Antique 18th century Ceylonese Sinhalese nobleman dagger (piha-kaetta). A single edged robust steel blade with fuller along the back edge. The forte and spine of the blade are heavily encrusted in silver with scrolling foliage, encased on each side with chased low-grade silver alloy panels, over the base decorated with finely chased floral and vine scrolling foliage. A finely carved horn grip, retained by a rivet, with an elaborately shaped and engraved small plaque. The grip is fitted with a chased pommel cap.
These elaborately decorated knives are usually the product of the Pattal-hatara (four workshops), the blades being supplied by smiths. This was a mainly hereditary corporation of the best craftsmen who worked exclusively for the king in Kandy. Originally there was only one pattala but this was subsequently divided into sections which included a Randaku pattala (golden sword armoury or workshop). As well as being worn by courtiers, these knives were given by the king to nobles and to the temples. REFERENCES: 1) A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor by George Cameron Stone. 2) Armi E Armature Oriental by Gianni Vianello. 3) Rites of Power: Oriental Weapons: Collection of Jorge Caravana, Caleidoscopio by J. Caravana. 4) Ancient Swords, Daggers & Knives in Sri Lankan Museums, Sri Lanka National Museums. De Silva & S. Wickramasinghe. 5) Visions of an Island: Rare works from Sri Lanka in the Christopher Ondaatje Collection by N.Weereratne. CONDITION: The blade has traces of old corrosion, the horn grip slightly chipped near the pommel cap. MEASUREMENTS: Overall length: 27 cm (10 5/8 in).
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