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Decorative not defensive 

Detail of Sikh helmet, early 19th century, XXVIA.138. Royal Armouries, CC BY 4.0

Helmet (XXVIA.138)

The unusual shape of this helmet's steel bowl tells us that it was made for a Sikh warrior. It has been shaped in the form of a turban to accommodate the top-knot of uncut hair traditionally worn by members of the Sikh faith. The helmet was probably produced in the early 19th century in Lahore or another major hub in Punjab, as part of the arms industry developed to equip the forces of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. This example is particularly striking because of its decoration. We can see koftgari, a method of applying gold overlay, and butted mail of different metals. These techniques were used to make the helmet more beautiful and impressive, rather than boost its defensive qualities. Both decorative techniques were widely used across India during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it is common to see both feature on armour identified as Sikh.

View the Helmet in our collection