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Damascus Stainless Steel: A Brief History


About Damascus Steel

Unique Damascus Stainless Steel rings by Andrew Nyce Designs are forged from stainless steel and enhanced with other precious metals such as Gold, Palladium, or Platinum to create an heirloom quality piece strong enough to last many lifetimes.

Our distinctive Damascus Steel wedding, commitment, diamond engagement, and men's rings are handcrafted to your specifications. The term "Damascus steel" can be used to describe a secret, ancient process of making swords or the modern process of forging jewelry or knives using a layering technique. Either way, Damascus steel also refers to the swirling pattern revealed when etching the final product. The intricacy and beauty of the final configuration, along with the strength and durability achieved through the layering method, make Damascus steel an excellent choice for developing timeless pieces of jewelry.

The origin of the name is as complex as the possible applications of the term. The surface patterns on Damascus sword blades and knives resemble turbulent damas—the Arabic word for water. Another explanation is these swords were made by a man named Damasqui. The most likely source is geographical: the city of Damascus in Syria.

"The natural beauty of etched Damascus patterns, their corrosion resistance, the fact that they are made from powders, and their similarity to Mokume patterns are the attributes that attracted me to Damascus Stainless Steel." ~ Andrew Nyce

The Ancient Story

There are several theories on the origin of Damascus steel. It can be traced back to India and Sri Lanka (300-100 BC) where it was referred to as wootz steel. This highly purified metal and unique process slowly made its way to the Middle East between 900 AD and 1000 AD where the method was refined. Weaponry made of this steel was commonly produced and sold in Damascus, Syria—a successful international trading center of the time. As these arms spread throughout the area and the rest of the Fatimid Empire, the term Damascus steel was born.

French and English armies first encountered Damascus steel weapons during the crusades. These swords were said to have almost mythical qualities, such as the ability to cut through a knight’s blade or even rock without losing its sharpness. European blacksmiths attempted to duplicate the legendary steel using a pattern welding technique. They even went so far as to etch their swords or decorate them with metallic overlays to match the look of Damascus steel. However, they were never successful in replicating the power and malleability of the superior steel. Metal smiths and artisans in the Middle East continued making Damascus steel swords and knives until 1750 AD, when the legendary process was inexplicably lost.


The Modern Story

Today, the term Damascus steel refers to the combination of two different kinds of steels that are welded and forged into a bar or rod with a multitude of layers. After patterning techniques are applied, the Damascus is etched to reveal the distinctive pattern of those layers; the signature swirling configuration made famous by those ancient weapons.

In Sweden, a new spin on the old Damascus steel process has been developed whereby alternating layers of two different kinds of stainless steel powders are hot isostatically pressed together. The resulting diffusion-bonded duplex steel billet is subjected to traditional steel processing techniques to form round billets which are subjected to the same techniques used by the early metalsmiths to produce Damascus Stainless Steel.

"The modern day Damascus Stainless Steel used in my rings is made by hot isostatically pressing alternating layers of two different kinds of stainless steel powders. In my contract R&D business, I was involved in hot isostatically pressing metal powders. So, it was only natural for me to gravitate toward Damascus." ~ Andrew Nyce

Andrew Nyce Designs is currently manufacturing its own uniquely patterned Damascus Stainless Steel which is made and processed in the United States.

Although there are some similarities, the processes for making both Damascus rings and Damascus knife blades are quite different. For a finished Damascus ring, there are 25 to 30 operations including, initial bonding, hot deformation, selective material removal, followed by shaping and forming the ring itself. The process begins with sheets of stainless steel that are bonded under heat and pressure. The bonded material is then subject to deformation under heat and pressure. Patterning of the deformed metal involves the selective removal of material.