One of the things I like about antique arms is that each piece I acquire can be the start of an adventure through the less trodden alleys of history.

Last year I acquired such a piece. It's an otherwise relatively standard type of sword of the hill people of central Vietnam, the so-called Montagnards. What piqued my interest was a marking on the long brass sleeve at the hilt, reading:

"Souvenir du general Russe

Prince Constantin Wiasemsky.

Aout - 1892."

I like pieces with a story, and this definitely sounded like a story to me. 

Wiasemsky dha

The Wiasemsky dha.



Prince Constantin Wiasemsky

An explorer so obscure he may have always escaped my attention if it wasn't for this sword. Some preliminary searches through old documents came up with an article called "Wiasemsky's Fad" in the San Francisco Call, Volume 76, Number 10, 10 June 1894, written by Baroness Althea Salvador which describes a lecture he presented in Paris.


Wiasemskys fad


That was more of a story than I hoped for! I teamed up with author David Leffman who managed to uncover some more interesting information about Prince Constantin Wiasemsky, resulting in this Glossary article that gives the prince some of the internet presence he deserves.

The sword is listed here.

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Collected by a Russian prince from the hill peoples of central Vietnam in 1892.


Of jambiya form, with pattern welded blade and fine silver scabbard mounts.


Cast brass shield of a purely ceremonial type that was used during sword dances in Aceh.


Large, heavy single-edged example with iron mounts.


Executed in "nanban style" openwork with chiseled and gold-encrusted peonies.


Unusual piece with depiction of a foreign figure.