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Thread: Dhals from Kotah

  1. #1
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    Dhals from Kotah

    (Been out of touch for some time...)

    Purchased these at auction and cleaned them up.

    Supposedly they had been a gift from the Maharajah of Kotah to someone who is now a retired Brigadier General from Canada who had been stationed in Kotah. By the condition the shields were in when I received them, I think they must have been in his garage for half a century.

    False damascene-- silver on steel. Two different styles-- one scored completely, one not. Am I correct that these would be early-mid 1800s? Can anyone fill in any other gaps?




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    Quote Originally Posted by David Loundy View Post
    (Been out of touch for some time...)

    Purchased these at auction and cleaned them up.

    Supposedly they had been a gift from the Maharajah of Kotah to someone who is now a retired Brigadier General from Canada who had been stationed in Kotah. By the condition the shields were in when I received them, I think they must have been in his garage for half a century.

    False damascene-- silver on steel. Two different styles-- one scored completely, one not. Am I correct that these would be early-mid 1800s? Can anyone fill in any other gaps?
    David, in order to answer your questions you will need to provide some more images, close up clear ones of both the front and back.

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    Here are the pictures (hard to get of one due to the reflection)-- Number 1:



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    Number 2:






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    I am going to say that these look like replica dhal and not antique at all, I have recently seen several very similar silver engraved examples on Ebay, rust is not a good indicator of age, the details of the edgings etc are not shown in close up detail but I can see no actual wear, they just do not look like antiques to me.

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    Well, your theory is possible, but I don't think it is likely.

    First, these are not engraved, but rather "false damascene"-- see http://www.philamuseum.org/booklets/7_43_81_1.html (It is clearly raised wire applied to the surface and there is one spot where the auction house sticker came off with a bit of the silver wire.) It would still take rather substantial craftsmanship and effort to create a replica.

    Second, I called the auction house and asked if there was any proof of the provenance when arranging delivery. They said that although they had no documentation, they did confirm that the seller was a retired Brigadier General who had been stationed in India and they had no reason to believe that the dhal were anything other than what he said they were-- a gift from Maharajah Bhim Singh II (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhim_Singh_II). If this is true, they must AT LEAST pre-date 1991, the year the Maharaja died... ;-) Are there any Canadians out there who are in-the-know about their retired generals?

    Third, I have a false damascene dagger from about the same area and supposed time that seems very similar in metal quality and craftsmanship to the first shield (the more reflective one).

    Finally, I suppose you could artificially tarnish the metal, but it did seem pretty even and 'natural'-- though I admit I am certainly not an expert. There are a few dings here and there and I had to glue one of the bosses back on which popped its rivet. I do question if these were intended to be used in combat, however, as the workmanship is quite impressive and it would be a travesty to beat the hell out of them. Here are the "before" pictures from the auction house: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/...ajasthan-india and http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/...ajasthan-india. I spent a lot of quality time with WD-40 on the back and Metal Glo on the front followed by some Renaissance Wax getting them into the photographed shape. If they are replicas, they are very carefully done ones as there was nothing about them that indicated fakery, and the sale price would have been quite better if they hadn't looked so neglected, though I am mindful that as I have been reading in the fora here the assertion that every collector gets fooled at least once.

    If these are the real deal, I don't expect to find quite this good a bargain again...

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Loundy View Post
    Well, your theory is possible, but I don't think it is likely.

    First, these are not engraved, but rather "false damascene"-- see http://www.philamuseum.org/booklets/7_43_81_1.html (It is clearly raised wire applied to the surface and there is one spot where the auction house sticker came off with a bit of the silver wire.) It would still take rather substantial craftsmanship and effort to create a replica.
    Here is a link to one Indian sellers items on ebay, take a good lppk, all of these items are replicas, some are quite well done, some look old but they are not authentic items , the Indians are quite good at what they do.
    http://www.ebay.com/sch/vintage_arti...p2047675.l2562

    Second, I called the auction house and asked if there was any proof of the provenance when arranging delivery. They said that although they had no documentation, they did confirm that the seller was a retired Brigadier General who had been stationed in India and they had no reason to believe that the dhal were anything other than what he said they were-- a gift from Maharajah Bhim Singh II (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhim_Singh_II). If this is true, they must AT LEAST pre-date 1991, the year the Maharaja died... ;-) Are there any Canadians out there who are in-the-know about their retired generals?
    I did not say these items were brand new, i said that they were not authentic, the indians have been making replicas for quite some time, and just because the owner was a former General etc he may in fact have known nothing about antique items, there could be many reasons as to were and how he obtained these shields, they could have been a gift to him but the fact remains that you have to look at the item and not the owner in order to ascertain if they are in fact authentic items.[/quote]

    Third, I have a false damascene dagger from about the same area and supposed time that seems very similar in metal quality and craftsmanship to the first shield (the more reflective one).

