Investing in a Kris: Indonesia

Investing in property, precious metals or even the stock market can provide you with a comfortable income. But, there are other ways to invest and one of these is by purchasing the sacred Kris, the Javanese dagger.

No doubt on your travels in Indonesia you will have seen these wavy-edged blades for sale and, you can get ripped off with fakes. So, it is a matter of knowing what you are looking for and it would help if you had the assistance of someone in-the-know when you decide to buy.

My collection is relatively small numbering some 15 kris. But there are a lot of people in Indonesia [and overseas] who make it a full time obsession!. A. Junaidi found one such person, Haryono Haryoguritno, and explains about his passion:

Haryono Haryoguritno: Seeking to invest? Consider kris

A kris (Javanese dagger) turns into a house! While this may sound like the stuff of fairy tales, it really happened to collector Haryono Haryoguritno.

Back in the 1960s, when Haryono was a low-ranking Navy officer, he sold one of his kris for Rp 1.75 million (US$185) to buy a house.

“The kris helped me. I would have never have purchased the house if I didn’t sell the kris,” Haryono, a former adjutant to the first president, Soekarno, said during a seminar at Sidharta Auction House.

The Javanese believe kris are imbued with magical power. At certain times of the year they perform a ritual to preserve the power of the kris.

According to Haryono, who is also the chairman of the Tosan Aji kris lovers association, traditional daggers have always been a good investment. A rare kris can fetch up to Rp 500 million.

Kris appraisal involves the analysis of its dimensions, dhapur (symmetry), pamor (pattern), finish and other characteristics. An experienced collector like Haryono can easily identify the origin of a kris — whether it came from the era of the Mojapahit or Mataram kingdoms.

“I have been in the kris world for years. My parents were also kris lovers,” said Haryono who was born in Temanggung, Central Java on Jan. 26, 1932.

Haryono conceded the absence of certification standards forced kris collectors to depend on experts’ opinions in determining a dagger’s value.

“They might guess where it was made and whether it dates back to the Mojopahit Kingdom era. Many collectors now also buy kris based on instinct.”

Haryono was reluctant to say how many kris he owned. “It’s enough for an exhibition,” he said.

Besides its investment value, many kris lovers, particularly the Javanese, believe harmony between the owner and the kris is critical.

“It takes years of experience to determine whether a kris has power. Nonbelievers can’t see it,” he said.

Haryono said an increasing number of kris appreciation groups were forming across the country.

“Only through culture, including the kris, can we promote our country — not through politics or the economy,” said the author of Keris Jawa Antara Mistik dan Nalar (Javanese Kris, between Myth and Logic), which was published last year.

To show support for him, Haryono’s wife Indraswari, who is a professor at the University of Indonesia’s School of Civil Engineering, and one of their two daughters, as well as a granddaughter, attended the seminar.

Haryono was the man behind the drafting of a report and
proposal to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which then admitted the kris as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity from Indonesia in 2005.

Before the recognition from UNESCO’, Haryono — who graduated from the Bandung Institute of Technology specializing in metallurgy — had spoken at dozens of seminars both here and abroad, including in Berkeley and New York in the U.S.

With a grant from B.J. Habibie, when he was minister of research and technology, Haryono researched the art of kris-making.
“We found that our ancestors had used advanced metallurgy technology,” Haryono said.

He has taken the view that the kris originated in Java, though there is evidence to show they were also found in other parts of the country, as well as neighboring countries.

“I have visited other areas and other countries and found the best kris are from Java. Many of the kings there ordered kris from Javanese kris-makers,” Haryono said.

In the past, kris-makers — locally called Mpu — worked for kings and could take six months to complete a kris.

But now, with the tourism market for antiques, kris-makers — many of them from Madura, East Java — can produce the beautiful weapons in record time.