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Sword and sheath

  • Date:

    ca. 1780 (made)

  • Museum number:

    M.40&A-1971

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118; The Wolfson Gallery, case 1 []

Object Type
This type of sword was known as a small-sword and was worn with fashionable dress in the 1780s. Highly-polished cut steel was used for a wide range of decorative items in Britain in the last quarter of the 18th century and early 19th. Sword-hilts made in this technique were highly fashionable and extremely expensive. This type of sword should be seen as an item of masculine jewellery rather than as a weapon of offence.

Materials & Making
Cut-steel wares were made at a number of centres, including Woodstock in Oxfordshire and Birmingham. It is also probable that some cut-steel work was actually done on the premises of London retailers. The sale of one of these London workshops included '350 gross of steel beads'. These were used to decorate the different elements of the hilt. This fine-quality blued and gilt blade was made in Solingen in Germany, a well-known centre for blade production. (Blueing is a chemical and heat treatment used to colour iron and steel.)

People
Robert Gray of Bond St, London, specialised in high-quality small-swords; his name appears on the scabbards of a number of them. He may also have had some connection with the Woodstock cut-steel trade, as some Gray hilts are set with cut-steel studs that unscrew - a characteristic of Woodstock work.

Date

ca. 1780 (made)

Dimensions

Length: 98.5 cm

Object history note

Hilt made in England; blade made in Solingen, Germany; scabbard made, and sword put together and sold by Robert Gray of Bond Street, London

Descriptive line

English (London), ca. 1780; Arms and armour

For a sword (Small sword), English (London), ca. 1780; Arms and armour

Labels and date

British Galleries:
By the late 18th century small swords, made to be worn with fashionable dress, were essentially for display. Swords with cut-steel hilts were extremely expensive. Many of the finest surviving examples were sold by Robert Gray in Bond Street, then as now a centre of fashionable London shopping. [27/03/2003]

Categories

Arms & Armour; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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