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Everything posted by Rivkin

  1. Regarding the import of Chinese copper, much of it was done in terms of coin. There are number of articles, including those referring to sword trade of Japanese in China. For example, the book "Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-1700". While export of copper coin was in general banned by China, a special exemption was given to Japanese; it is hard to ascertain exact magnitude of the export (because various commodities were sometimes counted in equivalent "strings" of copper coin), but we are talking about 100-200 tonns per mission (as per data from 1433, 1477 etc.). Much of Edo coinage and utensils from westernmost Japan has W - which is considered to be absent from Japanese sources and therefore it is often proposed that such items were made from Chinese or Korean copper. Regarding the wide variety of Japanese alloys, I don't think they smelted pure iron with pure copper with pure arsenic. Just like in the rest of the World, they probably smelted different alloys from different sources, producing even larger range of alloys. I never said those were completely random. You have a specific technological process, specific source, you'll get certain alloy. But diversity of sources, and different technologies were driving diversity of copper alloys. None of which was purely random, nor copper with just 0.5% Pb (or the best copper in the World). And only part of it came from copper mines per se. Much was imported; quite a few alloys came as a byproduct of silver and gold production. Sado was the source of substantial percentage of copper in Japan (silver and gold mines were often combined with copper production). It was also a source of much copper coinage in Japan after genroku. There is a world of nihonto collectors and martial artists, and it has its own experts, books, postulates. There is a world of metallurgists, which is separate, and there is a world of historians, yet another one.
  2. Since outside personal collecting, I specialize on Asia more than Japan, so I might be missing something, but... How large a percentage of copper alloys in say genroku Japan came from copper ores per se? How large a percentage was imported? How large a percentage was produced as a byproduct when processing product of silver mines, and most importantly - Sado gold mine? Which one of these should be taken as Japanese copper? My take would be that the only place where I can see more or less substantially refined copper is Sado. Every bit of gold was taken out, leaving a combination of copper with some iron. Since much of coinage was done locally, we can monitor different copper alloys from different sources. With caveats that there was no such thing as "Standard Japanese copper", and in fittings one tends to find wider range of compositions than in late Edo coins. So I took a few random books/preprints and looked at the analysis of Edo period copper items. One of the more common ones: Nagasaki coinage, 23.5% Cu, 3.53 % Pb, 0.75% Fe etc. etc. Kitada "Beauty of Arts". Just for the heck of it, a Korean Haedong Tong-bo coin 6.1% Cu, 1.4% Sn, 0.5% P Very typical medieval alloys.
  3. Kurt, at the risk of causing (again) wast panic, I will have to say - nearly all copper used in Japan is an alloy. Either of gold (0.5-2%) and copper with other elements or of silver (5-10%), copper, arsenic etc. Sometimes one finds other combinations - Copper-Selenium, especially on exports from the Continent etc. It is a typical medieval thing - pure copper was not obtained, nor was there a reason to, instead "naturally occuring" alloys were used. Then depending on patination technique one could get the color gamut ranging from yellow to red to brown and even black, though the latter was complex to say the least. For "complex" colors, the two alloys mentioned above (the second typically coming from silver mines) could be mixed in arbitrary quantities, producing a vast range of copper-based compositions. The specific color would be obtained by emphasizing specific oxides (Cu2O for example), or particles of gold (combined with Cu2O they absorb both blue and red portions of the spectra, giving you black; gold is much easier to control and in general more stable) or silver (similar effect, but silver has oxidation complications; well not everyone is Goto) with specific diameter (up to 10nm?), which one could obtain for very aggressive patination schemes (shakudo). If you were Edo Goto, you did have access to some high quality gold and could enrich such alloys further to 5-10, or even 20% gold if you wanted to. Though chances are 20% gold alloys would not undergo artificial patination and be sold as reddish gold of sorts. This tsuba though is late enough it might not have any gold at all. When they studied the archives of Tokyo Art Institute, where a number of the top Bakumatsu-Meiji tsuba makers resided, they found that by the late Edo they employed much more pure and repeatable compositions, and avoided using gold at all (very expensive). Even black kinko alloys they had were often conventional European-like niello! In some publications it is referred to as "Tokyo Art shakudo" or "Natsuo shakudo". So chances that this tsuba has much gold in it are very slim.
  4. Nice little tsuba, probably early XIXth or late XVIIIth century. Hard to name the exact school at this point... I would guess that the cormorant fishing scene denotes a specific area known for such activity and the poem in grass script alludes to it as well. More often such allusions are a bit more enigmatic... However it is common association in Japanese Art - specific view, specific dish and specific poem(s) all alluding to a particular location. Cormorant fishing is still practiced today both in China and Japan, however it is a touristy business. In Japan there are few places to see it (yes, there is a live fire involved); they are often filmed for documentaries and though accomponied with a typical commentary "for thousands of years residents of .... practiced cormorant fishing; today the tradition still lives...", the "fishermen" are simply locals hired to entertain tourists. Regarding boy's swords, the ones I saw were mounted very simply. Even with somewhat expensive kinko fittings, they were still simplistic enough, and probably disposable.
  5. Rivkin

    Always Edo?

