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Thread: Help with bronze sword

  1. #1

    Help with bronze sword

    Attached is a picture of a sword my father bought for me from hongkong. Not sure if this will work but would like all opinions on whether or not its genuine and how one might be able to tell.
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  2. #2
    Just a few things. We know its actual bronze and that the jade is jade. We work with these materials regularly.

    We epoxyed the pommel back on as it wasn't attached when purchased. So if you see in one of the photos a bit of that showing that was our doing.

  3. #3
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    Genuine, as in a genuine 2000+ year old jian? Unlikely, since there are very many fakes or other modern reproductions. Almost all examples for sale are fakes/replicas, including examples being sold as genuine.

    How to tell? Price is often a good guide. If it's cheap, it's modern (even if not cheap for a modern replica).

    I've never see a two-piece jade pommel like this. Are there any genuine examples with this type of pommel? I've not looked much at jade pommels, but I see them in various books, and the ones I see are all one piece.

    A mass spectrometer, or other means, will tell you the composition of the bronze. Does it match bronze compositions of genuine bronze jian? Is it medium tin core, high tin/low lead edges?
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  4. #4
    I live in new zealand. Could you explain how I could get a spectrometer reading carried out. I am really curious to see.

    I realise the chances of it being a genuine warring states sword are low but its similar enough from pictures I have seen of supposed genuine ones. Although I haven't seen a pic of any with jade work on them.

    Any and all references you can point me in the direction to research further would be appreciated. Its hard to find specific information that would be relative to this time period.

  5. #5
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    The only time I ever played with a mass spectrometer was at a foundry; it's a very nice tool for finding out what is in some alloy, and very useful to make sure that you don't recycle something with undesirable content.

    So if there is a local foundry, you can ask them. Or ask the engineering/metallurgy people at the closest university.

    Mass spectrometry will be destructive - you need to remove a sample. How large the sample needs to be is a question to ask.

    There are other methods. There are laser spectroscopy methods, where a pulsed laser blasts away some of the surface, and the light from this ejected plume is analysed.

    All of that will take time, and quite likely some money too. If this doesn't seem worthwhile due to the original cost of the sword not being that high, then don't do it (because the sword is a modern replica/fake).

    For references on Chinese weapons of this type, a good source is Yang Hong, "Weapons in Ancient China". This is a good book, and in English. It isn't a picture book, but has a good number of photos. Iaroslav Lebedynsky's "De l'épée Scythe au sabre Mongol" has drawings showing jade jian fittings and jian with jade fittings. Maybe some photos, but he mostly has drawings. This is the best non-Chinese source for jade pommels I know of, but the drawings are not that clear. He does give references, so it might lead you to more. The book is in French. Those are the only non-Chinese in-print books that cover these that I know of.
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  6. #6
    Thank you. We are going to talk with a man at the university who might be able to do the laser test. One other thing is there is writing on the blade so I will try to find someone who can translate in case it will give a hint.
    Last edited by Benjamin J Hancock; 02-24-2011 at 11:27 AM. Reason: poor spelling

  7. #7
    Is there anything other than the price which may indicate from the photos that this is a fake??

  8. #8
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    It looks like a good replica, from the photos. Good as in close to the originals. As already said, I don't know about the 2-piece pommel; I've only seen 1 piece ones.

    Other than that, the main suspicious feature on the sword itself is all the crud around the guard. The blade is in excellent condition, so it doesn't look like it's been buried for 2000 years. So what's the crud?

    Secondary to the sword itself, I wouldn't expect a box like that with a genuine ancient bronze jian.

    But with almost all bronze jian for sale being fakes or replicas, I think the better question to ask is whether there is any reason to suspect that it might be genuine.

