Swords were the main weapon of war in traditional warfare since ancient times, until the introduction of firearms. The sword however continued to be used in warfare, until the perfection of firearms. The use of swords as a weapon of war finally came to an end only after the introduction of modern repeating weapons.
Daggers were also used in traditional warfare, and were shorter in length than the swords. In certain situations the dagger was more useful than the sword, as it was easy to carry about and quickly drawn out when needed.
The shield was a traditional defensive weapon carried with the left hand, while the offensive weapon, the spear or the sword was carried with the right. The shield was thus used to ward off the offensive attacks of the opponents, while at the same time the fighter was free to use his offensive weapon with the right hand. Thus, while swords and daggers were offensive weapons of warfare, the shield was a defensive weapon.
Among the Iranian Crown Jewels, exhibited at the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels, there are several jewel studded swords, daggers and shields. such as the Shahi sword, the sword of Fath Ali Shah Qajar, the sword of Nadir Shah, the jeweled dagger, the Ruby dagger, and the Naderi Shield.
The Royal Sword or the Shahi Sword
The Royal sword also known as the Shahi sword is slightly over one meter in length (103 cm or 3.5 ft), with a jewel studded handle and hilt, and a scabbard also completely encrusted with jewels. The total number of jewels in the sword is over 3, 000. The varieties of jewels found are emeralds, diamonds, rubies and spinels. Two of the largest emeralds are 110 carats each, and there are also many large diamonds, rubies and spinels on the sword. An inscription on the sword indicates that it was made by the swordsmith Mirza Ali Nagi in the year 1306 A.H. which according to the Gregorian calendar is equivalent to 1889 A.D. as seen by the following calculation.
The relationship between the Gregorian calendar and the Islamic Hijra calendar is given by the following mathematical formula developed by M.G.S. Hodgson :-
G = H – H/33 + 622 where G represents the Gregorian year and H represents the Hijra year. Substituting for G and H in the above formula, we have
G = 1306 – 1306/33 + 622
G = 1306 – 39 + 622
G = 1267 + 622 = 1889 A. D.
According to historical records the Shahi sword was presented to Nasser-ed-Din Shah who reigned between 1848 to 1896, by his able Prime Minister Amin-us-Sultan, probably around six years after it was made, in the year 1895. This was just one year before he was assassinated in the year 1896 by a fanatic.
Amin-us-Sultan is reported to have served as the Minister of Interior, and the Minister of Treasury and Customs under Nasser-ed-Din Shah’s father Muhammad Shah who ruled between 1834 to 1848, and perhaps he might also have served for a few years under Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834). Even though Amin-us-Sultan had earned the highest regard of the Shahs, he was not so popular among the common people. In his capacity as minister and prime minister he had acquired sufficient wealth, that enabled him to present such an expensive sword to his king, the Shah of Iran.
The Shahi Sword of the Qajar dynasty subsequently became part of the coronation regalia of Qajar Shahs after Nasser-ed Din Shah. It was in keeping with this tradition that the second Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty, and the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, used the Shahi sword for his coronation in the year 1967. On that day after the religious ceremonies associated with the coronation, an officer carrying the emerald belt on a cushion covered tray, approached the Shah; and the Shah took the belt from the tray and tied it around his waist. Later, another officer carrying the Jewel studded Shahi sword approached the Shah; and the Shah took the sword from the tray and hung it on the belt. This was followed by the Shah receiving the Imperial robe which was placed around his shoulders, and then the climax of the coronation, in which the Shah receives the Imperial Crown of Iran from an officer, and then places it on his head, while facing the invited guests, in effect crowning himself as the Shah of Iran.
The Sword of Fath Ali Shah
This sword is older than the Shahi sword, dating back from the period of Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834). In fact the sword is said to be one of his favorite swords, and there are many miniature portraits such as the one shown here that depicts him carrying this sword. There are many scratches on the hilt of the sword indicating that much use was made of the sword, including possible combat.
The unique feature of the sword is its curved blade which is said to be advantageous for cutting than a straight blade, and ancient Iran was one of the countries in Asia where the curved blade first originated. The curved blade was subsequently introduced into European warfare through Turkey.
The manufacture of Fath Ali Shah’s unique curve-bladed sword is credited to a generation of experienced swordsmiths employed by the royal courts of Iran in the 17th century. The steel used for the blade is of very high quality, and there is an inscription in gold with the name of Fath Ali Shah dated 1213 A.H. which is equivalent to 1798 A. D.
G = H – H/33 + 622
G = 1213 – 1213/33 + 622
G = 1213 – 37 + 622
G = 1176 + 622 = 1798 A.D.
This was just one year after he ascended the throne in 1797, on the death of his uncle Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar, the founder of the Qajar dynasty.
The hilt and the scabbard of this historic royal sword is encrusted with jewels in floral patterns. the jewls consist of emeralds, rubies, spinels, and diamonds. The large spinel on the hilt is about 40 carats and the two large spinels on the scabbard are between 20 and 25 carats.
This sword is displayed on the lower shelf of a special display case reserved for large numbers of loose emeralds in the National Iranian Jewels Collection. The sword is known as a “yataghan” in the Persian Language and consists of a handle made of ivory. It is a straight-bladed sword with a length of only 73 cm, much shorter than the conventional sword which has an average length of about one meter. The scabbard of the sword and its handle are encrusted with emeralds. On the scabbard there are at least 10 equally spaced large emeralds surrounded by smaller jewels in a floral pattern. The same pattern is repeated on the ivory handle at two different places.
