With a golden damascened lock of the Indo-Portuguese type.
Sheathed 35.5 cm
Knife 31.8 cm
Base 7 mm
Middle 5 mm
5 cm from tip 4 mm
Base 26 mm
Middle 25 mm
5 cm from tip 23.5 mm
1.5 cm from hilt
Iron, steel, nephrite jade, wood, lacquer, bone, silk, báitóng
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A Chinese jade-hilted knife. The single-edged blade is shaped like the blades of a Chinese eating set knives, but of stout proportions, with a blade that's considerably wider and thicker.
The blade is forged with an inserted high carbon steel edge and alternating layers of carbon high and carbon low steels, showing in a number of layers of different shades of grey above the cutting edge. It has a groove on each side, starting with a crescent-shaped engraving at the base and fading into the tip.
It has a short, round tang glued into a translucent, pale green nephrite jade hilt.
The wooden scabbard is lacquered black with diamond-shaped bone inlays. The mounts are báitóng (白銅). Attached is a large indigo died silk tassel. Age turned it into a greenish blue.
Nephrite jade was very expensive in China, especially the single-color variety seen here.
The knife comes with documented provenance from the estate of Count Ilya Andreyevich Tolstoy (1903-1970). It came into the possession of Ilya Andreyevich Tolstoy's nephew, Serge Lopoukhine, after Ilya's passing in 1970. 1
Ilya was the grandson of Russian author Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.2
Brooke Dolan (second from left) and Ilya Tolstoy (right) with their monk-interpreter, Kusho Yonton Singhe in Tibet.
Ilya Andreyevich Tolstoy had quite an eventful life of his own; he briefly served Russia in the First World War and then continued to become an ichthyologist. In that capacity he helped develop McKinley National Park. He later joined the United States Army and also served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that later would become the CIA. In 1942 he went to Tibet as an envoy of President Franklin D. Rooseveld and met the Dalai Lama.
1943 documentary on the 1942 mission to Lhasa.
Among the presents that Ilya Tolstoy and Brooke Dolan brought for the 6 years old Dalai Lama was a golden Patek Philippe watch. The Dalai Lama still keeps it:
The Dalai Lama with his watch, presented to him by OSS officers Tolstoy and Dolan in 1942.
Photo courtesy of www.gentlemansgazette.com
Later he would embark on a top-secret mission through China's interior, in search of uranium.3
After his Tibet and China exploits he became a founding member of Marineland in Florida.
It is unknown how Ilya Tolstoy he obtained the knife but he possibly purchased it during his mission into China.
1. The provenance comes in the form of a notarized letter.
2. Wikipedia: Leo Tolstoy.
3. Wikipedia: Ilya Andreyevich Tolstoy and the notarized letter. Also see Matt Fratus; The two-man OSS mission through the tibetan mountains to contact the Dalai Lama.
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Probably of Southern origin, with a straight blade and flaring tip.
In the style of northern work of the 16th and 17th centuries
Made of iron, shaped as a gourd, with silver overlay.
A simple utilitarian weapon, probably made for rural martial artists or militia.
A robust and heavy example, crafted with care.