Ivory Mounted Dirk

An image of a sheath against a grey background. The sheath has carved people, horses, and dragons on it.
The ivory dirk from the Eldon House collection

Country of Origin: Japan  
Year: ca. 1895 
Materials: Ivory and metal   

Samurai warriors and their weaponry held a fascination for Westerners. By 1853, Japan had opened its international borders and by the 1870s abolished the samurai class, meaning there was a flood of authentic and replica samurai items in Japanese markets. This piece is a model of a traditional samurai dagger called a tanto, which are short double-edged daggers. Authentic Japanese swords/dirks never were mounted in ivory due to its fragility.  Westerners had come to equate ivory with eastern opulence and so a new market was formed. It was bought in Yokohama, a major centre for ivory carving. 

The sides of the sheath show great craftsmanship, with a level of detail. The figures on the side include warriors in armour, people in robes, and floral backgrounds.