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Old 20th September 2019, 10:19 AM   #1
MForde
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Default Identifying Modern Wootz

Hello all,

With modern-made wootz steel (or, as this is such a complex subject, a better term might be modern-made wootz-looking steel) now being made in the West and India how is everyone protecting themselves from the reproductions and fakes that must already be on the market? We have many examples, with provenance, of original wootz blades that are still in pristine condition so we cannot always use that factor as an indicator and artificial ageing of high carbon steel is an easy process to undertake. I'm curious as to how us antique weaponry collectors will adapt.

Matt
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Old 20th September 2019, 11:16 AM   #2
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Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
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Old 20th September 2019, 12:51 PM   #3
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Modern knives made out of crucible steel do not even approach the old wootz-y pattern and nobody except for Nonikashvili succeeded in forging a modern long wootz blade.
The metallurgical secret of wootz is no secret anymore. Modern metallurgists cracked it open.
The real secret is a process of smithing: how to force the dendrites to get organized in a beautiful pattern? Here scientific methods are powerless: we are talking about minute tricks , such as temperature, force and directions of hammer blows etc. We have irretrievably lost this information formerly transmitted orally and practically in a father-to-son manner.
I might not worry about forgeries. One glance at the blade is likely to be sufficient to identify modern manufacture. Machine-generated music is good for the elevators: it cannot compose Bach’s Prelude in E-moll.
Anosov got all the technical details from his “industrial spies” , but still, his blades were just poor imitations of true Persian or Indian wootz.
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Old 20th September 2019, 10:59 PM   #4
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Ariel said it quite well.

To illustrate this, I include a link to the best modern wootz patterns I have seen, made by the Russian bladesmith Ivan Kirpichev.

In the first blade you can see he managed to reproduce the Kirk Narduban and the "rose" patterns...
... yet the watering pattern is easily distiguishable from the antique ones.

And he told me that he doesn't manage to get this quality of patterning with consistency.

https://knifeandcraft.com/en/ivan-kirpichev
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Old 21st September 2019, 12:35 AM   #5
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Kirk narduban and “Rose” are easy: they are just superficial embellishments. The blade is notched either across its width or as a rounded point, then forged, polished and etched. Notching disturbs the architecture of dendrites, and... voila!
The real trick is to obtain a sophisticated pattern on the rest of the blade.


This is why I am always amused when I read some notes about sorts of wootz:
“ The highest is Kirk narduban, after that there are Kara taban, Kara Khorasan and the lowest , - Sham”
Kirk and rose can be made on any variety of wootz and I have seen them on a lowly Sham:-) And, BTW, some people claim that the “ non-pretty” Sham and the barely recognizable Indian” salt and pepper” one are mechanically the best.
The “ beautiful” ones broke on impact and there is a case when an expensive blade fell on the floor and shattered to smithereens

Last edited by ariel; 21st September 2019 at 05:44 AM.
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Old 21st September 2019, 04:49 AM   #6
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Default Skill is Necessary

Ariel,

I agree with you completely. Forging the old wootz blades was a matter of learned skill. I am a fairly good finish carpenter but even if I were given exhaustively complete plans plus the best of hand and mechanical tools, I am sure that I couldn't make a Chippendale chair to match those made by the old masters. Not only did they do their work with hand tools only, they were able to make a good living in that labor intensive environment. To be able to do this, one needs a long and diligent apprenticeship under an old master who not only molds your hand/eye skills but also your mindset.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 25th September 2019, 10:40 AM   #7
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Thank you all for your replies. I think I need to see more examples as the antique wootz I've seen varies greatly in pattern and so I'd love to see some visual comparisons between old and new wootz (whether in PM or posted here).
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Old 13th January 2021, 04:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
...Modern knives made out of crucible steel do not even approach the old wootz-y pattern and nobody except for Nonikashvili succeeded in forging a modern long wootz blade.
...
Ariel,
I am with you... but... I saw Nonikashvili's wootz shamshir, it is impressive to say the least, the fittings are incredible, but I still doubt whether he forged that particular blade from scratch or reused old Persian wootz blade. There are other wootz blades he made shown online, most are not as impressive as that shamshir blade, not even close... why is that?
Also, have you seen
THIS post? In 2007, in London, this wootz Kilij blade was made. Not as bold as Nonikashvili wootz shamshir, but just as good as the rest of his blades (both punt and sarcasm intended). Please correct me if I am wrong and lack understanding of his work.

