Daggers, sabres and foils are so-called ‘cold weapons’, encompassing a diverse group of melee, edged, weapons. The part intended to kill or wound the enemy is made of cold metal (metal shaped at temperatures lower than its molten state). The Rijksmuseum has an extensive collection of daggers, sabres and foils, as well as krisses, swords and rapiers, dating largely from the 17th, 18th and 19th century. The holdings of cold weapons total around 600 objects.
While in earlier centuries soldiers and workmen bore weapons as a matter of course, over time they gradually assumed a more decorative function. They became increasingly ornate and even consisted of costly and precious materials. Richly decorated weapons were also often presented as a gift. For example, King William I received a kris encrusted with 117 diamonds from the sultan of Madura, and a Spanish marquis gave the naval hero Michiel de Ruyter a rapier with a hilt fashioned entirely of red coral. Both De Ruyter and Cornelis Tromp’s unique collection of exotic weapons is kept in the Rijksmuseum. The museum also owns an important group of intricately worked cold weapons from Sri Lanka.