Sinhalese coral hilted knife
Overall length

33.3 cm

Blade length

21 cm

Blade thickness

Base 7 mm

At bend in spine 6.5 mm

5 cm from tip 5 mm

Blade width

Start edge 33 mm

At bend in spine 35 mm

Weight

407 grams

Point of balance

70 mm from hilt/bolster line

Materials

Iron/steel, silver, copper alloys, copper.

Black coral (Antipathes orichalcea), non-CITES listed,

Origin

Kingdom of Kandy, Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Dating

Mid 18th century

Provenance

USA antique art market

Price €2200, -

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Introduction

These knives are often called pihā-kaetta but strictly speaking, that name only went for a larger, heavy chopper-like variety. Pihiya is simply the word for knife in Sinhalese.

Ornate knives such as this one were made in the Four Workshops or Pattal-Hatara, working exclusively for the king of Kandy. They were used as diplomatic gifts and were bestowed upon officials when they were appointed, along with a larger saber called kasthané

Only the king and his immediate family could have gold-mounted knives and swords, and so these tend to be made with silver and non-tarnishing types of copper amalgam.

 

This example

Of classic form with a recurved blade that is partially covered with silver plating and one wide groove, also covered with silver plating. All silver plate is chased and engraved with classic Sinhalese motifs including liya-pata, repetitive floral elements, and velpotaa pattern of honeysuckle motifs.

The blade connects to the hilt by means of a large cast bolster of copper amalgam, with sprays of curls called liya-pata, one of the most characteristic Sinhalese design elements.

The hilt is made of black coral, (Antipathes orichalcea), a non-CITES listed species. Carved again with liya-pata and ornamented with silver plating.

 

Black coral on a Sinhalese knife hilt

Close up of the coral surface with intense lighting, under high magnification.
It shows the characteristic surface of this material.

 

The silver ball at the end of the pommel was lost and was recently replaced by a professional silversmith.

Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya
Fine Sinhalese pihiya

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