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thutson

Cloud dragon tsuba opinion

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Hello,

 

I was wondering what people's opinions are on this tsuba, I've seen some poor reproductions of this design but to my (untrained) eye this one actually looks pretty decent and has some nice detail. I know it may be risky to purchase a design that has been copied a lot but there must also be some good utsushi out there as well.

 

Thanks,

 

Tom

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Hello Yas,

 

Thanks for the posting the link, I tried to find it again but couldn't.

 

I wasn't the highest bidder, I was also watching it and liked the piece but was surprised at how much it went for. This made me wonder if this was due to it being higher quality. As someone who is fairly new to collecting tsuba, unless you only purchase from respected dealers I feel it can be a minefield. Very poor castings and reproductions can be easy to spot but I assume there is a range in the quality of utsushi which makes it more tricky.

 

Tom

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Thank you.

The design of the cloud dragon is also in "machi-bori", and there are good works without a sign.

 I don't think $1440 is that expensive, if it's really Edo period work.

 

 Yas

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Hi, really a nice tsuba, but even in low resolution pics the nanako-ji don't looks top quality, so maybe a little overpriced, in my opinion.

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It continues.

It is easier to hide a dragon by repeating clouds rather than carving the dragon scale on the whole.

What is important is how to judge the quality of metal on the monitor. It's also a problem for Japanese collectors.

Hmmm... I can't write well here, so I'm not sure how useful Twitter's translation features are, but take a look at my thread.

 

Yas.A

 



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Yes I initially thought Goto school Sebastien but I agree there are also some good machi-bori pieces without signatures as well.

 

Some interesting points on your twitter threads Yas and you're right it can be difficult to judge the quality of the metal and carving on a monitor.

 

I've attached a couple of images of tsuba with the same cloud dragon design, one is obviously a very poor casting but the other, although still obviously poorer than the tsuba I first posted, is a better quality casting with nanako. These reproductions and castings are based on an original piece and some Edo period utsushi can still be of a very good quality, but do they put doubt onto the original piece I posted? It seems very tricky to be sure.

 

Tom

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Yes Tom. It is now on sale at the auction. At first glance, Tuba on the left and right looks different.

However, please note that the layout and size of the patterns are the same in both cases.
Actually, both items are familiar to Japanese buyers. Only the newcomers or agents have a high bid on the left tsuba.
 
Yas

 

 

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Thanks Yas, it's good to see them side by side, I agree the patterns appear pretty much identical but there are still differences such as the rim and in the quality and in the detail of the carvings.

 

There seems to be a sliding scale of very good to very poor within the reproductions which are all based on an original. Perhaps the left one is a hand finished early reproduction, which explains the price it went for or as you say just a newcomer with a big wallet, I guess its hard to know.

 

Thanks for your input.

Tom

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Somehow I never saw the original tsuba on Yahoo Japan.  I like it also, though it has some condition issues, including loss of shakudo patina on the seppa dai and some verdigris or other type of surface corrosion or staining from a past seppa that was in contact with it.  The work is excellent in my opinion though.  I access Yahoo Japan through Buyee - was this tsuba on Yahoo Japan?  I wonder why it didn't pop up on my screen? 

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Dear Robert,

 

I think Yasaka-san is telling us that both tsuba in the pictures are bad...

 

 

However, one of the tsuba in his Twitter link is good (IMHO):

 

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Thank you for watching my tweet, George. 

Each dragon carved using traditional crafting methods is three-dimensional, such that it can be caught with your finger (don't really recommend touching it).

As you say, it's doubtful that presented first Cloud Dragon's Tsuba is using real gold. And I think it's a Tuba made with modern methods.

 

Yas.A

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Thanks for your opinions, to me the quality in the carving of the dragon and the rim of the initial tsuba appears much better with a lot more fine detail and the mark on the top left seppa-dia is in a similar location but appears different. If it is indeed a modern casting, which I'm not yet convinced of, I think this highlights just how difficult it can be to identify a quality piece.

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Dear Tom and Robert,

 

Yes, the tsuba in question looks better than the others, but, in my opinion, it is just a better job of copying.  I agree with Yasaka-san that this tsuba is a recent copy made by modern manufacturing techniques.  Consider the following and let me know what you think.

 

The divot on the upper left of the seppadai looks just like the divots that I've seen when sprues are broken off of castings (sprues are the channels that feed a molten metal casting and when the metal solidifies, they look like thin rods attached to the casting).  Sometimes when the sprue is broken off (instead of sawn off cleanly) it creates a divot (depression) with the center being slightly raised like a reverse volcano.  In each casting, the sprues are individually placed so the sprues may be in slightly different places from one casting to the next.  So that's why it may look different than the other sprue marks on the other cast versions that Tom showed.  Take a look at this picture and let me know if you think it might be the remnants of a sprue.

 

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In many places on the Tsuba, I see what appear to me to be casting or molding bubbles ("positive" not "negative" bubbles).  The nanako appears "stretched" in some places which can happen when using wax and/or rubber in the molding process.  Finally, there appears to be lots of "clean up" from faulty molding (whether cast or stamped). For example see the "blob" in the picture below (circle on the right) behind the tail of one of the clouds (there are about a dozen cloud tails on the Tsuba and only this one has the "blob" behind it - so I do not believe that it is intentional).  If it were carved (instead of being cast/molded/stamped), the maker would have fixed this area.  Instead, they simply painted gold over it to hide it.

