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Inspired by Where did the great houses get their Valyrian steel blades from?, what is so special about Valyrian steel?

I have not read the books; I am planning on getting them before month's end, but in the meantime I was just curious as to what its significance is.

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    Also, if you are interested, take a look at How many Valyrian steel swords are there at the beginning of GoT – Shevliaskovic Apr 8 '14 at 19:41
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    I always felt that GRRM was inspired by the description of magic swords in Tad William's trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. – TLP Apr 8 '14 at 22:07
  • They are said to be very durable and remain sharp (probably magically) The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nothing held an edge like Valyrian steel. -Catelyn I, A Game of Thrones. – Möoz Feb 17 '15 at 2:54
  • Also related: Valyrian Roads – Möoz Feb 17 '15 at 2:56
  • @TLP Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn were each made from completely different substances. Meteoric iron, witchwood, and (I think) iron with a relic nail from the Tree. – Michael Richardson Apr 15 '16 at 13:56
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The main features are that they are stronger and lighter than normal steel blades. Also, the Valyrian steel has been lost along with Valyria, meaning that there only a few Valyrian Steel blades left in the world. There are only a few people in the world that can actually create a new blade from an existing Valyrian steel blade; thus making them extremely expensive.

Valyrian steel blades are lighter, stronger, and sharper than even the best castle-forged steel, and feature distinctive rippled patterns similar to Damascus steel.

Only the greatest weaponsmiths can reforge swords from existing Valyrian steel, but the secret of creating such an alloy was apparently lost with Valyria, making those remaining weapons highly treasured and extremely rare. The blacksmiths of Qohor claim to know how to reforge Valyrian steel, and Tobho Mott did reforge Ice at the request of the Lannisters, in King's Landing.

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Valyrian Steel has many features that distinguish it from even the best castle-forged steel. Weapons made from Valyrian steel tend to be lighter, stronger, and sharper. It also keeps its edge better than normal steel. Which is why it's such a desirable material for making weapons, and why the few remaining Valyrian steel weapons are highly regarded and passed down as precious family heirlooms.

  • Sorry System, he beat you by literally seconds and had a bit more info so I have to go with his answer for now! Thanks for replying nonetheless! – Mkalafut Apr 8 '14 at 19:39
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    @Mkalafut - To the victor go the spoils lol – System Down Apr 8 '14 at 19:40
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Valyrian Steel seems to have similar properties as Damascus Steel:

Damascus steel was a type of steel used in Middle Eastern swordmaking. [...] These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. Such blades were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge.
...
The reputation and history of Damascus steel has given rise to many legends, such as the ability to cut through a rifle barrel or to cut a hair falling across the blade. [...] Production of these patterned swords gradually declined, ceasing by around 1750, and the process was lost to metalsmiths.

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    Note that there are still people today questing to rediscover how to make Damascus Steel. You can find several claimants on youtube. Lots of people are trying to reverse-engineer it with the aid of things like electron microscopes too. This certainly seems like GRRM's attempt to invoke the mystique of Damascus Steel in his own universe. So it stands to reason that any details he hasn't supplied can be filled in by our knowledge of Damascus. In particular, its probably some special technique that manages to precipitate carbon nanotubes and/or cementite nanowires into the steel. – T.E.D. Jun 24 '16 at 18:58
  • I'd highly recommend the Nova special on "the Secrets of the Viking Sword" where they talk about the famed "Ulfbert" swords made of higher quality steel that gave Vikings a decided edge in battle. They tested them and found the purity of the steel to be much superior to standard weapons of that era, and speculated that they were forged from Damascus steel. They had someone in Wisconsin attempt to forge high quality steel ingots using only technology available at that time. They succeeded. www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-viking-sword.html – PoloHoleSet Jul 6 '16 at 21:05
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Valyrian steel blades are incredibly strong, incredibly sharp and keep the edge very well. It's possible that the metal is also created using spells. The steel is folded lots of times to remove the impurities too, similar too Damascus Steel (note that a lot of properties of Valyrian steel are similar to Damascus steel).

The properties of Valyrian steel are well-known, and are the result of both folding iron many times to balance and remove impurities, and the use of spells—or at least arts we do not know—to give unnatural strength to the resulting steel. Those arts are now lost, though the smiths of Qohor claim to still know magics for reworking Valyrian steel without losing its strength or unsurpassed ability to hold an edge. The Valyrian steel blades that remain in the world might number in the thousands, but in the Seven Kingdoms there are only 227 such weapons according to Archmaester Thurgood's Inventories, some of which have since been lost or have disappeared from the annals of history.
The World of Ice and Fire, Ancient History: Valyria’s Children

Later on Maester Yandel compares Dawn to Valyrian Steel again commenting on it's strength and sharpness.

The Daynes of Starfall are one of the most ancient houses in the Seven Kingdoms, though their fame largely rests on their ancestral sword, called Dawn, and the men who wielded it. Its origins are lost to legend, but it seems likely that the Daynes have carried it for thousands of years. Those who have had the honor of examining it say it looks like no Valyrian steel they know, being pale as milkglass but in all other respects it seems to share the properties of Valyrian blades, being incredibly strong and sharp.
The World of Ice and Fire, Dorne: The Andals Arrive

Bran remarks that Ice is spell-forged, dark and sharp.

Lord Eddard Stark dismounted and his ward Theon Greyjoy brought forth the sword. "Ice," that sword was called. It was as wide across as a man's hand, and taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nothing held an edge like Valyrian steel.
A Game of Thrones, Bran I

Jon remarks that Valyrian steel is light and sharp.

Jon dismounted. Slung across his back in a black leather shoulder sheath was Longclaw, the hand-and-a-half bastard blade the Old Bear had given him for saving his life. A bastard sword for a bastard, the men joked. The hilt had been fashioned new for him, adorned with a wolf's-head pommel in pale stone, but the blade itself was Valyrian steel, old and light and deadly sharp.
A Clash of Kings, Jon II

The blades are dark grey and contain a swirling pattern from where it has been folded back on itself. The spells in the metal somehow remember the colour it should be and attempts to change it usually prove fruitless, though Widow's Wail and Oathkeeper retain some red in them.

Tyrion wondered where the metal for this one had come from. A few master armorers could rework old Valyrian steel, but the secrets of its making had been lost when the Doom came to old Valyria. "The colors are strange," he commented as he turned the blade in the sunlight. Most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black, as was true here as well. But blended into the folds was a red as deep as the grey. The two colors lapped over one another without ever touching, each ripple distinct, like waves of night and blood upon some steely shore. "How did you get this patterning? I've never seen anything like it."
"Nor I, my lord," said the armorer. "I confess, these colors were not what I intended, and I do not know that I could duplicate them. Your lord father had asked for the crimson of your House, and it was that color I set out to infuse into the metal. But Valyrian steel is stubborn. These old swords remember, it is said, and they do not change easily. I worked half a hundred spells and brightened the red time and time again, but always the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it. And some folds would not take the red at all, as you can see. If my lords of Lannister are displeased, I will of course try again, as many times as you should require, but—"
A Storm of Swords, Tyrion IV

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