sword of the Koto period by Kageyori, and £6500 and £6000 for two Edo-period Japanese daggers.
After the sale, Del Mar acknowledged the contribution of noted Japanese sword expert Clive Sinclaire, who has been appointed as a consultant. This looks likely to become a growing area of strength for the firm.
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