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Sword of Maharajah Ranjit Singh

This magnificent sword or 'shamshir' is one of the greatest Sikh treasures in Britain. It was acquired in Paris around 1865 by Lord Hertford, the father of Sir Richard Wallace, founder of the Wallace Collection. He exhibited it in Paris at the 'Musée Rétrospectif' exhibition that year, describing it as having belonged to 'Runjet Sing'; an attribution that has never been doubted. It is a particularly fine and rare example of its type; the mounts being of solid gold rather than gold-damascened iron as was more usually the case with such weapons, as only the most important and prestigious of swords were as richly mounted as this.

The condition throughout, too, is truly wonderful; the sword even retains its original scabbard, carrying belt and straps, all similarly mounted in pure gold. The grip is carved from exotic and highly-prized walrus ivory, probably imported at vast cost from northern Europe, whilst the blade is of 'watered' steel, a cast-crystalline crucible type that is highly prized for its ‘watered' pattern, which still clearly discernable on the blade's surface.

However, despite its richness this superb weapon was perfectly capable of being used to deadly effect, though it is more likely to have been carried whilst hunting rather than in war. The decoration of the sword mounts feature medallions containing depictions of a variety of animals, all game for the hunter, lending weight to the theory that this was a rich hunting sword, intended for conspicuous display.

The cross-guard of the sword-hilt has prominently at its centre the figure of a lion, a fitting emblem to adorn the sword of Ranjit Singh.
[cat. no. OA1404]

Image © By kind permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection