The industrialist Matthew Boulton (1728–1809) is well known for his cut-steel hilted smallswords which he produced (in partnership with others) at his Soho factory in Birmingham. The decoration on this cut steel hilted smallsword is typical of his work.
The 800mm, hollow ground tri-form blade is 25mm wide at the shoulder and is in very good condition. The blade is without rust or damage and retains traces of the original engraving, showing a faced sun, partial stand of arms and foliate scrollwork. Boulton only produced the cut steel hilts and imported the blades for his swords from Germany, believing them to be of superior quality to those produced within the UK at the time. The blade retains its original velvet washer.
The beautiful cut steel hilt is in excellent condition and intricately decorated with the faceted steel beads that give the sword its name. The steel beads were each handmade and cut (faceted) like gems so as to sparkle in the sunshine and reflected candlelight of the period. The stylised floral arrangement of the beads is typical of Boultons’ work. The beads are linked by incised lines representing stems and leaves.
The hilt retains its original beaded chain guard which links the urn pommel to the flower head quillon. There is some small movement in the elliptical, slightly dished guard which is itself beautifully beaded and incised. The quality and attention to detail is magnificent. The blade is firm in the hilt.
This beautiful smallsword is complete with its original vellum scabbard with steel locket incorporating a single suspension ring. The vellum is in very good condition and remains strong. The scabbard is missing its chape and the vellum has age related staining and colouration. The sword sheathes and draws smoothly and is held firmly within the scabbard.
This is an exceptional example of an 18th Century cut steel hilted smallsword that was probably made by Matthew Boulton. The pattern book containing Matthew Boultons’ hilt designs is held in the archive of the Birmingham City Library and is available for viewing by appointment.
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