Ceremonial Knife
Ca. 19 century
Silver, gilt, iron and turquoise
Knife: 37 cm (14 ½ in), case: 26.3 cm (10 ¼ in)

Decorated with Buddhist symbols, this ornate dagger from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has a tapered, double-edged iron blade with double grooves. The gilt silver hilt is covered with a chiselled foliate decoration and turquoise inlay. The cap-shaped pommel is embellished on the front with a pierced design of a parasol with two fish against a background of foliage. The parasol represents protection from harmful forces whilst the two fish symbolise the benefits of a state of fearlessness. The back of the pommel is chiselled with a honeycomb trellis resembling ancient armour designs.

The scabbard’s fine openwork parcel-gilt silver covering is decorated with Himalayan dragons and Buddhist symbols amidst densely entwined foliate work. The principle dragon is masterfully worked into the underlayer, beneath the upper layer of foliate work, its body marked out in gilding. The sheath is studded with small turquoise chips in box settings. A plain sheet of silver with pierced silver panels along the border covers the reverse of the scabbard.

A dagger of this quality almost certainly would have been made for a member of the Bhutanese nobility.