Thursday, March 28, 2013
The Ornamental Dagger of Yemen
Antique Yemen Inscribed Ornate Silver Dagger in Sheath Still Usable
This dagger or jambiya is one of the old daggers forged and decorated by the superb Yemenite Jewish silversmiths that emigrated to Israel in the early 1900s and took their artistic knowledge and ability with them.
The sheath is decorated profusely with granulation and inlay, and is partially wrapped in a soft black leather. The dagger is still sharp and is in usable condition. The loops attached to leather wrapping serve to attach the dagger to the clothing of the wearer of the dagger.
Such daggers are worn by Moslem men. This particular one is inscribed with the name 'Daoud' or David written in Arabic. He was probably the owner and wearer of this fine piece. The antique daggers are worn as a status symbol because of the financial value. Yemen still has metalsmiths that create imitations of these magnificent pieces, but the material and the silversmith's techniques are inferior. Many of recent manufacture are made as simply decorative items and are not meant to be used.
The old jambiyas are to be worn on an elaborately woven belt woven originally by men but the art is now being taught to younger women. As explained by Marta Colburn, a frequent traveler to Yemen:
Men in Yemen do not commonly wear jewelry, except for silver rings. The one exception is the decorative dagger called a jambia, which is a common item of dress for most highland Yemeni men. The jambia has great symbolic value establishing one's place in social hierarchies and tribal membership, though it is rarely used as a weapon. The j-shaped version of this dagger, asib, is worn by tribesmen, while judges, legal scholars and religious elites wear a more gently-curved version called a thuma or tuza .... This version worn by elites often displays very intricate and exquisite silver craftsmanship on the sheath.
The belt is an important decorative and functional element of the jambia. Leather is covered with velvet and other fabric embellished with geometric or religious designs in metallic gold or silver thread. The designs may be embroidered or, as in the case of my belt, tablet-woven brocade. Traditionally various silver crafted items would be sewn to the belt for decorative and functional purposes (powder horn, money pouch and amulets). -- Marta Colburn
This dagger was collected from an antiques dealer in Yemen.
Your inquiry is invited.
Sheathed Dagger - 2.5 in x 14 in (6.3 cm x 35.5 cm)
For purchasing information see CraftsofthePast .