According to historical records this sword was a gift from Reza Gholi Khan to Nasser-ed Din Mirza, prior to his coronation as Nasser-ed-Din Shah, around the year 1848.
Nadir Shah’s Mighty Sword
This curve-bladed combat sword with a length of 100 cm (1 meter or 3.2 ft.), according to legend is the mighty sword of Nadir Shah that conquered and subdued lands belonging to the most powerful empires of the period, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire of the Czars, the Mogul Empire, and the Afghan rulers, in the twenty-year period between 1726 and 1747. Nadir shah was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant and successful soldiers in the history of Iran, who within a short period of 20 years was able to create a vast empire that stretched from the Indus River to the Caucasus Mountains, and rivaled the territorial extent of the ancient Iranian empires.
A curve-bladed sword is said to be more advantageous than a straight-bladed sword for purposes of combat and Iran is one of the countries where it first originated. Even though popular beliefs hold that this particular sword belonged to the mighty conqueror Nadir Shah, an inscription on the sword attributes it to Fath Ali Shah. However there is no further evidence to show that Fath Ali Shah ever used this sword. In fact in many of the portraits of Fath Ali Shah available we cannot see the sword in even one of these portraits. However, a mural in the marble room of Golestan Palace shows clearly, Fath Ali Shah’s grandson and successor Muhammad Shah Qajar wearing the sword while on horse back. The appearance of Fath Ali Shah’s name on the famed Naderi sword may not have any significance as he had a penchant for putting down his name on all things durable, such as the two famous diamonds, the Darya-i- Nur, and the Shah Diamond, even though these diamonds were inherited by him from his predecessors.
As the other swords in the National Iranian Jewels Collection, Nadir Shah’s sword is also studded with jewels, but mainly diamonds. There are altogether 850 diamonds, encrusted on the scabbard, the handle and the hilt, but unlike other scabbards this one is only encrusted on one side. The largest diamond on the sword weighs 20 carats.
The Jeweled Dagger
The shape and size of daggers vary according to the country of oigin. The Indian katar dagger had a flat triangular blade; the Gurkha kukri dagger had a short curved blade; and the Malayan kris had a short wavy blade. Likewise the jeweled dagger in the National Iranian Jewels Collection has a traditional Iranian shape. The dagger is slightly longer than usual, having a length of almost 1.5 ft (18 ins or 40 cm), and slightly curved to one side. The handle of the dagger and the apex of the sheath are encrusted with jewels such as spinels, diamonds and emeralds. The largest and most distinct jewels are the spinels of varying shapes such as square, rectangular, oval, pear etc. The largest spinel has a weight of 60 carats. The diamonds and the emeralds are much smaller in size and embedded between the spinels. A row of diamonds can be seen embedded at the end of the handle. An inscription on the dagger identifies it as belonging to the period of Fath Ali Shah.
The Ruby Dagger
The Ruby dagger is a dagger with a straight blade, and unusually long, having a length of nearly 2 ft. (23 ins. or 57 cm). The whole length of the dagger, the handle and the sheath are entirely encrusted with cabochon type rubies of varying sizes, on a golden background and the largest rubies are about 10 carats in weight. But, unfortunately nothing much is known about this dagger, such as its period of origin or the ruler to whom it belonged.
The Naderi Shield
The Naderi shield made up of the tough hide of an animal believed to be a rhinoceros is about 1.5 ft ( 46 cm or 18 ins) in diameter. Nadir Shah is said to have carried this shield into battle during his campaigns in Afghanistan and India. But, the shield then was plain and not studded with jewels as we see it today. Even the bow used by him and kept in the Golestan Palace is plain, covered with a coating of varnish, and devoid of any adornments. Thus the encrustation of the shield with jewels like emeralds, rubies, spinels and diamonds must have been carried out at a later date, in his honor, possibly during the time of Fath Ali Shah.
The Naderi Shield like Fath Ali Shah’s hat ornament, is a superb artistic creation and a perfect example of symmetry and mathematical precision. The center of the mosaic is occupied by one of the largest spinels in the world weighing 225 carats, and surrounded by a row of tiny colorless diamonds. The spinel is at the center of an eight-rayed star made up of smaller diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The space between the rays are occupied alternatively by a large emerald and a smaller ruby, each of them being surrounded by a row of small diamonds. As we move further out in the mosaic we can see eight large emeralds placed in tandem with the emeralds and rubies occupying the space between the rays of the star. Emeralds matching in size and shape are placed at opposite ends of the outer circle of emeralds. Thus as far as the larger jewels are concerned, we can identify four distinct rows, one vertical, one horizontal, and the two rows in between these two. The vertical and horizontal rows have the following jewels from one end to the other :- emerald, ruby, spinel, ruby, emerald. The jewels in the other two rows are in the following order :- emerald, emerald, spinel, emerald, emerald. The horizontal and vertical outer emeralds are surrounded by similar elaborate patterns made out of diamonds and rubies. The other four outer emeralds are surrounded by less elaborate but similar patterns also made up of diamonds. The border design extending right round the shield is also studded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
Thus the Naderi Shield is a combination of mathematical precision and artistic refinement. The designer of this unique piece of jewelry art would undoubtedly have faced an arduous task of sorting out matching diamonds to be placed at corresponding positions in the mosaic. Even today the setting of less complicated jewelry with matching jewels is quite a difficult task in spite of the precision equipment available for cutting matching jewels. How this enormously difficult task was achieved more than 200 years ago without any precision equipment, using archaic cutting tools, defies one’s imagination. Therefore the Naderi Shield with its intricate jewelry design will forever remain as a living monument to the great artistic and manipulatory skills of the ancient Iranian jewelry designer.