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Kilij with Mughal Jade hilt

Place of Origin: India and Turkey

Date: Early 18th Century/ during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I (r. 1730-1754)

Reference: 527

Status: Available

Full Description:

The sword is comprised of steel, nephrite jade, silver, and brass. The blade is thought to have been made in Turkey sometime in the eighteenth century. Also Turkish, the sword’s features, scabbard, and guard have all been refitted during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I (r. 1730-1754). The scabbard is wood and silver and boasts velvet with metallic thread. The grip can be traced back to Deccan, India.


This one-handed long and curved scimitar sword is called a kilij, so named from the Turkish kiliç, meaning sword. It features a curved, single-edged steel blade with a central fuller and a defining sharp false edge (yalman), near the flared tip. 


The blade bears a mark of three circles on either side of its forte and the shape of the blade suggests that it is of Algerian manufacture[1]. The grip, originally designed for an Indian dagger (khanjar), is carved from dark green nephrite jade and features a pistol-shaped pommel and a down-swept quillon block. The pistol shape appeared in sixteenth-century Europe and India simultaneously.[2] The grip is inlaid with silver, showcasing floral scrolls of stylised carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) and star-shaped flowers with serrated leaves. 


The silver inlay decoration, contrasting with the near-black appearance of the jade, is reminiscent of contemporary bidriware made in the Deccan. Similarly, bidri ware has darkened cast zinc vessels that are inlaid with silver and brass. 


The style and fine quality of the grip suggests an early eighteenth century date. It compares favourably with two dagger grips currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. One of the daggers is made of dark green nephrite jade (inv. 02.18.785) and features the same small star-shaped flowers as this sword. The second dagger (inv. 36.25.667), pale green and inlaid with carnations, is associated with a curved blade.[3] Indian jade objects of this kind and with similar decoration markings have been attributed to the city Hyderabad in the Deccan, which was under Turkish influence in the eighteenth century.[4]


The cross-guard, perfectly adapted to the down-swept quillon block of the grip, features curled ends. It is made from silver, worked in repoussé, and finely chased with a trellis pattern on the upper section. Curved mouldings frame a large scallop shell motif on the lower half. The sinuous curved vegetal mouldings, trellis pattern (quadrillage), and shell motifs (coquilles) on the cross-guard are typical of the French Régence style during the first decades of the eighteenth century. This period predates the emergence of the rocaille with its asymmetrical decorative repertoire that is typical of the Rococo.[5] 


The silver cross-guard on the sword bears a small stamp near the upper section, partially mutilated by a later brass stump, which was likely added to reinforce the union between the cross-guard, grip, and blade tang. Additionally, there are assayer’s test marks made freehand with a burin on both sides of the cross-guard. The wooden scabbard, composed of two halves joined together, is covered in crimson silk velvet with the middle seam decorated with metallic thread lace trimmings. En suite with the cross-guard, the scabbard features silver fittings, similarly worked in repoussé and chased with identical Régence-style motifs on a punched ground. These fittings include a locket, a ring mount with two loops for suspension, and the chape, protecting the tip.


The rounded stamp on one side of the cross-guard can be identified with the tughra of an Ottoman sultan. Tughra comes from the Turkish tuğra - a calligraphic seal or monogram signature. Since the late fifteenth century, it was a legal requirement that gold and silver wares be assayed and stamped at the state’s mint in the Ottoman Empire.[6] Each sultan possessed a distinctive tughra. While slight modifications might occur when crafted by different artisans, the defining elements of a tughra, such as the written text and word arrangement, remained constant. Despite the similarities in the tughras of all sultans, they differed considerably in both content and style. 


Although partially mutilated, careful palaeographic analysis enables its identification with the tughra used by Sultan Mahmud I (r. 1730-1754). While the sultan’s name, written in the lower section (sere) is impossible to read, the design of other elements makes identification possible. For example, the loops to the left of the tughra (beyze), the graphic relation between the upright vertical lines on the top of the tughra (tuğ) with the S-shaped lines crossing them (zülfe), and the way the words ‘forever victorious’ (muẓaffer dāʾimā) are written inside the loops.[7] Mahmud I’s reign was marked by wars in Persia and Europe. The Persian war in question occurred between the collapse of the Safavid dynasty and Nader Shah’s rise to power (r. 1736-1747), and in Europe, it was the so-called Austro-Russian-Turkish War (1735-1739). Significantly, Shah was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty.


