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18th Century English Small Swords

Back during the English Restoration period, the 17th century, the small sword took on the design it would maintain for the rest of it’s functional existence.

Some of the most beautiful and collected examples are silver hilted. These swords were incredibly expensive when they were made and if you find one today it will cost you a pretty penny.

Silver hilted small swords were a luxury item owned by the wealthy and noble class. These silver hilted swords would have been made with the latest fashions in mind as their owners would have been concerned with having the latest and greatest in all things fashionable.

Because of this, the owner of one of these swords would likely never be seen in public wearing the sword of the common man.

A wealthy man of Engllish 18th century would be able to match the metal of his sword hilt with that of his buttons, buckles and other accessories.

For more somber occasions, the fashionable Englishman would wear a black metal sword.

Courtesy of American Blade August 1979

During the reign of Queen Anne, short swords had a plain hilt that also had a pronounced rim at the edge of the shellguard. Examples from this period will have no date on the hilt but usually have a stamp standard of the 1697-1719 period.

These short swords are equipped with a blade suitable for fighting and triple edged. The blades are hollow ground and wide at the forte.

This particular style was the most popular during the 18th century. The wood grip was pragmatic and offered a reliable fighting hold. Often they were accented with braided silver wire giving them a very striking look.

George I Short Sword

Another great short sword from this period is the George I which offered a less severe hilt with markings of 1721/22. The hilt has two rings, one on each side of the ricasso.

These allowed for the forefinger to be used which was popular in fencing. Over time the design of the rings were reduced in size and later models these rings provide no functional purpose.

George II Short Sword

In the early part of George II rein you will find short swords with the mark of 1731/32. These swords offered a relatively plain and simple design with a hilt that is relieved with groups of vertical fluted borders.

The ends of the arms curl inward and touch the guards but they still offer plenty of room.

You will also find swords designed for the 18th century youth. They often offered decorated hilts that would catch the fancy of the youth. The one in the figure above is marked London 1736/37. These swords were real weapons and not merely a child’s toy. While the average adult short sword measured 39″ these models measured in at around 33″.

These swords were almost exclusively the property of children of the wealthy class and were meant to adorn a well dressed pre teen during their forays into society.

In figure 2a you will find a beautiful silver hilted sword with cherubs decorating it. This sword depicts the little angels doing some of the times favorite activities, hawking, fishing and hunting. These scenes are exquisitely set within decorative floral scrolls.

Toward the end of George II reign the designs of the hilt became more ornate and intricate. You can find hilts decorated with musical scenes, hunting and many more interesting scenes. These swords are incredibly rare and sought after in today’s collecting market. If you find one pay the price and enjoy it rise in value.

Due to the increase in ornate decoration the arms were reduced and the forefinger nolonger could be looped through but the blades maintained their serviceability.

Many of these blades were of German origin and many of the models I have seen came from Solingen. These blades are of high quality as you would expect from Solingen.

In the 1770’s short sword decoration took on a dramatic change. Inspired by the Adams brothers, and silver hilted swords were produced in far fewer numbers. In silvers place new metals became much more popular.

The most popular metal was burnished steel. You will find swords using burnished steel for the rest of this period.

Many of the finest quality blades made of burnished steel were produced by Boulton in Soho. These particular blades lost much of what makes them a serviceable weapon and were primarily a fashion accessory. You can see examples of these in figure 3.

After 1770 wearing a sword largely fell out of fashion. In large city centers it would become increasingly rarer to find a gentleman wearing a sword at his side. But in the county side you would likely find men wearing them until the end of the century.

Written by Fred

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