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USMC Mameluke sword grip color and material


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All of these are US Marine Corps Makeluke officer swords, but the grips are quite different.

 

The top one is real ivory, the middle one has been called celluloid, but may in fact be an old fake ivory formulation, and the bottom one is the resin used for many decades now.

 

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The ivory is easy to detect: it has distinctive "striations" or lines. I found this example elsewhere online, but one of our forum members had, in the past, posted a Mameluke with a grip that was clearly real ivory. Real can crack and develop a yellow patina with age, but the color change is not deep and can be cleaned.

 

The bottom resin grip is what we see 99% of the time. It doesn't crack unless you hit it with a hammer and really doesn't change color.

 

The middle one is the mystery material. If you've dealt with WWII German daggers you've seen that color on grips. It always seems to be called "celluloid," but as one source notes, celluloid does not "show yellow color changes." Well, if our Mameluke sword started out looking Ivory white, it not only yellowed, it went to burnt orange.

 

That raises the question of "Did they make them orange", as they did with the TR daggers, or was this some material other than celluloid? Faux ivory was popular before WWII. Unlike celluloid, some types of imitation ivory can turn yellow/orange.

 

I have to say, this burn orange look is dramatic on this sword: gives a real aura of age. Besides the one I picked up this week, I found another on worthpoint. As with mine, it is an NS Meyer sword made in Germany.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

The German edged weapon makers used several different materials for their grips. Ivory was available as an expensive option on both swords and daggers. A German Kriegsmarine sword from Eickhorn could be purchased with a celluloid grip for RM 27,20 from the prewar catalog. Adding an ivory grip increased the price to RM 38,70. The KM dagger sold for RM 15,70 with the celluloid over a wooden base grip while substituting an ivory grip increased the cost RM 24,10.

 

The plastic type material that tends to change color was "Trolon" which cost RM 1,40 compaired to the same grip in ivory at RM 11,00. as a parts price. Trolon can be white or yellow or any color in between. It certainly does turn darker with age and exposure to sunlight.

"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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  • 1 year later...

Here's another example of one with the amber grips, a very dark one: it is a British-made Wilkinson blade, assembled by Hilborn Hamburger.The metal all has a gold wash. These are thought to be made no later than the perhaps 1948-50. This one belonged to an officer who was commissioned in 1942.

 

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The hallmarks are tough to see and photograph:

 

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Hi Bob,

 

I checked with Wilkinson on this particulalr sword and it was manufactured in 1950 with this grip and blade etching. It was commented on in discussion on Sword Forum International (SFI) that this grip is particularly dark, Personally, I like this dark "pumpkin color" grip and like you I suspect it was made in this color as it is very even. Wilkinson had quite a bit of experience making these Mameluke swords as British General Officers carry them in a slightly different form. LIke most manufacturers they offer a variety of grip materials and embelishments depending upon the size of the officer's purse.

"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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Great post, I have a named WWI vintage USMC sword with ivory grips. They are gorgeous. My sword is made by the Army Navy Co-Op-or at least marked to them. As a recovering TR collector, I have several daggers with the trolon grips. Interesting that they range from white to yellow to the deep dark burnt orange. As has already been stated, most experts attribute this to varying exposure to light on the trolon material. I have seen grips where they were drastically different colors on the obverse and reverse where they have laid on one side for many years exposing the top, but protecting the bottom. Many of the white grips on daggers today are actually plaster filled, and not trolon and this explains why they are still white. I once read a very interesting article where it was proposed that all TR daggers started as white in the period, and none were intentionally made in yellow or orange, once again suggesting exposure to the elements is what has changed all of them over the years. Thought I would just throw that out there for consideration with the USMC swords for if true, they probably all started white as well. Great thread-Kevin

I am eagerly collecting Pre-WWII USMC material. Any Marine Corps Span Am era, WWI, Banana Wars, or China Marine related material is especially sought after.

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Kevin,

 

You shouuld post your ivory grip sword and prehaps we can help you. Bob is a wiz with researching named swords.

 

Like you, I also have an old collection of German swords and daggers and you are right on the money with your description of grip materials used by German Blanke Waffen manufacturers. The plastic and celluloid over wood and plaster grips are very resistant to color change but very prone to cracking and breakage. The solid Trolon grips are break and chip resistant but subject to color change and fading. I know it was a theory for awhile that the Army, Air Force, and Navy grips were all white when they started out life and somehow faded to orange but I don't agree with that theory. Some grips were clearly orange or pumpkin when they were made (i.e. Red Cross/Social Welfare daggers) while some were clearly white (i.e. Teno Jr.). The Teno daggers are a good example as the Sr. Dagger always has orange grips while the Jr. dagger always has white grips. Knowing what the German edged weapon makers did can certainly help us with US swords as so many were made in Germany.

 

As Bob has shown these USMC swords show grip panels with colors from white to pumpkin just as the German Army Dagger does. Military Officers tend to like to show a bit of independence and flash a bit of color. They generally have to buy their own uniforms and swords and as long as they can get away with slightly different grips... why not? This is what makes collecting these things so interesting.

"You can't please everyone so you have got to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

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  • 4 years later...

I have never seen nor heard of a USMC mameluke with anything other than ivory or some faux-ivory grip material. If such exist, they are undoubtedly replacements added post the sword's service live. In the above thread it is postulated officers would buy swords with different colored grips to individualize them. My father was a military officer with service from the 1940s to the 1960s and I myself am a retired officer with active service from the 1960s to the 1980s followed by civilian service with the Armed Forces through the 2010s. In my experience, no military officer, with the possible exception of a senior general officer, would ever show up for an official function wearing a uniform item which did not visibly comply with regulations. USMC uniform regulations from 1875 forward specified ivory grips for the mameluke; burnt orange would definitely not comply.

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  • 3 weeks later...

burnt orange would definitely not comply.

 

I think what may be the case is that some synthetic "ivory" changed colors over the years. But, consider officer EGA's - they are so collectable because pre-WWII the makers could take a lot of artistic license with them and it would not surprise me if some amount of license was given to the swords then.


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My Mameluke belonged to George N Carroll, US Naval Academy Class of 1932. He chose a Marine Commission and I assume he bought this sword upon graduation. It is made by Horstmann. I think the material is some sort of man made material. The photo makes it look white but in my hand it appears a slight yellowish.

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Steve B in Alabama.....Roll Tide


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