Islamic Arms & Armour

Islamic Arms and Armour Collection at Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd.

Fine weapons have always been coveted by the wealthiest in society – royalty: kings, princes and their courtiers, as prestige symbols of status and power. Weapons formed an integral part of contemporary attire and were intended for show. As such, they were the perfect vehicle for the presentation of precious materials and technical mastery,  according to courtly traditions and their etiquettes.

The collection of fine Islamic arms and armour offered at Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd in London is expertly selected from the thousands of pieces available on the current antique weapons market, as well as sourced from important and long established private collections that rival items in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the Wallace Collection, London. The distinction of our important collection is our passion to offer only the very finest examples of their kind.

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The core of the collection is strongly focused on Mughal, Ottoman and Persian weapons. Swords: Shamshir, Tulwar, Kilij or Pala, Daggers: Khanjar, Katar, Kard, Peshkabz and Chilanum, as well as weapons from the Caucasus and Russia, including the Kinjal.

Originally, in the collections of Mughal and Ottoman royalty, many of these pieces were dispersed to international museums, dealers and private collections throughout the 19th & 20th centuries. Some of these fine antique weapons remaining in private collections continue to surface and change hands as their rarity increases.

The complexity and skill required to make a sword or dagger of outstanding quality is extreme and needs to be understood as part of the appreciation of the finest arms and armour. The primary element of any edged weapon is, of course, the blade; notably throughout the Middle East, the Persian watered blade was the most desirable. Through folding the steel over and over, elaborate patterns could be built up and enhanced with slow steady heat over several days and ‘zág’ mineral wash treatments to finish. Further treatments with iron-sulfide and burning and soaking horse dung lasting up to a month were also undertaken to enhance the fine grain of the steel.

Four main distinctive patterns of watered blade are most recognisable Kirk Nardubán, highly figured with strong grey black watering Qará khorásán, the high carbon content forces a nearly black blade with gentle tone shifts Qará Tábán another dark watered steel with large watering and a grey tone. Finally Shám or Damascus steel.

Elaborate details and designs were chased into the steel blade, rich organic arabesques and gold koftgari work were laid and fused into the blade before being polished and cleaned with citric acid. The blades with curved medial ridge, T spine, hollow ground, double-edged curved blades, burnishing all requiring skilled time-consuming work.

Fine and rare stones notably white or green jades and rock crystal were used as hilts as well as carved elephant and walrus ivory, the latter accepting rich carving and exceptional detail of lotus flowers and leaves. Jades and crystal fashioned into elaborate animal or bird handles, high relief carved foliate ornament with Silver repoussé mounts, inlaid with fine precious jewels, typically, green emeralds, red rubies, blue sapphires and diamonds. Thicker Kundan pure gold inlay was worked into the jade handles bringing opulence and contrast. Furthermore, bright colourful enamels were also used on the handles and scabbard mounts. Notable enamel production centres were in India -Jaipur, Lucknow, Delhi, and in Persia. Other materials for scabbards include leather, velvet, repoussé silver and gold.

If you are considering acquiring museum quality Islamic arms and armour, then please do get in touch. Many of the edged weapons we handle rival examples in the top Museums. We look forward to assisting you to build your important collection.