Shakudo is a Japanese alloy used in sheet metal inlay or wire inlay. The technique involves inlaying gold, silver and copper into a darkened copper base. Usually shakudo is composed of 75% copper and 4-25% gold and 5-20% antimony.
Traditionally, the Japanese employed the Shakudo to decorate Samurai katana (long sword) fittings. These included Tsuba (the guard at the end of the grip) and Kozuka (the grip of a small knife). The alloy formed a base for inlays and accompanying patinas for which Japanese decorative katana are so celebrated.
However in 1868, feudalism under the power of the Shoguns was banned in Japan, thereby ending the Samurai class and preventing them from being able to carry weapons.
The Shakudo artisans changed their art from making decorations for weapons into making jewelry, though many of the antique Shakudo pieces sold today are actually old katana fittings.
This is such a piece, it is a tsuba fitting depicting fishermen hauling in 2 dragons.
While Western folklore portrays dragons as greedy, malevolent creatures that hoard gold and devour maidens, in Eastern philosophy, however, they carry much different connotations. Japanese dragons are figures of great power, also wisdom, who provide mortals with wealth and knowledge when they see fit. They are said to bring good fortune to those humans who please them--particularly fishermen, who can be assured of fair weather and a healthy catch if they please a dragon. Dragons also have the power to bring rain, aiding farmers and ensuring a good harvest.
So the symbolism within this shakudo piece is one of luck and good fortune, the fisherman are not hauling in one dragon but two.
It's an allegory for enterprise ensuring success and wealth.
Measures 1 5/8 inches long by 3/4 inches long.
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