Rock Crystal Dagger
Place of Origin: India
Date: 18th/19th Century
A large and impressive Indian ‘Pesh Kabz’ dagger with rock crystal hilt and blade of wootz steel.
For those who are fortunate to handle it, there is no denying the power and beauty of this dagger, a massive piece of rock crystal, with some naturally occurring crystallisation, is carved with a chevron border at the top, and an integral pommel tag for a tassel. The steel bolster is finely decorated with gold koftgari with large Mughal style flowers surrounded by foliage.
The T-section blade is of exceptional quality and shows a high contrast watered pattern. The spine decorated with thick gold koftgari its entire length. The tip sharp and the edge polished brightly.
The wooden scabbard covered with later black velvet and fitted with original copper gilt chape and throat piece, both fittings chased with floral scenes and butterflies.
Articles made of rock crystal, both for use and decoration, were in great favour at the Mughal court, and we should not overlook the use of rock-crystal for purposes of divination. Mughal emperors were fond of drinking wine from crystal cups. Tavernier (V.Ball trans. 1889) writes that he once presented Aurungzeb a battle mace of rock-crystal, and states he saw the emperor drink from a crystal cup upon three different occasions.
The cup (jam) of Jamshid (from Persian mythology) was said to be filled with an elixir of immortality and the whole world was said to be reflected in it. Divinations within the cup were said to reveal deep truths. The cup has been visualized as a crystal ball, Zimmern's English translation of the Shahnameh uses the term "crystal globe". The Mughals may have taken some inspiration from Jamshid and I am sure the drinking of wine helped with any divinations or visions they saw.
A similar dagger is in the Royal Jaipur collection and illustrated by Elgood (2015) cat.no.10, p.37.