THIS is referenced shamshir, in his hands (post 155). Did he made that wootz blade, i.e. forged it from scratch, or did he 'finished' aka 'made' an old blade with fittings, inlay, etc.? The other wootz blades he made do not show the same quality pattern. Are there other of his swords with similar pattern to the above shamshir?

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Old 13th January 2021, 06:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobT
...I am a fairly good finish carpenter but even if I were given exhaustively complete plans plus the best of hand and mechanical tools, I am sure that I couldn't make a Chippendale chair to match those made by the old masters. Not only did they do their work with hand tools only, they were able to make a good living in that labor intensive environment. To be able to do this, one needs a long and diligent apprenticeship under an old master who not only molds your hand/eye skills but also your mindset.

Sincerely,
RobT
This instantly reminded me of 'The Patriot', Benjamin Martin and his obsession with chairs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=2lvz3v_dtyA
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Old 8th February 2021, 10:26 AM   #10
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I was hoping for more meaningful discussion... so allow me to reignite the subject. Here are 2 newly made wootz blades: one on the left, next to old Assad'Allah blade (for comparison), is made in Turkey. One on the right is made in Finland. The first is a sword blade. Both look just as good as original, and stunning work.
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Old 8th February 2021, 11:12 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
Both look just as good as original, and stunning work.
To me, both new samples look very, very different from the old wootz, and I am am surprised yo cannot see the difference.

In the old wootz, you have very fine long streaks flowing in intricately curved/twirled/watery (like winding rivers) patterns.

In the new wootz, you have short patches more like a mosaic.

PS:
I am also quite suspicious about the claims of many more or less recent wootz makers claiming they managed to fully reproduce antique wootz patterns.
Even the late Al Pendray published together with Verhoeven some images of wootz he produced (photo 1a, 1b)
that looked pretty much the same like the antique one (albeit different - please notice the more mosaic-like pattern of the base metal). Yet, none of his hundreds of wootz knives he commercially made (photo 2) displayed the same pattern. Why?!

Also much more recently, a Finnish blacksmith claimed to have reproduced exactly the patterns of antique wootz. Yet, when I asked him to make a blade with the same pattern for me to buy, he declined, saying that he still wants to refine the method.

Also the Russian Ivan Kirpichev comes very close to reproducing the antique wootz patterns (see photo 3). However, he told me he cannot make bigger blades and cannot get consistent results.

So, I believe that while some modern blacksmiths have managed to come closer to reproducing the antique wootz, none is really capable to fully do it with consistency.

However, I have seen a new sword blade that reproduced the old patterns almost perfectly, made by a Russian blacksmith and mounted by Gotscha Lagidse. Yet, it was pattern welded! But it was so deceivingly looking that reportedly even Zaqro Nonikashvili thought it to be wootz.
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Old 8th February 2021, 12:02 PM   #12
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PPS:

It should be noted that even antique 19th century Indian or Persian wootz did not display the old watery patterns anymore as 19th century wootz looked more like the crystalline wootz that is produced these modern times.

You can see such an example of a Persian khanjar made around 1850 at the link below:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=26676
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Old 8th February 2021, 02:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
...To me, both new samples look very, very different from the old wootz, and I am am surprised yo cannot see the difference...
I cannot see much difference on the right-side sample from Finland, it looks similar to antique wootz pattern, isn't it? Not all antique wootz was universally superior. We should not grade the wootz quality by its age. There was good quality and bad quality wootz regardless of when it was made. some make good quality woots now, quite similar to original.. according to the photos and sources.
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Old 8th February 2021, 03:10 PM   #14
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The rt side example looks like it could have been produced by a pool and eye lamination method.

To my understanding the ore that the crucible process used affected the pattern greatly, but I know very little. Wootz seems sort of an Eldorado to me. There may be several generations of hard work before it is understood.

The Al Pendray book is on my summer reading list.

Marius, what are the two bottom examples? Marked "Resim:1"
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Old 8th February 2021, 03:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Interested Party
The rt side example looks like it could have been produced by a pool and eye lamination method..."
The example on the right is pure wootz, based on pattern.
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Old 8th February 2021, 05:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Interested Party

Marius, what are the two bottom examples? Marked "Resim:1"
Ivan Kirpichev (see more below)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
The example on the right is pure wootz, based on pattern.
Yes, it looks like, but I doubt that it is genuinely made in modern times.
Or it may be the pattern weld I was talking earlier, that was practically undistinguishable from old wootz.

