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Sword hilt

Sword hilt

  • Place of origin:

    India (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Grey chalcedony, fashioned using abrasives and abrasive-charged tools.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The sword hilt would most probably have been made as much for appearance as for functionality. Although the gem-set chalcedony would have enhanced the appearance of the sword, the weight of the hilt would also have helped to counter-balance the steel blade. Although chalcedony is a hard and durable material, one major disadvantage is that it could be liable to damage from sharp impacts, possibly sufficient to render the weapon unusable without a replacement hilt. The fact that it was set with gems indicates that it was once owned by a wealthy or important person.

Physical description

A sword hilt with a pistol grip, fashioned in grey chalcedony with brown patches and subtle banding. There are incised cavities and recesses in a flower and leaf design on the pommel and adjacent to the somewhat scroll-shaped quillons. These cavities once housed inset gems and gold but they have subsequently been removed, with only traces of the gold remaining in the recesses. There is a groove carved into the blade end, which extends along the quillons and there is also a hole drilled part way down the length of the handle but which currently contains a cementing resin.

Place of Origin

India (made)

Materials and Techniques

Grey chalcedony, fashioned using abrasives and abrasive-charged tools.


Length: 126.6 mm, Height: 50.35 mm, Width: 25.9 mm, Width: 22.0 mm

Object history note

This sword hilt was acquired by William Tayler during his time in India (1829-1867). He subsequently sold it to the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria & Albert Museum) in 1874 for the sum of £2-0-0.

William Tayler was educated in England at Charterhouse and also spent a term at Christ Church, Oxford. He entered service with the East India Company on 30th April 1829, arriving in India in October of the same year. He held various posts in Bengal and was appointed Commissioner of Patna in 1855. During his service, he was able to acquire many objects, including hardstones, relating to the customs and religions of India as well as objects from other parts of South Asia.
He was criticised for his handling of the uprisings in Northern India and was moved to a lesser post before being suspended, ultimately resigning on 29th March 1859. He then practised as an advocate in the law courts of Bengal before returning to England in 1867.
He wrote a book about his experiences, entitled Thirty-eight Years in India, in which he states that "After my return to England, circumstances induced me, though with great reluctance, to part with the collection which is now in the South Kensington Museum".

Descriptive line

Sword hilt, pistol grip, grey chalcedony, incised for inset gems and gold, India




Arms & Armour; Gemstones; Hardstone


South & South East Asia Collection

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