 

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I didn't catch that extra gold under the tail of the cloud on the bottom George and admit that it looks fishy.  OMG, I have been trying to branch my study out to tsuba from swords, but this is a little scary.  That tsuba looked very good to me, and I might have bid on it.  Cheers, Bob

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Some nice detective work George, I'm not used to looking at sprue marks, it certainly looks a lot less prominent than the marks on the other tsuba but I'd have to agree the extra gold under the tail of the cloud looks odd when all the rest look nicely carved, I hadn't noticed that either.

 

You're right Bob it is a bit scary if they can make modern casting that look this good. Higher resolution images might make things clearer but from these it certainly looked very good to me as well.

Thanks for all your inputs!

 

Tom

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One of the scary things about modern vulcanized molding and wax casting is that it can pick up very fine detail (to the level of fingerprints!)  Fortunately, there are usually telltale signs of this modern process (but they are getting harder and harder to detect on the really good copies).  Gold and silver is particularly easy to cast, so watch out for gold menuki and solid silver tsuba.  Homogenous metal pieces (i.e., without inlay) are much easier to do and conceal.  Look for bad patinas and painted on gold/silver like this one... 

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Have you seen any such fakes with NBTHK papers, George?  Maybe I should stick to buying only pieces with papers if they are over 500 bucks!

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Yes, I saw that one too Tom.  Is the auction still going?  I like it too, but as I fully disclose, I am not an expert in fittings.  The papers say owari kinko.  When I see kinko, I think old, and I usually expect that the condition will not be ideal, including wear and sometimes loss of surface inlay.  I'm not wild about the carvings in the seppadai of that one.  And it does appear to have been mounted.

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Dear Robert, I don't remember ever seeing a modern cast copy with good papers, but last year, I did see a very expensive set of gold menuki that were definitely modern lost wax cast in a famous store in Tokyo (one that is often mentioned on the NMB).  While the shop-owner is clearly a tosogu expert (and knows 1 million times more than me), I do not believe that he knew that the menuki were modern cast.  I've also seen a few modern cast copies in famous collections.  If I remember correctly, Ford Hallam told the NMB a story about meeting a member of the Japanese Royal Family who proudly showed him an "antique master-piece" tsuba which actually turned out to be a modern fake.  So you do have to be careful.  Ford and the artists who have experience making tosogu or casting jewelry can spot modern copies even when many tosogu experts cannot.  It's just a different skill set.  

 

Having said that, I don’t want to scare people away from buying tosogu or say only buy stuff that is papered (it adds so much to the cost and you might end up missing out on some great pieces).  Perhaps papers are best with really expensive items (>$10K?).  Also buying from a trusted dealer or someone you know on the NMB is fairly safe (I imagine that most reputable dealers would take a modern fake back if it were discovered post-sale - but probably not on ebay or Yahoo Japan…).

 

If you search the NMB for cast, you’ll find a number of threads with lots of information.  I think that after studying the cast copies closely, you will start to pick up on the telltale signs pretty quickly. 

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Dear Tom, I do not see any signs of modern casting on the tsuba in the most recent link that you posted.

 

I do understand your feelings that the carvings in the original [cast/molded] tsuba looked better than the carvings in the linked, non-cast tsuba.  However, remember that the modern rubber mold [or stamped] processes can have a great difference in definition and quality (as demonstrated by some of the really bad cast copies shown in this thread).  And, if someone is using one of the very high definition casting techniques to copy a well carved tsuba, the cast copy may look better (especially in pictures) than a lesser carved original tsuba.

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George,I admire and honor your observations and knowledge. There is nothing I need to add further. I didn't think I should go any further into this debate.
Because at Yahoo auction, a greedy market for sword fittings, old buyers are the product we already know (there are some old ones that buy at terribly low prices, to resell).
 
However, I would like to add weakly that I have never commented that it is a "casting". It's probably not a one piece casting.
The two discs were made separately, glued together and crimped with pillars at Seppa-dai. That feature is clearly visible in the third Tsuba posted by Tom.
If it's a one-piece casting, Don't need five pipe holes. For a well-controlled casting process, two pieces are usually enough.
A ring is set on mimi to hide the traces of the joint. For more elaborate products, make a relief separately, paint it, and then paste it.
The disjointed parts were pressed or cast, so the rims remained.
 
But whether my speculation is right or wrong, buyers don't need it. We need already enough to know is that it is a modern product .
 
Thank you.  Yas

 

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This has been a great (and sad!) education guys, thanks.  The sad part is that it seems that there are many cheaters it appears.  

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You're right Bob it is a bit scary if they can make modern casting that look this good. Higher resolution images might make things clearer but from these it certainly looked very good to me as well.

Thanks for all your inputs!

 

Tom

Actually, low resolution pictures are good. They are another sign it’s a fake...

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Echoing Roberts thoughts, I’d like to thank everyone for your invaluable thoughts and advice, being fairly new to collecting tosogu it’s certainly opened my eyes, but I’d be lying if hasn’t also made me feel sad and concerned about the extent that people go to fake pieces and its certainly made me hesitant to buy pieces without papers or from non-reputable dealers. I do have a couple of cloud dragon tsuba that I feel are “original” but this has certainly cast some doubt in my mind.

 

It’s also left me wondering what the meaning of “original” really is, I’ve realised tsuba are rarely one of a kind but my understanding was that there are good quality Edo period reproductions or "utsushi" that are hand-made or at least hand-finished and therefore better than the more modern reproduction making them worth collecting. However l now think I need to do more research and studying!

 

Best,
Tom

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