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17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings

( ID: cs1125 )

The mounting on this sword combines surviving elements of Ming design on its hilt with Korean decoration and purely Korean elements.  In addition the blade features gold inlays found on several Korean swords in the Smithsonian Museum Anthropology Archives.   The style of the damascened work displays purely Korean methods and elements which can be seen in other forms of Korean metalwork.  Our sword may be most closely compared with an example in the Metropolitan Museum dated to the Choson period, but our example featuring a blade inlaid with Korean script, chiseled and pierced decoration and a chisel form pommel is a very rare style.

            The 27 inch blade has a trapezoid-shaped cross-section, its shape being similar to other extant examples of Korean geom.  Unlike the Metropolitan Museum example, the blade of our example is inlaid at the forte on both sides with gold inscriptions. Over the past centuries sharpening may have obscured other characters which were likely inlaid through the entire length of the blade.  Despite the high level of decoration on its mountings and the decoration of the blade, this is a sword which was clearly made for serious use and the blade displays sharpening over the past several hundred years. 

            All of the hilt fittings are of iron with a wooden grip with a Korean style mounting pin in the middle of the grip on both sides with chiseled decoration, almost in the style of a Japanese menuki.  The grip is straight and does not swell in the middle like other comparable Chinese jian.  However, early Ming Chinese influences are found in the large lobed pommel containing a hole for the sword-knot, and a multi-lobed guard.  The hilt components on this example are decorated in gold and silver damascening with the Korean style dragon.  Highly indicative of Korean construction and not found in any other straight swords from Asia except on Korean straight swords is the tapering of the pommel into a chisel-like form. This can be found on 18th C. Korean royal geom, in Korean collections and at the Smithsonian Museum where the peculiar tapering form is evident, more heavily exaggerated and similar in form to this geom.

            The scabbard is constructed of a wooden core which has all of the original chiseled iron and damascened fittings. The scabbard also has much of the brown lacquer remaining, an uncommon Korean method of scabbard construction we have seen on one previous example sold by us. Damascening was not only a common form of decoration on Korean sword-fittings, but was used on the visors and other fittings of officers’ helmets as well.  The popularity of this decorative technique in the Far East can be attributed to traditions from India and the Middle East, while the Chinese used it much more sparingly. Korean arms and armor is known for damascening of this type, specifically in two colors of gold and silver and examples with dragons in two tone color damascene are found in numerous collections, similar in design to that on this sword.

            Due to the quality of the workmanship, the use of chiseling, pierced work, gold and silver damascene, and gold inlaid blade we date this sword to the 17th- early 18th c. contemporary with Korean helmets of the 16th-17th C.

Photo #1 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #2 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #3 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #4 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #5 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #6 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #7 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #8 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #9 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #10 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #11 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #12 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #13 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #14 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #15 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #16 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings
Photo #17 of 17th C. Choson Dynasty Korean Geom Straight Sword, with pierced and chiseled damascened iron fittings