The tapering plain steel blade of this saif ("sword") is protected by a silver scabbard covered in olive-green velvet at its centre and embossed and chased with foliate motifs around its edges as well as on both its locket and slightly rounded chape. The plain silver hilt is particularly striking because it is dominated by foliage designs on the cross-guard and elegant quillons between the horns of its round pommel.
Silver mounted swords of this type typically measure approximately 65 cm to 80 cm and were made for the Omani and Yemeni market during the nineteenth century.1 Saif hilts decorated with intricate floral scrolls are particularly reminiscent of similar workmanship produced in Hyderabad, a testimony to the strong links between India and the Arabian Peninsula at the time.
Swords similar to this object were generally regarded as heirlooms. Interestingly, the blades were often of old Portuguese or Spanish manufacture; consequently, saifs were also known as franji or felegi (i.e. “Franks”) to imply its origins in Western Christian lands.2
1. See, Neil Richardson and Marcia Dorr. 2003. The Craft Heritage of Oman. Dubai: Motivate Publishing. p.230.
2. Francis Barrow Pearce. 1920. Zanzibar: The Island Metropolis of Eastern Africa. London: T. Fisher Unwin Ltd. p.229.