Captivating and mersmerising, the weapons of the Islamic world was a product of labour intensive techniques involving high skills. The technique of smelting used in the making of sword blades and metallic sheaths was believed to have originated in Damascus (Syria). Wavy or "watered" and sinuous in appeal, the blade was often decorated with inscriptions from The Holy Quran.

The techniques of inlaying reached perfection in the middle of the twelfth century in Persia. Decorative motif's on swords, dagger's, shields, helmets and armour were embellished with 'koftgari' technique, which involves rich inlay of gold, silver and precious stones. The weapons of war were ennobled with artistic refinement of a high order.

The MUGHAL Emperors loved jewelry as intrinsic objects of beauty and used it extensively for personal beautification, which in turn drove Silversmiths and Goldsmiths to design royal crowns, robes, jeweled wall hangings and fabrics, all studded with jewels. On notable occasions such as succession to the throne, a victorious battle or royal marriages, great pieces of ornamental jewelry were commissioned to enhance the power of the ruler.

Geography and astronomy motivated the Islamic scientists to invent the Astrolabe, an instrument to track the stars and planets. Astrolabes, artistically styled and calligraphically engraved became an enduring symbol of strength, faith and worship.

Herat, the flourishing trade city of Iran, was an important centre for metal working. Tableware, candle sticks, pitchers, ritual vessels, and other items cast in bronze, copper and silver formed the products of utility. Oil lamps with perforated honeycomb pattern had inscriptions from the Quran. As a source of light for mosques and homes it stood out in expressive starkness to inspire
the faithful.

In ancient times, the purity of the water, milk and vinegar could be preserved longer in silver vessels. Thus silver kettles, vessels and glasses were used for Royal Chambers and even on long voyages.

Perfumes were stored, even burned in silver inlaid incense burners.

In Royal banquets, metal wares inlaid with gold and silver replete with astronomical symbols and floral motifs was a norm. A silver table inscribed with an occasional band of Arabic inscription was a status symbol, a token of a family's prosperity, then as it is now.

Also among the enduring legacy of Islamic culture are the Samawars, old world tea maker and Surahis, elegant long neck pitchers, studded with precious stones in a labyrinth of calligraphy and geometric patterns, celebrating an era of refined culture, etiquette and art.


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  © 2011 MIRAJ Islamic Art Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.