The tsuba, 鐔, is a fundamental element in the mounting of the Japanese sword, commonly known as “katana”: it is the guard, the most important element of the fittings, and has two main functions: the first to protect the hand against the slashes and lunges of an opposing sword; the second is to prevent that the hand ends up directly on the cutting edge of the blade. Over the course of more than ten centuries of history, the tsuba has undergone a number of important changes, as regards the materials used for its manufacture and its appearance.
During the centuries of wars that characterized Japan until the advent of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the first half of the 17th century, the tsuba was essentially made of iron or steel. From the mid-17th century onwards the tsuba became a real work of art, with the use of soft metals used in various ways, with engravings, incrustations; well made tsuba were the pride of hundreds of craftsmen’s schools whose value sometimes exceeded that of the same blades of the mounting where tsuba was part of.
Today, tsuba are very sought after by collectors around the world and in some cases their value is invaluable.