21st Century Masterworks: The Art of Modern Classics

This sword is not quite what it appears to be. If you look at it with the eye of an antique dealer, you will recognise it as a member of the scimitar family of swords, commonly called a saif or Arab Sword. If you look with the eye of a historian, you might consider it an example of a Mameluke sword in style, named after the Mamluk warriors of Egypt, who were conquered and became part of the Turkish dominated Ottoman Empire in the 1600s. Perhaps, a specialist in that era might call it a kilij (pronounced kill-idge). It is all of those things, but to our master craftsmen, it’s the cutting edge of modern precious metal engineering.

This example is a truly modern interpretation of the form. The blade is made of Damascus steel, which has a distinctive wood-grained pattern in the metal, formed by folding and hammering the metal hundreds of times to achieve a finish that is hard enough be sharpened to a thin knife edge but won’t shatter on impact.

We also crafted the hilt and scabbard from 18ct gold, using traditional hand working techniques, the surface is hand engraved with a traditional Islamic floral pattern or arabesque and set with rubies and diamonds. The rubies are cabochon cut - which means they are polished into an oval rather than faceted. The hilt is also 18ct gold and highly polished, with a delicate geometric link chain completing it.

What really makes this item truly modern though, despite the faithful recreation of so many traditional forms and techniques, is the ivorine handle - which resembles ivory in colour and texture but is made of resins and polymers. This provides the feel and look of ivory without the disastrous environmental impact.

This sword is destined for a bespoke customer in the Middle East, where these swords are highly prized ceremonial items, often worn at state occasions, diplomatic visits and celebrations. These saif swords symbolise the remarkable longevity of Arabic culture which dates back over 6000 years, and this Mameluke design has come to hold huge significance in Middle Eastern diplomacy, notably as a style that was gifted in the 1800s and 1900s to European Royalty, Napoleon and the US Marine Corps. To this day they remain part of ceremonial dress uniforms around the world.

When you put the Damascus steel blade together with the gold settings, gemstones and ivorine, this traditional ceremonial sword is undeniably a modern and high tech example… as far as swords go. It would have been impossible to make until the modern age, it blends the luxury and tradition of the past with the ingenuity and capabilities of modern luxury craftsmanship and materials. It is what modern silversmithing is all about, keeping traditions alive but pushing the limits of the technology to create new classics.

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