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Thread: Authentic or Victorian?

  1. #1
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    Authentic or Victorian?

    I have a question for you all. I recently acquired another rapier, but due to concerns from a fellow collector, I thought I would run it past you guys to see if I just made a huge mistake...

    How do you tell an original piece from a Victorian era version? Are there things to watch for? Here is the piece in question, what are your thoughts?

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    Despite the guard being quite substantial, it does seem to be balanced. Does this make it a military rapier (as I have seen them sometimes referred to in some books)

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    The grip seems to be wire wrapped with Turks heads, but they are hard/glassy and seem to be lying beneath a layer of clear sealant - varnish? You can see the indentations in the handle where the lateral bars would have been at some point - now missing.

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    I am fairly comfortable that the blade is authentic by the aging and markings - though I realize this can be reproduced as well. It is signed on both sides PAVLO (some dots) ANTONIO (some dots) followed by a crossed anchor (which I have seen on other swords, plus another I own).

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    Here are some additional photos at other angles. I realize this can’t replace actually holding it in your hands, but hopefully it will give you a general idea to form an opinion.

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    Thank you for your thoughts...and I’ll try to brace myself for bad news....

    Matt

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Michigan
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    Hello Matt. Beautiful rapier that presents itself well with nice form and a pleasing balanced appearance.
    I am no expert at all on rapiers, but I absolutely am fascinated at the armorers who had the talent/skill and magic to fabricate such beautiful, functional works of art.

    Hopefully my reply will 'bump' others to partake in this discussion.

    I have been collecting swords for near 20 years (all within the 1800-1899 era), but never was fortunate enough (or lucky) to have the early pieces affordably fall into my lap from the era that I adore -> the 13th - 17th century swords.

    Without having done any research, but because your rapier is such a nice looking piece, here is my fun '2-cents' of opinion on your sword based only on my gut feeling I get when I look at your rapier (I am sure the experts on this forum will soon assist you with more substantiated evidence and facts).

    Based upon, the look of the blade construction (blade shoulder flare, at the point of interface to the bottom most ring guard that helps to provide lateral side support to the blade) and the blade's distal taper, the fuller type, cryptic inscription, and the aging which looks honest to the era, I feel your blade is certainly authentic.

    Your globular pommel looks to me to be authentic as well.

    However, my gut feeling tells me that your multiple ring guard hilt might be of a later era/time of construction, not born with the blade. As well as the wire Turks Head grip. My belief is that someone realized the true historical significance and beauty of the blade so much, that it should not go without being seen and appreciated. The 'fit' of the visible 'tang ricasso' area to the ring hilt at the point where it enters the hilt (defined by the 5 linear line feature on the hilt) just does not lead me to believe that this 'suspicious fit' would be allowed by an armorer with the amount of effort it takes to fabricate a rapier. So, the multiple ring hilt itself looks to be not en suite with the overall rapier construction.

    So, that is my honest 'opinion' only. Again, please note that I am no expert at all at these very early swords, but I do adore them.

    I must say though, I do think your rapier is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and that blade is fabulous. It is a piece that, depending upon the price, I would have purchased myself and be proud to own.

    Hopefully the true experts on this excellent forum will assist you with their expertise.

    All the best and take care.

    Derek M.
    Kind Regards,
    Derek McLane

  3. #3
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    If I'm correct I see brazing or silver solder on the guard? The blade appears original. I agree with Derek. Parts of the guard exhibit no pitting or corrosion while other parts do.
    The pommel nut looks very suspect. What Richard would describe as a "bitsa" sword, a bit of this and a bit of that. The sword is definitely a put together, pommel nut with no pitting and pommel with pitting.

  4. #4
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    Apr 2014
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    Derek and Will,

    Thank you for the responses.

    Derek, it’s not to late to start collecting the older pieces, I’ve been collecting for almost twenty years as well. From bayonets transitioning to 18th and 19th century British swords and now I am trying to stretch back further over the past four years or so. Thus the mistakes I make in trying to learn what to look for and what to steer clear of. However there are not a lot of pieces from this era in Canada that I come across and shipping from the UK is expensive, so most have come from down your way. So THANK YOU for taking the time to give your observations.

    Will, I may be incorrect, but I think the brazing you see is dust or an old cleaner (?) I have not cleaned the guard yet and I can rub my fingernail on it and it comes off. There is a small amount of corrosion, but you are correct, not as much as the pommel. You are correct on the pommel nut as well. Thank you for your input, I do appreciate it...even if it is not what I had hoped to hear. Chalk it up to learning.

    Thanks again guys and if anyone else has any thoughts, I would be interested in hearing them.

