by Dr. Lori Verderame
The study of swords is called Spathology. Spathology, in the world of antiques, is very popular and lucrative. Many people study the type, origin, and condition of swords, daggers, edged weapons, etc. Collectors enjoy knowing about antique swords in terms of their relationship to military history and pageantry.
Learning about the use of a certain sword will help you know its value and origin. You need to know if your sword was used by the military or by civilians. This information is vital to a sword’s value.
First things first, there are two main parts of a sword: the blade and the hilt. Everyone knows what and where the blade is on a sword. Blades have basic parts like the point (at the end), edge, and fuller. A fuller is an indentation or groove that runs partial or the entire length of the blade. The fuller allows the blood to run out of the body of the enemy once the blade is inserted into the enemy’s body. A sword may have a single or a double fuller depending on its type.
In addition to the blade, swords also have something called a hilt. The hilt is the area of the sword where your hand rests and grips the sword. Parts of the hilt include the pommel (at the very end of the sword), cross guard (protects the hand), and grip (area where the hand grips the sword beneath the cross guard).
Some common swords are the straight backsword (military sword with a rigid blade and basket hilt) or broadsword (military sword with a double edged blade and basket hilt), and the curved saber or bastard sword (long, curved single edged blade used when riding a horse). When you are trying to assess the quality of a sword, remember that a sword was first and foremost a fighting weapon. It had to get the job done in battle.
There are as many reproductions and fake swords as there are sword types. From rapier swords to daggers, fakes are commonplace and some are very difficult to spot.
What to Look For
If you are testing a sword for durability or quality, never bend the blade. Grip the sword tightly yet comfortably to assess how it feels in your hand.
Determine if you have a straight sword or a curved sword as this will help you identify the age and origin of your sword.
See if your sword is a cutter, thruster, or a cut-and-thrust style blade. Look at the edge of the blade and consider its form as well as its condition.
Blades look alike and many of the same types of blades were used on swords throughout the centuries. This makes faking a sword all the more typical.
Hilts are often removed and changed out. Nazi, World War II sword shown here to the right. They are removed from an original sword and placed on another sword to make a new blade look like part of an old sword. Your hilt should fit tightly onto the sword. A hilt should also match the blade in its style and its artistry. A decorated blade will typically be accompanied by a decorative hilt.
A good quality blade should not wobble within its hilt.
Swords of all types will command high values on the open market, some upwards of $50,000 or more. Even some reproductions attract buyers with deep pockets. So, learn what type of sword you have and its true value.
Get an online appraisal of your sword from Dr. Lori.