Damascus: Swordsmiths

Date: Eleventh century

Mazyad ibn ʿAli, a Damascene smith, wrote a book describing the sword making process. He describes construction of furnaces, the formation of eggs of steel, the making and designing crucibles, and a description of clays and their specifications. Some of the materials to be used in this complex process include iron, golden marcasite, pomegranate peel, oyster shells, and powdered magnesia.

Citation: Biruni, Abu Rayhan Muhammad, Kitāb al-jamāhir fī maʿrifat al-jawāhir (‘Sum of the knowledge of precious stones’), ed., E. Krenkow (Hyderabad, 1936), p. 256. Translated in Robert Hoyland and Brian Gilmour, Medieval Islamic Swords and Swordmaking: Kindi’s Treatise ‘On Swords and their Kinds’ (Edition, Translation, and Commentary) (London: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2006), pp. 154-55.

Damascus: Swordsmiths

Date: 1608-1609

A sword blade made from unwatered steel carries an inscription stating that it was made in Damascus. No other inscribed blade from Damascus is known. See also: Blacksmith; Locksmith.

Citation: Allan, James and Brian Gilmour, Persian Steel: The Tanavoli Collection, Oxford Studies in Islamic Art 15 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 77.

Damascus: Swordsmiths

Date: c.1890-1906

Arabic: suyūfī

The Dictionary of Damascene Crafts provides a long entry regarding the craft of the swordsmith. Some of this material quotes earlier sources, and the entry lacks evidence about the work of contemporary artisans. It is not clear whether swords in Damascus were being made in c. 1890, though there are photographs dating to this period showing swords being sharpened by cutlers. See also: Gunsmith (bunduqjī).

Citation: al-Qasimi, Muhammad Saʿid, Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi, and Khalil al-ʿAzm (al-Azem), Dictionnaire des métiers damascains, ed., Zafer al-Qasimi. (Le Monde d’Outre-Mer passé et présent, Deuxième série, Documents III, Paris and Le Haye: Mouton and Co., 1960), pp. 243-46 (chapter 169).

See also: Milwright, Marcus. “Metalworking in Damascus at the End of the Ottoman Period: An Analysis of the Qamus al-Sina‘at al-Shamiyya”, in: Venetia Porter and Mariam Rosser-Owen, eds, Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World: Art, Crafts and Text. Essays presented to James W. Allan (London: I B Tauris, 2012), pp. 273-75.