    I think its a complex issue. First, in Meiji there was no need for fittings except for a few new rich and foreigners. These markets produced demand for some strange things that are poorly thought of today, however some of the pieces are among the best Japanese work. Second, dating fittings is much more uncertain than swords. Many were not signed, the vast majority - undated. Oei vs. Momoyama vs. early Edo - is ongoing controversy; there are some examples with established provenance to shrines, but overall the evidence tends to be murky. Metallurgy can help (ko-kinko shakudo is different from Goto school, which is even more different then Natsuo etc.; Iron is also somewhat different), but it is destructive and outside of larger Tokyo Art/Hitachi Metals Co there is not a lot of work done on the subject. Third, there is a large class of iron and kinko fittings attributed to Muromachi or Momoyama. They tend to not carry autograph premium (i.e. aside from first generations of Goto, makers tend to be unknown and never will be known) and can be had for reasonable money. In fact, they can often be found as a steal in a pile of tsuba at a Japanese estate sale/antique dealer at look trade meetup, flea market etc.
  6. Not a specialist, but it does not look like Oei Yoshimitsu. Has a sue-Koto feeling. Just a guess.
  7. Not a specialist, but I would guess anytime between 1830 and 1880. The scene depicting hunting Manchu. Above average quality. Exact school can be at this point pretty much anything. Late Hamano Nara would fit well (?), but the signature does not fit the school.
  8. Rivkin

    Snake Tsuba

    A somewhat common XIXth century design, used by masters from different schools (Mito, Nara etc. etc.). The quality here is above average.
  9. DTI->big dealers-> Tokyo Museum->few Tokyo shrines with old swords->Tokugawa museum in Nagoya->Atsuta shrine->if really hard core Yokoyama and Bizen and local museums->Omishima shrine. Sorry to make an abrasive statement: more quality swords then all the US shows for the past xx years combined.
  10. Its very hard to answer. Lets take Bizen Yokoyama - as most shin-shinto, the imagery is very strong, "in your face", very clearly defined. In books it is often noted that it recreated classic Ichimnoji style, but one is not aware of almost anyone making a mistake between the two. They copied the style, but with a drastically different steel, drastically different techniques, I would say, as the rest of shin-shinto - much more simplistic and crude tools: you need strong masame hada - just mix some steels up, do fewer folds and you have characteristic thick "damascus" lines. If you have a lot of money I recommend going to DTI or, better - Sokendo, with couple of cases filled with cash, and picking up the blades you like. In the latter case it is unlikely you'll make a big mistake. If you don't have a lot of money, I would still go to DTI and at least try to understand what you like. Try to handle some top of the line Kamakura Bizen, Rai, Awataguchi, Soshu. In shinto - classical shinto style like Sukehiro, Shinkai, Kotetsu, Yasutsugu. See what you like. Much of nihonto is a copy or interpretation of such work.
  11. Please disregard my response in a sense that this style of tsuba is not what I am very familiar with and my knowledge of nihonto is very limited. I want to throw my opinion out and see if it matches that of more knowledgeable people. I think because of its simplicity its hard to be completely sure of identification. The plate suggests late Edo. The shape seems to thin out a little towards the edges. Very late Umetada or Shoami (when in doubt say Shoami)?
  12. I would say its genuine, but of average quality. Tsuruta-san is a very respectable seller, and extremely helpful with questions (which is not very common in Japan), but overall I would say when buying from Japan (surely a completely erroneous and personal stereotypes on my part): a. There is substantially less emphasis on buyer satisfaction guarantee. If you bought a fake, many will say that the seller is skillful and you are stupid. b. Most do not like too many questions asked. You see the item, that's it. Few sellers haggle, most don't. Haggling is usually possible when you buy many items and pay cash. Then you get 10-25% discount. c. If they don't like anything about the transaction they just stop responding. It is not considered rude. They might also never speak to you again. Its just the way - with some you develop great relationship, and others will always be sick when you are in town. d. Average tosogu even at the current yen rate is more expensive there. But there are also very many bargains to find, as the market is huge and most tosogu are not papered. Internet retail prices for lowish end tosogu are comparable in Japan and the US. e. The blades are less expensive there, but buying by photographs is difficult. The fakers there are much more sophisticated and sinister than so often maligned Chinese copies on ebay. f. Very high end tosogu is much more expensive there and its often highly papered. In the US there is not much market for 3mil Juyo menuki. Hope that helps.
  13. Tsuruta-san is also known to publicly write on his website when he considers specific NBTHK papers to be completely wrong or just questionable. Quite a few of those were done in the past 2 years; quite a few come from 70s. I don't think there are any hard and fast rules here. It was my first submission to NTHK NPO and I was very pleasantly surprised. Many thanks to Chris Bowen for his efforts. Disclaimer: I did not get very high scores (77 tops). Some of the submissions were due to the need to replace NBTHK judgements. In Japan, NTHK papers are typically not given any consideration, in my strictly personal opinion. However, Miyano-Sensei is very well respected, though some would argue more in Kansai+ area rather than Tokyo.
  14. The catalogue is really good. Almost each sword - high quality photo, oshigata, Japanese and English. I would love to see its being printed A3, as with many Japanese books, but at the price it was sold at - definitely a super-bargain. The exhibit itself was interesting but lighting, even at NBTHK, was not perfect and many swords were difficult to appreciate - as always. Kyoto Meito exhibit is another big event.
  15. Rivkin