    One interesting question is whether it's a generic replica, or a replica of a specific sword (a game I like to play with ge (dagger-axe), axe, and steppe knife/dagger replicas). Some of these things aren't very authentic in style or appearance. Others are copied from photos (not always from good photos), and are wrong in many details. Some are good replicas, with the main inaccuracy being the material (for the cheap replicas, brass rather than bronze, and for the "better" more expensive replicas, the wrong bronze alloy). Some of the fakes (i.e., claimed to be antique) can be cheaper and better quality than some sold as modern replicas, so depending on what you're after, a fake can be a good buy. It is possible to get very good modern replicas, so I don't think that the more expensive fakes are worthwhile.
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  9. #9
    Firstly, if i'm not mistaken, the sale of an authentic antique sword like this isn't legal in the People's Republic of China, so unless this was some kind of black market purchase it is definitely a copy. The Chinese are pretty much experts at creating replica swords and daggers.
    Second the condition looks a little bit too good.
    Thirdly, an authentic sword like this, if you could buy it legally, would cost many thousands of dollars, especially if it were in such pristine condition.

    I wouldn't waste much time and money on this. The chances that it is the real deal are next to nil and then some.

  10. #10
    It was purchased in Hong Kong... not mainland china.

    It was apparently smuggled out of china and so the box was made to fit once it was "across the border". The antique dealer gave my father a certificate claiming it is at least 100 years old which legalises the sale as an antique so that it could be exported from Hong Kong.

    We have spoken to a chinese doctor at our university who has suggested it could be a replica made a couple hundred years ago. Said something about the british museum having experts who might be able to tell from the designs on the pommel and hilt. Does anyone know any contacts of "experts". Going to google them but never hurts if someone knows someone for sure.

    He did mention the crud around the guard as curious.

    Basically I have never seen another sword like it after searching the internet a lot. I think perhaps it could be an antique in that its possibly 2-300 years old (ie a replica made 2-300 years ago of the bronze swords from 2-3000 years ago)

    The fact that it has the jade carving makes it interesting in that I would like to find out how old it actually is and if it is 100 years or older. The doctor at the uni said it was a nice piece even if it was an old fake. I am not looking to sell this item. Just basically a curiosity to see how old it really is.

  11. #11
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    It would be an absolute sensation, if you got a real antique weapon there, worth not 1000s but 100000s of US$.
    Never ever heared about repros of very old stuff in Ming/Qing times as they had their one designs and didn't think too well of the bronce weapons.
    In my guess not older than 30 yrs. That's when the mainland forging mafia started.
    hongdaozi

  12. #12
    Hong Kong has been a part of the People's Republic of China since 1997 i believe. It is true that it maintains a certain sense of autonomy and in fact uses a completely different legal system than the rest of China. But i would still image that the same laws that apply to the rest of China in terms of protecting the antiquities of the nation probably apply in Hong Kong as well.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin J Hancock View Post
    Basically I have never seen another sword like it after searching the internet a lot. I think perhaps it could be an antique in that its possibly 2-300 years old (ie a replica made 2-300 years ago of the bronze swords from 2-3000 years ago)
    Were replicas like this being made 200-300 years ago? They did make art swords, collector swords, swords that were supposed to be replicas of famous ancient swords (especially during the late Ming, but I don't expect that it stopped completely with the Qing), but AFAIK these were all steel, the kind of thing the modern kungfu/taiji/wushu jian are based on. If you do find anything about old replicas in your quest for information, do post it here!

    I think that 0-30 years is a more likely age.

    The bronze guard/bronze pommel version of this type of jian - which was the most common type historically - is a very common modern reproduction. A casual search on ebay finds about 20 swords of that type, at least 95% of these being modern replicas. Also one modern jade pommel (with a different style of decoration from yours). ("jade sword ornament" is a useful search term, since scabbard slides and pommels are not always labelled as such.)

    Btw, I only saw 1 jade pommel jian in Yang Hong. Steel blade, jade fittings with similar style of decoration to yours, 1 piece pommel.
    Last edited by Timo Nieminen; 03-01-2011 at 03:33 PM.
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  14. #14
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    May I suggest examining the jade carvings under high magnification to see if the tool marks are ancient, old or modern?

    Many fakes abound; but few are done entirely by the original methods.

    Also, give me a couple of minutes and I can hand you a certificate saying that the first emperor used this stainless steel spoon on my desk. There is not a lot of weight in a certificate provided by a seller.

    When buying this type of item abroad one generally buys it as if it were a nice modern souvenier and at a suitable price for one. Then one is not upset to find out that it is! (and in the excessively rare case that it was an original then one is overjoyed!) Remember if a deal is too good to be true---it isn't!
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!