    Finally, I suppose you could artificially tarnish the metal, but it did seem pretty even and 'natural'-- though I admit I am certainly not an expert. There are a few dings here and there and I had to glue one of the bosses back on which popped its rivet. I do question if these were intended to be used in combat, however, as the workmanship is quite impressive and it would be a travesty to beat the hell out of them. Here are the "before" pictures from the auction house: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/...ajasthan-india and http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/...ajasthan-india. I spent a lot of quality time with WD-40 on the back and Metal Glo on the front followed by some Renaissance Wax getting them into the photographed shape. If they are replicas, they are very carefully done ones as there was nothing about them that indicated fakery, and the sale price would have been quite better if they hadn't looked so neglected, though I am mindful that as I have been reading in the fora here the assertion that every collector gets fooled at least once.

    If these are the real deal, I don't expect to find quite this good a bargain again...
    Once again, the Indians have been making copies of weapons and armor for decades, these items were never intended to be used, they were never owned by warriors or soldiers to be used in war or battle, they were produced to supply the tourist trade, some of the same families and villages that made authentic weapons and armor in past times still make these replicas using the exact same materials and methods as the real dea, I suggest that you take a look at some known antiques dhal and compair the look, workmanship etc to the ones you own.

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    So, based on your criteria, how can you ever know? Any comparison could be a clever fake, any detail could be artificially induced. Especially if it is the same materials, the same construction methods, and possibly legitimately decades old in addition to artificially aged.

    Seriously, I am trying to learn here. I have a few replicas. These are legitimate. They are what they purport to be-- modern copies of something older. I have some "question marks"-- I know what they could be, but I don't know what they really are. These are also legitimate. They were not represented as anything more than an item sitting on a table at the auction house and I bought them without anything more behind the purchase than a little knowledge and perhaps more imagination. I have seen a couple of true fakes. These are not legitimate as they are intended to deceive you into thinking they are something that they are not. These worry me. I don't want to buy a lie.

    These dhal, in my relatively uneducated opinion, look and feel "real"-- defined as Indian shields in excess of 150 years old, whether or not they were used in battle, used for ceremonial purposes, or sold to tourists 150 years ago. Whichever they are, they show artistry and I believe were worth more than I paid. But are they what I think they are? How old are they really?

    So, other than being able to trace the lineage from person to trusted person over the ages, how can you ever really know? I can post detailed pictures, but do they show the work of a skilled craftsman, or a skilled forger (and, at some point, where do you lose the distinction between the two)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Loundy View Post
    So, based on your criteria, how can you ever know? Any comparison could be a clever fake, any detail could be artificially induced. Especially if it is the same materials, the same construction methods, and possibly legitimately decades old in addition to artificially aged.
    David, when you see and handle truly old antique items you start to learn how to tell the difference, it is not always as easy when seen solely by a photograph but when an item seen first hand the differences are much more obvious. You can not add several hundred years of patina and use to a newly made item, the shields you have do not show that, rust is not necessarily an indicator of age, red rust is usually a sign of an attempt to deceive, sharp edges that should be worn smooth from years of use can not easily made to look old. The type of dhal used by the average warrior took a beating, they shout out at you that they are old, the dhal made for high ranking individuals are of such good quality materials and workmanship you know they are real, in between are the outright frauds made in an attempt to deceive and the plain old replica, made to hang on a wall, if you know what to look for its not hard to tell the difference. Maybe someone will have a different opinion on the ones you posted but there was a reason that they sold for such a small amount, it anyone had thought they were authentic antiques they have sold for much more.

    Notice the differerence in how this dhal looks compared to the ones you posted, thick carved metal, heavy patina (not rust), worn edges.



    Look at the difference in the back, the thickness of the metal, way different then the what was used on yours.


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