    Thematic Tsuba

    Some are quite decent above average first half of the XIXth century work...
  16. Rivkin

    Tsuba Id

    My personal experience with non-specialized antique stores in Tokyo is Very mixed at best. The prices are typically in Tokyo retail category, while the quality is very much substandard to any semi-decent sword shop. Many unsophisticated fakes/replicas as well. Tokyo+ large antique fair is a particular waste of time. There are some bargains, but they tend to come from other places. For example, smallish dealers, sometimes more provincial, who move stuff quickly from the general public.
  17. Rivkin

    Thematic Tsuba

    Well, I am known for straightforward comments, so I can't say the response was unprovoked. And certainly I hope that the price reflects the relative quality and condition issues. They are surely worth some more. As someone who did spend a lot of time researching non-Japanese items, I would comment that a very substantial caveat of Japanese collecting is that one has identical scene being used for centuries; yet 90% of items on the market are mass made and are of poor quality. Really good ones maybe 0.5% or less. But there are plenty of non-Japanese fields where really good cannot be had for money - most are in museum storage.
  18. Rivkin

    Thematic Tsuba

    This one might not look as great, but I'll post it...
  19. Rivkin

    Thematic Tsuba

    Very late Edo, very low quality...Do they try to be Somin this time?
  20. I would answer for myself: I sometimes sell nihonto on ebay. I have 100% positive feedback. However, once in a while the buyer will send an angry email - the signature is gimei (not guaranteed in the description), nakago is wielded (not in my opinion), the sword has wrong sugata due to damage (not in my opinion), retempered (I explicitly identified the issues with nakago color and hamon) etc. etc. Am I a dishonest seller? I don't know. I know one thing - one time I've send tanto to a very respected polisher. He immideately mailed it back, saying the nakago is clearly not in the original shape, at best its was filed to imitate early work, and likely it was wielded on. Later it papered to a sai-jo saku koto smith. Nihonto can be hard to appreciate in hard, and MUCH harder in pictures. If you think ebay is bad with Chinese fakes, Japanese auctions sometimes come with high end papers, however made for other swords/fittings and so on.
  21. Rivkin

    Thematic Tsuba

    Not being a specialist, I would say it boils down to price, as these are not once in a lifetime pieces, and whether you like it. The quality is average/above average, late interpretations on the basis of Soten and Goto styles respectively. I don't think the first ones are Soten school per se. The one with the "naval" topic does look more like Kyoto-Soten, but on the lower quality side of this, often quite good, school;
  22. Poor quality XIXth century Nagoya-mono at best?
  23. I would think they are of very different quality. I am no specialist, but the ko senjuen one will paper Juyo if submitted, in all likeness. Despite its age, it remains a graceful and rich example, offering much to the observer. Such sword in such condition would be welcome in any book on nihonto. Yasumitsu is decent, but pictures are making it a little too hard to tell...I would say it is more flashy style. The last one is hard for me to judge. I would assume it to be the cheapest one.
  24. Juyo definitely puts any sword in 1mil+ category. And most Juyo swords are attractive art swords. However, not pretending to be a specialist, I would note that it involves very complex criteria, which are not always art or quality related. For example, for Tsunahiro tanto to pass juyo it needs: a. Be signed shodai/nidai. b. Be in more hitatsura style rather then somewhat more restrained "Sadamune-Kaneuji" style often practiced by Tsunahiro. c. Have large horimono of a dragon. One can ask, whether just having bonji instead of a dragon is "artistic enough"? Maybe, but I was not able to find such Juyo. It is a well known situation, so when buying a good tanto of his without horimono, I was explicitly told not to submit it for Juyo. Sometime, many years ago they passed Tsunahiro tanto as Juyo and since then all tantos lacking any of the elements of the passed one fail automatically. Once I bought tanto that the owner submitted to Juyo and failed. Condition and polish are excellent; a very much identical one was submitted at one time and passed. If this one is resubmitted 1-2 times, this one will likely pass, if for the particular year the competition is not too strong and somebody on shinsa likes this style. Another time I saw Muramasa tanto for sale. I usually feel that despite their fame most Muramasa are very plain and of poor craftsmanship, but this one was very good. The owner consulted NBTHK and explicitly said that it will not get Juyo - a small section of the hada is poorly forged. Everything else will make it Juyo easily, but for this two inch area. Personally, I do not submit pieces to Juyo. If I like the piece, it stays with me, if not, it sells.
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