It is possible that the Indian jade hilt was a gift to the Ottoman court by Nader Shah, who, in 1739, returned to Iran from Delhi after plundering the imperial Mughal treasury. In 1741, the Ottoman sultan received a large embassy, bringing an exuberant gift of bejewelled textiles, elephants, and costly weapons. These treasures were sent by Nader Shah, who aimed to maintain peace between them. However, this peace was broken in 1743 when the sultan closely cooperated with the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah (r. 1719-1748), who could also have presented the jade hilt to the Ottoman court at this time. 


The chronology of the Régence-style silver fittings aligns with Mahmud I’s reign and attests to the growing influence of European art at the Ottoman court during the eighteenth century. The reflection of an earlier French style in the courtly arts during Mahmud I’s reign is not surprising, given the significance of the Ottoman embassy to the court of Louis XV (r. 1715-1774) of France in 1720 and another in 1742 during Mahmud I’s reign.[8] Following the return of the 1720 embassy from Paris, led by Mehmed Efendi (ca. 1670-1732), which prompted a lasting trend of westernization in the Ottoman Empire, flamboyant architectural motifs began to adorn both royal residences and mosques.


This Turkish sabre, most likely assembled by an Ottoman court jeweller in the service of Mahmud I, may be compared with a similar albeit later composite sword in Metroplitan Museum (inv. 23.232.2a, b).[9] Featuring a late seventeenth-century Safavid blade and a similarly-shaped eighteenth-century Mughal grip also carved from nephrite jade, the sword in New York is fitted with a gem-set cross-guard. Both the Indian jade hilt and the Iranian blade were enriched with gold inlays set with gems at the Ottoman court. The refitted sword received a golden scabbard, similarly set with diamonds, emeralds, and pearls. According to tradition, it was used in 1876 for the investiture of Sultan Murad V, who ruled for merely three months.[10] Unlike in Europe, where crowns ae favoured, the most significant ceremony in the inauguration of various Islamic rulers was the investiture with a sword. Although less ornate, it is likely that the present sabre was refitted during the reign of Mahmud I and was intended for the same type of ceremonial use by a high-ranking member of the Ottoman court. HMC & RS





Private collection New York


Czernys auction house, Italy, 11th June 2016,

(Private collection of a diplomatic family, Portugal)


Christies, South Kensington, 9th December 1998

(Property of the Henry Bass Jr. Foundation, Dallas, Texas


Sothebys, New York, November 22nd & 23rd 1988,

(Property of Mrs. Walter Marconette of Piqua, Ohio)



[2] On this type, see Salam Kaoukji, Precious Indian Weapons and Other Princely Accoutrements. Dar al-Athar al Islamiyyah, The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, London, Thames & Hudson, 2017, p. 147.

[3] David G. Alexander, Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015, p. 216, cat. 85.

[4] Stephen Markel, “Non-Imperial Mughal Sources for Jades and Jade Simulants in South Asia”, Jewellery Studies 10 (2004), pp. 68-75.

[5] See José de los Llanos, Ulysse Jardat (ed.), La Régence à Paris (1715-1723). L’Aube des Lumières (cat.), Paris, Musée Carnavalet-Histoire de Paris, 2023, and namely Ulysse Jardat’s contribution on the decorative repertoire, “Dessins, estampes et arts décoratifs”, pp. 144-145.

[6] Garo Kürkman, Ottoman Silver Marks, Istanbul, Mathusalem Publications, 1996.

[7] The complete tughra reads: Mahmūd Ḫān bin Muṣṭafā muẓaffer dāʾimā or ‘Mahmud Khan son of Mustafa is forever victorious’. Mahmud I was the son of Sultan Mustafa II (r. 1695-1703).

[8] See Mehmed Efendi, Le paradis des infidèles. Relation de Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed efendi, ambassadeur ottoman en France sous la Régence, Paris, François Maspéro, 1981; and Fatma Müge Göçek, East encounters West. France and the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987.

[9] David G. Alexander, Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [...], pp. 174-177, cat. 66.

[10] Another Ottoman ceremonial sabre, similarly, refitted in the nineteenth century with a dark-green nephrite jade Mughal grip, belongs to the same museum (inv. 36.25.1293) - see David G. Alexander, Islamic Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [...], pp. 172-173, cat. 66.


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