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Zaza Revishvili is from Georgia... not the American State of Georgia, but the nation of Georgia. Of course, when Zaza lived in Georgia, it was part of the Soviet Union, "The good old days of the USSR," as he jokingly refers to it.
Here is Zaza in the Palace of the Arists in Moscow, Russia, while he hosted me at Klinok, the Moscow Knife Show (the word Klinok means "Blade"), in November of 2004. That was a wonderful experience.
As a youth, Zaza was identified as a promising artist. He was sent to the top schools where he was a top student. While he has studied and practiced many forms of art and design, his personal favorites have always been metal sculpture, jewelry, and -- especially -- knife making. He emigrated to the US following the collapse of the Soviet Union and today celebrates freedom ("Freedom is the most important thing," he tells me) with his charming American wife in Madison, Wisconsin where he has established his workshop. From there, he makes knives, jewelry, and other Art Décoratif for the royalty and the elite of the world. His knives, swords, and other works are in the finest collections the world over... including the permanent collection of the Kremlin Armory in Moscow. I am very pleased to count Zaza as a personal friend of mine and very happy to own a bit of Revishvili for my own collection.
This balisong is called "Typhoon Zaza." It started out as a Typhoon Kit from Classic Knife Kits. It literally started out as this pile of parts:
The Typhoon kit was originally designed by my friend and noted maker of custom balisongs, Darrel Ralph. It doesn't take much skill to assemble a basic Typhoon. But, Typhoon Zaza raises well above a basic Typhoon. First, Darrel Ralph replaced the brushed-finish AUS8 stainless steel blade supplied with the Typhoon with a hand-ground blade of the same profile (remember, he designed the Typhoon blade profile in the first place) but made from Mike Norris's Crazy Lacy pattern Damascus steel, a piece hand-selected by Zaza for the purpose.
Darrel cut special slots in the kit's stainless steel handle slabs while Zaza prepared the extraordinary silver filigreed inserts.
Filigree is Zaza's personal specialty. Filigree decoration consists of wire (usually silver or gold) hand-twisted or braided and hand-soldered to a base of usually either silver or gold. Silver or gold balls are added, and sometimes gemstones, to complete a sort of metal lace. Know this: that is all hand work. Even the silver balls are hand-made.
The word Filigree comes from the Italian word filigrana. This art probably originated with the ancient Tuscans and Romans. In recent history, Filigree techniques have most commonly been seen in Persian and Eastern-European arts. These techniques flourished especially in Czarist Russia. Most modern "filigree" is not filigree at all but is a solid piece with filigree-like patterns stamped or molded into it. Today, Zaza Revishvili is one of the few artists who preserve the old filigree techniques.
Please, click on the image above to see the high-resolution version.
At first glance, the filigree inserts look very delicate. But, in fact, they are remarkably durable. Aside from its beauty, one of the reasons that filigree became popular for knife handles is because of the excellent, non-slip grip it gives.
Notice how the filigreed inserts, which are held to the knife handles by screws, actually wrap around the knife handles to create a very finished appearance. Again, please do click on that picture to see the high resolution version to fully admire the beautiful blade steel, the wonderful hand-ground blade, and the intricate filigree work.
Darrel Ralph added some extra filework to the spine of the blade and to the latch.
The combination of Darrel Ralph's very modern stylings with Zaza's very traditional filigree work is not an obvious one. But, I think they go together very well because while Darrel's work is very modern, it is soundly rooted in history.
I'm very glad that I made this connection because Zaza and Darrel have now gone on to do another collaboration project, a special edition of Darrel's Mad Maxx III assisted-opening folding knife. Only four pieces were made. Two pieces featured all Damascus steel construction and Zaza's filigree work. The Red stone is a high-grade natural garnet. The filigree is silver. Much of the hardware is gold-plated. Notice the very unusual filework on the edges of the handles. This is debut of Darrel's exclusive new HyperStep filework.
The other two pieces in this collaboration feature Darrel Ralph's Black DLC finish and Zaza's silver filigree. DLC stands for Diamond Like Coating. While DLC is not unique to Darrel Ralph, his unique surface preparation gives the DLC a smooth, glossy appearance instead of the rough, dull appearance other makers often get from it.
I am very pleased to report that Darrel and Zaza are working on even more collaboration projects which you might see in the future here, in the Balisong Collector's Vault.