An Indian kard dagger with wootz blade | Mandarin Mansion

An Indian kard dagger with wootz blade

General introduction
Kard (Persian: کرد ) daggers are found from Turkey all the way to India, this being an Indian example. They are characterized by having fairly straight thrusting blades, some with an extra reinforcement at the tip. Another characteristic for these daggers is that most of the handle goes into the scabbard. Most of these date from the 18th century and before, the better examples having wootz steel blades.

On wootz
Wootz was a highly prized form of steel for edged weapons, made in a crucible. Wootz knives and swords were renowned for their hardness and toughness. In order to retain their structure, wootz ingots had to be forged out to shape in relatively low temperatures, much lower than normal forging, or the steel would turn into a homogenous mass of high carbon steel. To smiths not familiar with the processes involved, even having access to wootz billets was of limited use. Those who were "in the know" carefully guarded the secrets of their trade, and they enjoyed elevated status. Some of the best Indian and Persian wootz smiths ended up working for foreign courts. The art of making wootz was lost in the 19th century. Research as to how it was exactly made continues up to this day.

This example
Overall length: 32 cm / 30.3 inch
Blade length: 22 cm / 16.3 inch
Thickness: forte 7 mm, middle 3.5 mm
Blade width: widest part 29 mm
Weight: 219 grams

This kard dagger has a beautiful blade of fine, boldly contrasting wootz steel in various shades of light and dark grey. It features some perpendicular effects. When they are very prominent and evenly spaced, the effect is known as "Mohammad's Ladder". In this case, the effect is somewhat spaced but more playful. This effect is achieved by filing down the blade in these areas and then hammering the surface out flat again. What we see are the deeper layers of wootz being exposed to the surface in this manner.

The thick handle scales are of elephant ivory that after two centuries have developed a nice and bold patina. It comes with its original silk velvet covered scabbard with silver mountings. Silk velvet was a very labor intensive material to make in pre-Industrial India, which made it a very desirable covering material for scabbards. The chape is a later replacement, probably not done in India but in England, where the turned up. The scabbard is decorated with bands of fine silk yarn, each thread meticulously wrapped with thin sheets of copper. See close-ups for details of this intricate work. It shows a wonderful luster in the sun.

Overall a beautiful example of an Indian kard dagger with fine wootz steel blade.


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