A good sword is the one left in its scabbard

According to the old Japanese proverb, a good sword remains in its sheath. One doesn’t find oneself in a situation requiring the use of a sword. This April at McTear’s, however, Japanese swords are coming out of their sheaths in droves. The Asian Works of Art Auction features a collection of six Japanese swords and daggers as well as a stunning collection of tsuba. Let’s look at the tsuba in more detail.


The tsuba is the hand guard of the sword which sits above the handle. Usually in bronze and of rounded or squarish form, the tsuba cane be plain or decorated. The function of the tsuba is to protect the hand and to balance the weapon. Interestingly, the protecting of the hand was intended as protection from one’s own blade - the tsuba stops the hand sliding up onto the blade and injuring the hand of the sword user - rather than as protection from the opponent’s blade.





During the Muromachi period (1333–1573) and the Momoyama period (1573–1603) tsuba were more for functionality than for decoration, being made of stronger metals and designs. During the Edo period (1603–1868) there was peace in Japan so tsuba became more ornamental and made of less practical metals such as gold.



Tsuba are often finely decorated and can be pierced. Japanese families with samurai roots may have chosen to have their family crest (mon) crafted onto a tsuba. Tsuba can be found in a variety of metals and alloys, including iron, steel, brass, copper and shakudō. In a duel, two participants may lock their katana together at the point of the tsuba and push, trying to gain a better position from which to strike the other down.



Function and beauty - a true Japanese objet d’art. Don’t miss lots 1091-1107 to enjoy this striking private collection of tsuba that comes to the market for the first time together.  


Click to view full catalogue>>

Magda Ketterer


To arrange a valuation appointment,or for advice on Asian works of art,please contact specialist Magda Ketterer, on magda@mctears.co.ukor call 0141 810 2880.



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