  15. #15
    http://www.exoticjades.com/?cat=26

    First result from google search of jade sword ornaments. Yes these are made for a steel sword.....but they are of similar design to the bronze one I have.

    From a bit more searching this seems to be a common design for the han dynasty (or for fakes of that time).

    I wouldn't be able to tell under high magnification if the marks were modern or old and I don't know anyone in my country who could. (not a lot of ancient chinese weapon enthusiasts/jade workers)

    Very keen for any answer that doesn't make an assumption. I know it is hard to prove one way or the other but I am keen to know if anyone can "read"/indentify the designs on the hilt/pommel.

    That is what the chinese doctor at the university said would identify it as a fake or an old fake or a genuine article. He is chinese and said that they were very specific and so that if there is an EXPERT he would be able to tell from looking at those.
    Last edited by Benjamin J Hancock; 03-07-2011 at 11:41 AM. Reason: correcting information

  16. #16
    Some magnified photos of the jade carving... anyone able to tell from the tool markings?
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin J Hancock View Post
    Just a few things. We know its actual bronze and that the jade is jade. We work with these materials regularly.

    We epoxyed the pommel back on as it wasn't attached when purchased. So if you see in one of the photos a bit of that showing that was our doing.
    Hi Benjamin

    Who is we?

  18. #18
    We being me and my father. We work with bronze and jade regularly in our business. We make headstones for a living and deal with bronze in various states and jade on a semi regular basis in our day to day business.
    Last edited by Benjamin J Hancock; 03-21-2011 at 03:54 PM. Reason: To make better sense

  19. #19
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    Yeah, gotta say too pristine for this piece, especially the patina.

    The carving in places - I would expect a little better in quality and detail than what I see in the close ups. Also there is patina missing in some of those recesses of the jade.

    Sorry. I work with metals and stones too............

  20. #20
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    I like Thomas' suggestion. Look at the carving on the jade. This is one area where the fakers may not have taken as much care. It should be pretty easy to tell under high magnification whether a modern engraver was used.

  21. #21

    Lightbulb

    Hi Benjamin,

    First of all, I'd like to say that this is one of the most attractive copies I've ever seen. Still... IMO, it is a replica, however beautifully made. Obviously the persons who crafted it were talented.

    That being said, I concur with Timo, David, Thomas, Jose and Dan. I have been a jeweler, lapidary and gemologist for over 27 years. The carving in the jade showed relatively recent manufacture, as is evidenced in the engraved patterning on the reverse, flatter side of the hushou (guard) and the butt end of the jiantan (pommel). Anyone with experience in carving soapstone, alabaster, serpentine or nephrite understands the tell tale signs here. In specific, the S design just next to and under the left eye, on the cheek (of the 'Yazi' dragon/lion-dog face). This was etched fairly recently.

    Note how much lighter the interiors to the carved patterning is to the surface of the polished jade. A dead giveaway to it's likely age. Like Jose said, the etching on the one side has no "patina" to it's recesses. It's as simple as comparing it to any number of known museum examples.

    I would say this ancient warrior is less than five-to-ten years in age? Probably worth around $400.00-$500.00? This does not bode well for the authenticity of the bronze sword in question.
    Last edited by jonpalombi; 04-05-2011 at 10:53 PM.
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

  22. #22

    Lightbulb

    BTW, I just wanted to say that the above assessment does not mean to suggest that this jian is not well researched and made within historical parameters. It is a very artistic example of archaic Chinese design elements and exhibits authentic symbolic motifs. It's quite a lovely reproduction jian and I really like it for it's artist relevance. Just wanted to make that clear. It's a very handsome piece.

    Ciao, Jon
    Last edited by jonpalombi; 04-05-2011 at 10:16 PM.
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

  23. #23
    Thank you for the further replies. Its very interesting for me. Can you explain the "missing patina on the jade"? I can't see what it is you are trying to point to.

    We deal with mostly newly worked jade and fresh cast bronze. Don't have any idea of what a genuine OLD piece should look like.

  24. #24
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    Well for one thing, the recesses should be darker than the surface. Also the carvings should be a little crisper. There are other things that would take a while to explain.

    Yes it is scary that the repos out of China are getting better.

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