The Sgian Dubh (pronounced “skee(a)n doo”, IPA /ski:n dy:/, or lightly diphthongised /skiən/) is a ceremonial dagger (Gaelic: sgian) worn as part of the modern Scottish Highland dress along with the kilt. It is worn tucked into the hose with only the pommel visible.
The name comes from the Gaelic meaning “black knife”, where “black” may refer to the usual colour of the handle of the knife. It is also suggested that “black” means secret, or hidden, as in the word blackmail. This is based on the stories and theories surrounding the knife’s origin and the meaning of “Dubh” in Gaelic.
The sgian dubh may have evolved from the sgian achlais, a dagger that could be concealed under the armpit. Used by the Scots of the 17th and 18th centuries, this knife was slightly larger than the average modern sgian dubh, and was carried in the upper sleeve or lining of the body of the jacket.
Courtesy and etiquette would demand that when entering the home of a friend, any concealed weapons would be revealed. It follows that the sgian achlais would be removed from its hiding-place and displayed in the stocking top, held securely by the garters.
Custom made Sgian Dubhs by Rab Gordon
The picture above shows a custom made Sgian Dubh by Rab Gordon from a company called Rainnea based on the banks of Loch Ness in Inverness-shire. Rab has been making high quality Sgian Dubhs using only the finest of Scottish materials, to produce very special pieces for that unique gift or family heirloom to be handed down for many years of enjoyment. You can visit Rab’s website here, for more details on the extensive range of Sgian Dubhs you can choose from.
The pictured Sgian Dubh also has a red jasper Scottish gemstone pommel which I have produced exclusively for Rab to fit the knife. Rainnea has a full range of other Scottish gemstone pommels to choose from, and their selection can be viewed by following here.
Scottish Stone Pommels
Above are examples of other Scottish stone pommels in hallmarked sterling silver produced exclusively for Rab. The range includes moss agate, green/red Angus serpentine, Marble from Iona, grey and black Angus serpentine, and Red Jasper from Cupar in Fife. Other classic stones such as Aberdeen granite and cairngorm can also be sourced.
Either myself or Rab will be happy to let you know what stones are available at any given time, so please check out the Rainnea website or browse through my polished stones page, for your own ideas on what stone you would like to have set into your special Sgian Dubh.