Whoever claims to have done it, should be able to consistently reproduce these results and make some blades for sale (like Kirpichev does).
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Old 8th February 2021, 10:19 PM   #17
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G'day Alex,
Where did you get the right hand side photo from? To me it looks exactly like antique wootz. I have an antique blade with a very similar pattern.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 9th February 2021, 10:51 AM   #18
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Bryce,
This was also my point, it looks just like antique wootz.
I got the photo from the master himself, he is from Finland, and I have no reason to doubt authenticity.
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Old 9th February 2021, 02:53 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
Bryce,
This was also my point, it looks just like antique wootz.
I got the photo from the master himself, he is from Finland, and I have no reason to doubt authenticity.
I have the suspicion it is the same guy I contacted about 7 years ago about making a blade for me.

At that time he claimed he can make wootz with the antique type of pattern. However, he only had some cropped images (very similar to the one you posted), so he couldn't even show a photo of a whole blade he made with the antique watery pattern.

Moreover, he asked me if I don't have old wootz damaged blades for sale.

So I am very suspicious about his claims as I suspect that in best case scenario he is only reworking old blades.

PS: Found the correspondence with him: 18 July 2013.
His name is Niko Hynninen.
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Old 9th February 2021, 06:45 PM   #20
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I'd feel more comfortable with confirming evidence from a more unbiased metallurgist on a new blade than from a smith with a vested interest in it's 'rediscovery'. Buying old wootz blades to be a possible starting source rather than iron ore sounds like a shortcut too far. My POV is based on the original metallic component mix of the ores used in India for wootz having run out, (As did the skills to process the ores) and only The occasional billet pops up from time to time. Heck, sham wootz, or 'modern'crucible can look good and probably makes better more consistent knives and swords...
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Old 9th February 2021, 08:30 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
Anyway we could develop a list of wootz experts willing to take questions and give opinions on a blade?
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Old 10th February 2021, 12:07 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mross
Anyway we could develop a list of wootz experts willing to take questions and give opinions on a blade?
Very good idea. Perhaps a separate thread dedicated to the subject?
Also, 1. I do not think it is even possible to re-forge old wootz blade without completely losing the pattern. Re-grinding-re-shaping - yes. but re-melting old wootz - no. 2. Lets not associate all modern wootz smiths with fakery. The masters I am familiar with, whose wootz blades are shown above are legit smiths with passion for wootz. some spent decades perfecting their skills and achieved great results. They're making new, not selling antique blades. They fool no one! I actually did commission a wootz blade, and witnessed it being made (from scratch, not re-forging). I cannot disclose the process here, but I can attest to the fact.
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Old 10th February 2021, 12:26 PM   #23
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Here is a closeup of another blade made last year by another, unknown master, He is making these blades in his yard in the village in Central Asia, they call them "bulat"/Russian for wootz. They use certain local steel, not from India and not from old blades, they do not have any of it, they use the cheapest and simplest methods and tools, basically firewood and hammer, to make it. The result does not match the best antique Persian blades, but not too shabby.
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Old 10th February 2021, 06:44 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALEX
I actually did commission a wootz blade, and witnessed it being made (from scratch, not re-forging). I cannot disclose the process here, but I can attest to the fact.
Great!

It would be interesting to see the pattern you have on your new blade and see how does it compare to the antique wootz.
Is it from the Finnish blacksmith who claims to have reproduced the antique wootz pattern?!

You can see below one small knife Kirpichev offered me to buy (blade length 8 cm).

PS: If I remember correctly, Verhoeven describes a method of recovering wootz pattern after it was lost during re-heating.
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Old 10th February 2021, 07:17 PM   #25
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I recently saw this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iwsYool-JVI

The smith uses modern bearing steel (52100?) melted in a crucible with small amount of powdered graphite and glass. The knife produced from the ingot had a remarkably wootz like pattern.
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Old 10th February 2021, 07:50 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver John
I recently saw this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iwsYool-JVI

The smith uses modern bearing steel (52100?) melted in a crucible with small amount of powdered graphite and glass. The knife produced from the ingot had a remarkably wootz like pattern.
I would say it IS wootz. He used bearing steel as the base metal but re-melted it in a crucible, changed its carbon content, and ended up with wootz.

Yet, the pattern is very different from the antique watery pattern.
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Old 23rd August 2021, 08:21 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc View Post
I have the suspicion it is the same guy I contacted about 7 years ago about making a blade for me.
.........

So I am very suspicious about his claims as I suspect that in best case scenario he is only reworking old blades.

