Constructed out of dense hardwood and with fine mother-of-pearl inlays in the Vietnamese fashion.
113 x 81.5 x 21.5 mm
18th or 19th century
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This very well-made box is entirely made of wootz steel. Wootz is a high carbon crucible steel with almost legendary status as a material for swords.
The steel plates are soldered together and on one side is a hinged lid that can be closed and locked. The shape of the hinges and suspension rings identify the box as Persian. These elements have shapes commonly found on Persian arms and armor.
The Persians were famous in the Islamic world for producing the finest quality wootz, and Persian blades were prized possessions for the upper class of neighboring cultures. This box is no exception, made out of plates of flawless wootz steel with bold, active and very consistent patterning in the steel. No attempt has been made to decorate the box with engraving, etching, or gold; it solely aims to show off the quality wootz it was made of.
Anything made of wootz tends to be arms related. Swords, daggers, armor, even wootz powder flasks are encountered but never a purely civilian item. This leads me to believe this box is closely related to the Persian warrior class. Good wootz was at some point more valuable than gold. The fact that the owner had a wootz box made for his prized possession tells us he had a great appreciation for wootz as a material, and / or was very concerned about the safety of whatever was in the box. The lid can be locked with a very delicate locking mechanism that would be pretty difficult to pry open in the heat of hunting or warfare. We are left to conclude that this was probably the box in which he carried his Qur'an, perhaps as part of a wootz armor.
A well-made Qur'an box, entirely made of high quality Persian wootz. It is the only example of its type known to me. The build quality, as well as the attention to detail, is superb.
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