This is a rare and fine gilt shakudō and silver brooch with an outstanding and unusual design of of a wise man and a staff. The menuki is affixed to a pure silver backs.
A manuki is an item that adorned the hilt of a 19th century katana (samurai sword fittings) placed on the tsuka (generally under the tsuka-ito) to fit into the palm for grip. These objects were made in the finest metal working traditions of the Japanese samurai. Most are made from a predominantly copper alloy with a percentage of gold (shakudō). This was then treated to produce the characteristic dark to black surface. Finally, these were selectively acid gilded.
The samurai who carried their decorous katanas were members of the powerful military-nobility caste of Japan until they were abolished in 1873 following the Battle of Shiroyama. This was a period of great decline for these noble men many of whom suddenly found themselves plunged into poverty. At that time, the superbly crafted swords were discarded sometimes even used to line wagon wheels. It was during this period (1875-1910) that the menuki and other sword furniture were recycled into jewelry pieces and sold to the tourist trade as there was no other available source of income.
As they wear, the reddish copper color comes to predominate, so this is a good way to judge how well preserved a menuki is. These are exquisitely detailed. This piece is signed by the maker, Otsuryuken.
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Date estimates are based on research of comps as well as information gleaned from reference books, forums, and experience.