Language: Hindu, derived from Persian
Source: Period account


Tah-i-nishan (तह-ी-निशान) was used in northern India to describe the inlaying of metal with silver or gold.

To achieve this, a channel was cut into the metal, in which silver or gold was applied. Connaisseurs call this "true inlay" or "true damascening" in English, as opposed to "overlay" or "false damascening" where gold or silver only adheres to the surface of an object.Tah-i-nishan is, therefore, the best, most durable, and most prized means of decorating arms with silver or gold.

The word comes from the Persian tah-nishān (ته نشان) where tah means "to fold" and nishan "to mark".



True inlay on Indian katarTrue inlay work on a Deccan katar.
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2019.


True inlay on katar hilt

True inlay work on a katar, possibly from Bijapur.
Listed by Mandarin Mansion in 2020.


True inlay talwarTalwar hilt with true inlay

A talwar hilt with true inlay.
Listed by Mandarin Mansion in 2020.



Tah-i-nishan work is primarily associated with Indian work of the 17th to early 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, Hendley laments that the method is falling out of use in favor of low-quality superficial overlaying, primarily done for European tourists.2

Today, extant examples of true tah-i-nishan work are quite rare.


1. Thomas Holbein Hendley, C.I.E.; Damascening On Steel or Iron, as practised in India. W. Griggs & Sons, Ltd. London 1892.
2. Ibid. Pages 7-9.

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A very rare Chinese saber guard dating from the height of the Qing dynasty.


With iron, silver overlaid hilt. Its associated scabbard features fine quillwork.


Signed: Ricky Milnes, India 44, Burma 44, Ramree 45.


Peculiar shield with catching hook, used by the Santali people of Bengal.


Once belonging to William Fraser (1784-1835), a British civil servant.


Somewhat worn but once very high-quality, with great sculptural qualities and remains of silver "true…