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Dagger hilt

Dagger hilt

  • Place of origin:

    India (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Light greyish green nephrite, fashioned using abrasives and abrasive-charged tools.

  • Credit Line:

    W. H. Cope Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The dagger hilt would most probably have been made as much for appearance as for functionality. Although the nephrite jade would have enhanced the appearance of the dagger, the weight of the hilt would also have helped to counter-balance the steel blade. Although nephrite 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 dagger unusable without a replacement hilt.

Physical description

A sword hilt with a pistol grip, fashioned in light greyish green nephrite jade with flower and leaf decoration carved in low relief on the pommel and adjacent to the scroll-shaped quillons. Along the whole top edge and running down the back of the pommel, there is a repeating geometric motif consisting of a quatrefoil which is both filled with and surrounded by numerous rhomb-shaped concave depressions. There is also a hole drilled part way down the length of the hilt, inside which a broken section of ferrous metal rod is lodged.

Place of Origin

India (made)

Materials and Techniques

Light greyish green nephrite, fashioned using abrasives and abrasive-charged tools.


Length: 131 mm +/- 2, Height: 56.1 mm, Width: 25.15 mm, Width: 26.75 mm

Object history note

This dagger hilt was probably fashioned in India and it was acquired by W. H. Cope Esq. who valued it at £5-0-0. He bequeathed it to The Victoria and Albert Museum in 1903.

William Henry Cope Esq was considered an authority on ancient ecclesiastical stained glass and on old Plymouth china. He was also an important collector of china, jade and old Venetian and German glass, acquiring many of his pieces from sales of well-known collections such as the Beckford, the Bernal, the Guthrie, the Magniac and the Wells.
He became an Associate of the British Archaeological Association in 1863 and was elected to the BAA council in 1871 and regularly contributed to discussions on a broad range of subjects, often taking along objects from his own collections.
In 1880, Mr. Cope published the first of his articles, on the subject of jade, for the Journal of the BAA. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 1st July 1886 and was elected Vice-President of the BAA in June 1889, a post he continued to hold until his death in 1903.

Descriptive line

A dagger hilt, flowers and leaves carved in low relief, geometric design carved into the upper surface, pale greyish green nephrite jade, Mughal, India




Arms & Armour; Gemstones; Hardstone


South & South East Asia Collection

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