Game of Thrones fans are well aware of the power and intimidation of Valyrian steel. You’re nobody if you don’t have a sword made of Valyrian steel, and if you’ve got one you’re probably the boss, of something.
“Careful, Your Grace, nothing cuts like Valyrian steel.”
―Grand Maester Pycelle to King Joffrey
The Game of Thrones Wiki describes it as: “Valyrian steel is a form of metal that was forged in the days of the mighty Valyrian Freehold. It is exceptionally sharp and tremendously strong, yet light, keeping its edge and requiring no maintenance. Valyrian steel is recognizable from its sharpness, as well as a distinctive rippled pattern visible in blades made from it.”And since there is no more of it, if you want a sword (or two) from Valyrian steel, you’ve got to melt down another one.
What’s amazing is that there is real-life Valyrian steel, also known as Damascus steel. It’s ability to flex and hold an edge is unparalleled.
According to the 1981 New York Times Article “THE MYSTERY OF DAMASCUS STEEL APPEARS SOLVED”
“The remarkable characteristics of Damascus steel became known to Europe when the Crusaders reached the Middle East, beginning in the 11th century. They discovered that swords of this metal could split a feather in midair, yet retain their edge through many a battle with the Saracens. The swords were easily recognized by a characteristic watery or ”damask” pattern on their blades.”
Yet its secret recipe was lost for many years.
“TWO metallurgists at Stanford University, seeking to produce a ”superplastic” metal, appear to have stumbled on the secret of Damascus steel, the legendary material used by numerous warriors of the past, including the Crusaders. Its formula had been lost for generations.”
3 Secret Steps to Damascus Steel:
The secret of the material is the high carbon content, up to twenty times as much carbon as standard “mild” steel, but none of the “chromium” which would make steel “stainless.”
- For Damascus steel, the iron ore was melted in large vats, or crucibles, where there was coal or wood added to bring up the carbon content. This was very different from other methods of creating steel.
- In the forging process the steel is folded back upon itself dozens of times, this creates the signature “watery” or swirled finish, just like Valyrian steel. Some say the armorers would have folded the material thousands of times to create the finest blades.
- Finally, after the forging process the material must be quenched in liquid, to cool the material and lock in the hardness.
The method was often debated.
“According to Dr. Helmut Nickel, curator of the Arms and Armor Division of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, legend had it that the best blades were quenched in ”dragon blood.”
In a recent letter to the museum a Pakistani told of a sword held in his family for many generations, quenched by its Afghan makers in donkey urine. Some medieval smiths recommended the urine of redheaded boys or that from a ”three-year-old goat fed only ferns for three days.”
For eight centuries the Arab sword makers succeeded in concealing their techniques from competitors -and from posterity. Those in Europe only revealed that they quenched in ”red medicine” or ”green medicine.” A less abrupt form of cooling, according to one account, was achieved when the blade, still red hot, was ”carried ina furious gal lop by a horseman on a fast horse.”
Writings found in Asia Minor said that to temper a Damascus sword the blade must be heated until it glows ”like the sun rising in the desert.” It then should be cooled to the color of royal purple and plunged ”into the body of a muscular slave” so that his strength would be transferred to the sword.
Now that the secret has been uncovered, blacksmiths, cutlers and armorers have the ability to re-create this magnificent material. But it’ll cost you.”