A Scottish Skean-Dhu

Heading : A dress Skean-Dhu ( Sgian Dubh)
Date : Late 19th century
Period : Victoria
Origin :
Scottish provincial, tests silver. Fleur de Lys mark
Size :  19cms long with scabbard
Condition : Excellent
Restoration : None
Weight :  65g

The single edged blade is notched almong the reverse side. The bog oak grip is carved with a basketweave design and the pommel is set with an imitation cairngorm made from silver backed amber glass. Black leather scabbard with silver mounts.

The Gaelic Sgian Dubh translates as black or hidden knife. The Scots were so untusting of one another that knives were designed to secrete in waistbands and armpits. Despite this being a dress example and intended to be decorative or for nothing more than cutting fruit or cheese it is still well made and extremely sharp and potentially lethal. It is still legal to wear this about ones person as part of traditional dress in England , Scotland and Wales.

We have been unable to find any 18th century portraits depicting a skean-dhu being carried, dirks yes,
a skean-dhu, no. They are most probably an early 19th century invention, part of the romantic portrayal of highlanders conjured up by Thomas Carlyle and Walter Scott fuelled by the works of James MacPherson for whom terminal inexactitude was way of life.

The fleur-de-lys mark was used by Alexander Grant and Charles Torchetti, both hammermen of Aberdeen in the second quarter of the 19th century. We believe this to be simply decorative or to have been added later. It was Queen Victoria who made the rest of Britain take a renewed interest in Scottish culture. This is late 19th or early 20th century

Given the choice between photographing this stuck into an apple or protruding from a Scotsman's leg we opted for the politically correct apple rather than the secreted weapon. No Scotsmen were harmed during the photoshoot, the apple did not fare so well.


Reference: Aberdeen Silver- Michael Wilson




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  • Product Code: 2019092818
  • Availability: Sold
  • £375.00

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