  5. #5
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    Matthew digital photos are very clear but can misrepresent. Colour from one photo to the next can change. Nothing like having the sword in hand to make a positive assessment.
    The crossguard that the bars are attached to seems smooth without pitting unlike the bars. The crossguard could be a casting?
    I don't know what upcoming UK laws regarding swords may be but it seems to be restrictive and may prevent future shipping. As you say here in Canada we are limited for swords.

  6. #6
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    Apr 2014
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    New Brunswick, Canada
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    Hi Will,

    I was reading through an earlier post here about the whole “shipping” thing, hopefully it turns out well. I guess I’ll find out in the upcoming Bonhams auction. I did however just get a quote from pack & send about shipping a sword ( I was contemplating participating in the recent Antony Cribb auction) and while pricey (£140 + £45 for each additional sword) when compared with our weak Canadian dollar, they didn’t seem to bring it up as an issue.

    I also took a few more close ups of the sword guard...in case they are of interest. There is a white(ish) powder in some of the cracks. It seems to wipe away. Dust? Old cleaning solution? I’m not sure.

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    I don’t see any casting lines (which should be evident, correct?) but yes, they are less pitted then the other bars. The finial on the down turned quillon displays some cracking, but not in a straight line that I would expect if cast. Also, now that I look closer the upturned quillon finial does display some similar pitting (picture below) - consistent with the rest? While the down turned quillon finial (the cracked one) does not display as much pitting. Would this be consistent with a guard experiencing weather? The pommel and up turned quillon being more exposed the the weather - or am I grasping at straws?

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    Enjoy!

  7. #7
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    The sword has been disassembled to clean off corrosion. The pitting in some areas depends on what side the sword sat on and on what. I see some recent rust from poor storage.
    The guard bars do look blacksmith made. The finials appear to be cast by the casting flaw shown. Some parts may be not as old as others, possibly Victorian.
    Unfortunately museums do not necessarily these days have experts on this topic. Once the ROM had a great display but possibly the pressure of political correctness it's all been packed away or deaccessioned. I would not know where to look in Canada to get an accurate appraisal.

  8. #8
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    Thanks Will, I appreciate your feed back.

  9. #9
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    Hello again,

    Matt, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience about collecting the very early era swords ( i.e. rapiers, broadswords, Oakeshott types etc.) I would need to slowly transition, like you mentioned, into the very early era swords due to their price. I constantly drool over the 16th century swept hilt rapiers, whether it be German, Italian etc. There are some truly jaw-dropping beautiful works of art pieces out there for sale that are simply awe inspiring....and the price to match!

    I agree with Will that the guard of your rapier looks blacksmith made and certainly old as well maybe Victorian, just not as old as the pommel and blade. In fact, a gut feeling of mine tells me that the white residue that is seen where the multiple circular cross-section bars come together may be forging flux residue from the blacksmithing process to aid in the forge welding process so the multiple bars will maintain a good forging bond? The guard is very well made and in my opinion, the blacksmith had a good eye for proportion to do well respect to the overall look of the rapier.

    I do want to mention again that this is just an observance and opinion only just to share some off-the cuff thought.

    Again Matt, your rapier is VERY visually attractive and certainly deserving of display.

    All the best and take care.
    Kind Regards,
    Derek McLane

  10. #10
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    Thank you Derek.

  11. #11
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    Victorian swept-hilt rapiers are often too long in the grip and the hilt elements are often too heavy/thick. Strangely, these hilts often have authentic pommels and blades. Also, the copies sometimes do not allow for the ricasso to enter a scabbard as the lower rings/lugs are too close to the blade where the ricasso meets the blade proper and sometimes even touching making contact with it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a Victorian rapier--it would be an antique--and I have looked to acquire one.
    Tom Donoho

  12. #12
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    Apologies Tom, my internet was down over the weekend.

    That is good to know, in regard to the grips of Victorian refurbished rapiers. Thank you. I will watch for that in future purchases. As for this one, the grip is almost, actually no, it is exactly the same length as an English civil war rapier I have. To be precise, the grip is 8.7 cm (3.5”) and fits my hand perfectly.

    A comparison.

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  13. #13
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    I understand. The grips should be studied--swept hilts generally have shorter grips as do the deep cup hilts--the English cup hilts are generally shallow as in your pic here and these hilts are more like basket hilts to me. Another thing: the copies often end the knuckle guard at the upper end of the grip below the base of the pommel which s not correct. The variations are the fun and interest of rapiers to me--but I actually focus on small-swords. Enjoy, Matthew. Pix of rapiers are easy to look up on the internet for study. Some of the Victorian period rapiers are very nice and make nice substitutes for the period ones but even the Victorian ones are pricey nowadays.
    Tom Donoho

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