Item: cc1273

Royal Thai Thailand Betel nut knife. 19th C. Siamese Regalia Betel-Nut Knife with Gold Enameled Hilt



    Overall dimensions: 15.24 cm

    Blade length: 7.62 cm Weight:.11 lbs

    Siamese gold-mounted royal regalia was known throughout the period of the kings and queens of Thailand with the last production of gold royal regalia occurring during the Rattanakosin era in the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910). According to documentary evidence from 1873, golden paraphernalia used as regalia was still being bestowed on members of the royal family and high- ranking officials and was produced for female members of the royal family as late as 1878. The Royal Regalia currently counts 227 pieces, produced from the reign of Rama I to Rama V, and includes those utensils made directly for the king and those which were given to the royal family and high ranking officials. Traditionally, the paraphernalia had to be returned by the owner’s heir to the Royal Treasury Department after the owner passed away and then would be bestowed upon successors in the next royal occasion. The object is a known type and form of a betel nut knife, mounted in gold with green and red enamel.

    The clip point blade is similar to the Thai or Burmese dha blade shape called a hua lu guy referring to a so-called “sheep’s foot” tip where the spine curves down toward the edge (see Macao Museum of Art 2007, Cat. Nrs. 256, 257). The blade further features gold decoration along the spine and ricasso. This form of dagger, mounted in gold and enamel, can be found housed as part of the Rattanakosin Royal Regalia in the Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Coins at the Royal Grand Palace in Bangkok, where a near identical example is part of a gold and enameled betel nut set (Ritpakdee 2015). In Thailand, the eating of betel nut has a long history and the utensils used in it are found in varying grades. Evidence from the periods before the Rattanakosin period indicate that gold betel nut regalia was gifted through royal decree and the presentation and use of royal gifted utensils mounted in gold and enamel was highly controlled. According to the Thailand Department of Treasury, which manages the Thai Royal Regalia:

    According to a royal decree which is related to the rank and title of members of the royal family and in royal law, a royal holding the title Phra Chao Lukter or Phra Yaowarat would be given double-layered trays with decoration. Those who were sent to govern a city or owned 10,000 Rai of land received a gold box, enamelled tray and footed tray. Those who owned 1,000 Rai of land received a tray and footed tray with glass decorations.

    Furthermore, during the Rattanakosin period, according to the Three Emblem Law, officials with the Chao Phraya rank and higher were prescribed to receive gold insignia. However, gold and enameled utensils, such as this knife, were restricted to the higher ranking Thai nobles, while those with lower titles such as Phraya received a gold tray, gold gourd bottle, or gourd bottle and tray with a pedestal. Luang received a silver tray and metal trimmings to be used on elephant ears, and Khun received a square silver tray and gold trimmings. In addition, later in the Rattanakosin period, royal princesses also were entitled to gold regalia, with Chao Fa princesses entitled to a prepared betel tray, gourd bottle and spittoon; all color enameled. Other royals were entitled to gold utensils but without enamel. This example, mounted in gold with green and red enamel is an indication of high royal ownership, likely to either a Chao Fa princess or a royal of Chao Phraya title.

    Macao Museum of Art. (2007). History of Steel in Eastern Asia–A View on the Development of Weaponry. Macao P.R.C Ritpakdee, S. (2015). The Royal Golden Paraphernalia during the Reign of King Rama V, the Rattanakosin Period at the Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Coins.

    Pavilion of Ragalia, Royal Decorations and Coins e-museum. Thailand Department of the Treasury. Utensils for Betel Nut Chewing as Insignia in Thai Society.