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A - 12 : Damascus Steel

Since the industrial revolution two hundred years ago, we are surrounded by steel and got used to its ubiquitous use. This was not always the case.

Damascus Steel with its pattern resulting from the endless folding and re-folding of iron

But under Arab rule, the blacksmith in Damascus produced superplastic and very hard swords which were made from Wootz iron imported from India or Sri Lanke. Through the process of folding and re-folding, iron and carbon were forged together until the metal became super hard but remained elastic. Sword and daggers made from Damascus steel outperformed any weapon that the Byzantine Empire or the European Crusaders had. Not surprisingly, this type of steel was very thought after and traded widely. Eventually, the Italians learned how to make it themselves and Milan one of Europe's first steel industries.

With its distinct carbon-steel pattern, Damascus steel is easily recognisable. We know today that its strength is based on embedded carbon nano-wires and nano-tubes. The art of making Damascus Steel was lost around 1750 but several modern manufacturers came up with close imitations.

Needless to say that Venetian Merchants were eager buyers of Damascus Swords and Daggers. This was too lucrative a trade to miss. And as long as the Arabs could keep their manufacturing secret, it was a very good source of profit.

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