Skip to main content
Plan your visit
Stories

Beautiful and deadly

Revolver with blue enamelled grips decorated with diamonds

Centrefire six-shot revolver – Smith and Wesson Model

In this monthly blog series, our collections team write about their chosen Object of the Month. In this blog post, Senior Curator of Firearms, Mark Murray-Flutter explores the history behind a particularly glamorous firearm in our collection.

Smith & Wesson revolver

One of the most extraordinary, ornate and flamboyant firearms in our collection is a diamond encrusted gold and platinum encased .357 Smith & Wesson revolver.

It was designed and created in 1996 by Sussex goldsmith Edward Evans who had decorated a number of pistols and revolvers for clients such as the two famous London jewellers Asprey and Garrard & Co. (both of whom had asked for their pistols to be decorated in their house colours; violet for Asprey and blue for Garrard) and private clients such as Jefri Bolkiah Prince of Brunei and the King of Malaysia.

Decorative weapons

The tradition of highly decorated revolvers has a long pedigree and is not just a modern one. Exponents include the famous New York jewellers, Tiffany’s, an example of their work being also in the Royal Armouries collection. In Tiffany’s case many of their revolvers were decorated in the style current at the turn of the 20th century, Art Nouveau and later Art Deco, particular attention being paid to heavy cast stylised silver and gold grips. In the 19th century Colt in America, Tranter and Adams in England had also produced highly decorated revolvers with applied gold and set with precious stones. Like they are today, many of their clients were in the East and included the Ottoman Empire or the lands of the Caucuses.

side view of a highly decorated revolver with blue grips and encrusted with diamondsThe decorative techniques used on this pistol show the skills of the goldsmith taken to an extraordinary level. The base revolver is a Smith & Wesson Model 60 made in stainless steel. It has been highly polished and finished overall in guilloche via engine turning, a technique originating in the 16th century in which the metal surface has been finely engraved by a cutting wheel to produce a pleasing geometric pattern.

rear view of a highly decorated revolver with blue grips and encrusted with diamonds shown with cylinder open

Also applied to the surface is 400gms of platinum and white 18-carat gold finishes and castings wrought into swags and swirls, inset into which are over 900 diamonds weighing a total of 38 carats.

The settings are grain or ‘pavé’ settings (individual settings) using brilliant cut, Sierra Leone sourced diamonds. The foresight is set with baguette (square) cut diamonds.

The grip is decorated with engine turned guilloche covered in a deep lustrous blue enamel. Interestingly there are no construction screws visible, they are all cleverly hidden and the goldsmith has worked and polished the action to the finest degree.

On its completion, the revolver was tested by firing 30 rounds to see if the applied decoration would remain stable. It passed.

This pistol was made as a speculative commission and was one of 23 highly decorated pistols produced over the years by goldsmith Edward Evans.

It was for a time displayed for sale at London gunmakers Ray Ward of Cadogan Sq. until late 1997. After which it became subject to the 1997 Firearms Amendment Act and had to be surrendered to Sussex police.

A compensation payment of £65,000 was paid by the government under the Ex-Gratia Payment Scheme.

side view of a highly decorated revolver with blue grips and encrusted with diamonds

For more information about the pistol, visit our collections online.

Related stories

Object of the Month A precious Tibetan gift Read time: 4 minutes Find out more

Behind the Scenes The making of a sword Read time: 7 minutes Find out more

Object of the Month A 15th-century beauty Read time: 6 minutes Find out more