AGE: – More than 200 years
CONSTRUCTION: – Iron blade, Ivory, silver plate, stones
DESCRIPTION: – Indonesian Javanese Straight Bladed Keris – a couple of stones missing
BLADE LENGTH: – 37cm
WEIGHT: – 550gms
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This is a beautiful antique Indonesian Javanese Straight Bladed Keris with coloured stones set into a silver Mendak, not sure if the stones are glass or gemstones but considering age it is more than likely that they are gemstones with remnants of gilding still evident. The Wranka and hilt of this keris like one other in our collection is probably mammoth bone ivory, unable to confirm (see enlarged pictures below). The sheath is decorated with beautiful elaborate floral repousse work on one side. We are assuming the metal is silver plated but there is no sign of wear exposing another metal such as brass underneath.
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The keris to many Indonesian men is a symbolic object, many being handed down from father to son over hundreds of years. In days gone by there were written and unwritten laws regarding how a keris should be carried for different situations or occasions. Almost without exception in the distant past no Javanese man would venture out without his keris, in some instances he would carry more than one keris; the one he was given by his father-in-law at the time of his marriage, the one inherited through his father and his own personal keris.
Codes of behavior related to the keris were strictly adhered to, for example, a man could not wear a keris with a gold hilt if he was not a member of the royal family, if he were to do so it would be confiscated, or wear a keris that may indicate his wealth.
Currently in Indonesia and Malaysia the keris is often still part of the dress of the groom when he marries, but it is purely ceremonial. In the past the keris would sometimes be used as a proxy to represent the groom at his wedding ceremony if he was unable to attend, especially so if the bride was his second or third wife, or if the bride was of a lower social standing.
Customs regarding the keris vary depending on which area of Indonesia the bride and groom come from, in some areas it is customary for the groom to have his keris delivered to the parents of the bride, especially so if the bride’s parents haven’t given full consent to the marriage. This method would signify the intention of increasing the dowry.
If the keris was returned to him, a more aggressive method was used by the groom whereby he would forcefully enter the home with his keris strapped to his chest and take the bride by force from her bedroom, thus showing his intent. Abducting the bride often affected the amount paid as dowry and the parents would usually strike an amicable pact with the groom which would also include a fine for trespassing.
Information sourced from David Van Duuren’s book “The Keris”