16 Apr 2021
August 29, 2014 - Filed under: Features — Harriet

While some people like to collect teddy bears and others late Victorian furniture, others prefer their antiques to have a bit more of an edge.

A growing number of collectors are gathering an assortment of antique swords, with many hailing from the East. As such, let’s take a look at a few of the different types that are steadily being discovered in the British antique market to help cut through the matter:

The Mameluke

A curved sword made famous by the Mameluk soldiers of Egypt, after being witnessed by the Western powers during the Napoleonic Wars the Mameluke was adopted for use by European horseback warriors. This swiftly became the modern cavalry sabre that is still carried by soldiers today, even if just ceremonially.

Originally based on a Persian design, the style spread throughout the Middle East, as well as into Turkey, India and North Africa.

The talwar

Hailing from the northern regions of the subcontinent, this single-edged sword, which usually comes attached to an attractive hilt, grew in popularity during the Moghul period. It also appears to have influenced Western weapon design, with the 1796 British Pattern Light Cavalry Sabre sharing several of its characteristics.

Nowadays, they are perhaps best placed above antique coffee tables than warhorses, as they often come paired with intricately decorated scabbards.

The jian

This sword will be recognisable to some as the same sort of long, double-edged blades that were wielded by the heroes in the famous martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The jian has seen use in China for over 2,500 years, where it has become ingrained within the nation’s folklore. The sword is revered as one of the four major martial arms, along with the staff, spear and the sabre, where it is described as the Gentleman of Weapons.

The katana

Popular to many as the Samurai Sword, katanas have found their way into Western pop-culture through numerous movies and stories. Used by the feudal lords of Japan for numerous centuries, the long, distinctive blades have become imbued retrospectively with notions of honour and privilege.

While a number of restrictions remain in place on the katana, which can come afoul of the UK’s Offensive Weapons Order, any made in Japan before 1954 are still legal, as well as those made by traditional methods. While this means that antique collectors are in the clear, they can also be purchased by practitioners of the martial arts and historical re-enactors.

The pata

A straight, double-edged weapon that comes from Southern India, the pata is often referred to in English as a gauntlet sword. This is due to its distinctive design, which has the weapon’s handle encased in an armoured glove. This was designed to protect its user during the close-quarter fighting that categorised this period of Indian history.

Many patas have found their way into the hands of collectors, especially as many were decoratively designed for use by noblemen and Maratha officers. Perhaps, though, it would look best safely sheathed and stored within walnut bedroom furniture.

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