A Pair of Crane-Neck Rowel-Spurs Heavily Damascened in Silver, mid-17th century

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Item ref: 4255

  • Germany
  • Iron, silver


Private collection, Belgium

The relatively compact star-shaped rowel and the rowel-box with its supporting neck set at opposing acute angles are each developmental characteristics of spurs produced throughout northern Europe during the second quarter of the 17th century.

The present pair of spurs are decorated to striking effect over their full outer surfaces, the rowels included, with an extremely close-set diagonal pattern of fine lines arranged as bands segmented by beaded lines. The pattern is framed on the arms of the heel-band by the flourish of an acanthus leaf, at the junction with the rowel neck and again behind the forward loop terminals.

This bold style of silver-damascening is typically German and Netherlandish, produced from about 1600 onward in workshops primarily concerned with damascening the hilts of rapiers, hunting-swords, daggers and their matching belt and saddlery mounts. That pairs of spurs should be matched with these prestigious hilts was the natural development of male fashion as a display of rank and wealth.

The fashion for wearing spurs such as those discussed here is evidenced in the formal portraiture of the period, even when removed from any equestrian context. Spanning the approximate period 1620-60 spurs had taken on the additional role of male jewellery, worn to project the wearer’s high social standing, over time being taken up more widely by those for whom rank was an aspiration.