PS: Found the correspondence with him: 18 July 2013.
His name is Niko Hynninen.
Mariusgmioc,

I can assure you that Niko is the genuine article. He has been my friend for quite a few years and I have detailed knowledge of his process and his journey of making Wootz.

The blade patterns are his alone and the reason that he doesn't make blades for sale is that he isn't really a bladesmith. His focus has been on making the steel and on the scientific perfection of his process. He is one of the most knowledgeable smiths in the field, Peter Burt is pretty close too.

His desire to purchase old blades or sections of old blades is so that he can examine them under the microscope and have them analysed. There is very little analysis of ancient blades and the more information we can get, the better we are able to replicate them.

Niko was not interested in putting steel out there until he was able to get his process nailed down. I know that he is selling the odd bar from time to time now.

The patterning of the wootz blades is most definitely to do with the impurities in the blades. It is impossible to get the same patterning unless you replicate the elemental analysis at least roughly. Many of the current smiths don't do that, they use modern steels mixed together and they do make wootz, but it just looks a bit different than the old stuff because the elements are different.

Then we come to forging... once you have the analysis right or in the ballpark, you have to know how to forge the ingot out to get the right type of patterning. Even the original old Assad Allah blades did not have the same pattern throughout the blades. Ingots came from Khorassan and from India and the carbon contents were different.

Different carbon content makes different patterns, more Phosphorus makes different patterns, different Vanadium or Nobium levels give different patterns. Manganese in the ingot gives different patterning.

The temperatures you forge at during different stages and surface deformation change the pattern as does heat treating and even the type of quench or etchant.

There was so much variation in the old blades, and it is difficult to tell some of the new steel from the old of the same pattern type. Some is identical, but the good news is that the number who are making the identical wootz blades in the same pattern categories are few. Frankly I think you would get more money for the effort if you make a good kitchen knife out of wootz than making a reproduction with no provenance..

A really good wootz smith can sometimes tell the difference between most new wootz and old wootz, but I really don't believe that is a real issue into the future. There is only one guy who I know who could pull off a reproduction that would be hard to tell, and he isn't making reproductions..

I am a wootz smith and researcher, was mentored by Al Pendray and I have moderated the Wootz Steel group on FB for years. Just FYI.
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Old 24th August 2021, 03:29 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Mitchell View Post
Mariusgmioc,



I am a wootz smith and researcher, was mentored by Al Pendray and I have moderated the Wootz Steel group on FB for years. Just FYI.
That is one sweet pedigree. Al was the best at modern wootz.
Too bad I don't do Facebook. Do you have anything on Instagram?
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Old 25th August 2021, 04:11 PM   #29
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Mross, I do have an IG account @buffaloriverforge , it has very few posts and only pictures of a few knives which I have kept from my early years. Unfortunately I photographed very few blades.. a fact I continually kick myself for..

I have been focusing on mentoring other smiths and research for several years, which I find very rewarding, but I am looking forward to getting back into making knives. I am setting my shop back up after some health struggles and a few inconvenient moves, and all going well will be posting some good patterns and blades in the coming year.
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Old 26th August 2021, 02:42 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Hi Matt,

There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit.

Almost certainly there are people who visit these pages to get ideas about what weapons to copy and how to make their new pieces look genuine and old. Folks can browse these pages without becoming a member, and some of them may be fakers of edged weapons. However, many of our members were casual visitors before eventually deciding to sign up and participate, so not every lurker has nefarious intent!

Using the PM function or email with other members is a good way to communicate if you have an item that particularly concerns you, and you want someone to give an opinion about it being real or fake.

Personally, I'm in the camp of not making it any easier for fakers to fool people and steal their money. There are some excellent resources and references on this site's static pages, as well as numerous discussions about wootz on the forum. Some of these are good "defensive" tools that can help collectors spot the obvious fakes. And remember it's not just the steel, but the hilt, scabbard, inscriptions, etc., that go into assessing whether an object is genuine. Broad knowledge helps and is perhaps the best defense against a faker.

Ian
"There are two schools of thought about discussing the faking of weapons. One says that we should know as much as possible and should discuss these issues openly so that collectors can be better informed. The other says we need to not tell the fakers how to make better fakes, and therefore should share our thoughts selectively with just those we know are legit. "

hmm dont want to sound nasty here but such silly though is a major issue..

The only useful way to anything productive is to compile as much factuial informaiton as exsists and then investigate any theory to its rational ends. making it available to everyone and to confront fakers actively.

Is it "fakers making better fakes" or ill informed poeple buying buying fakes in a very secretive competitive atmosphere?, and how are they illinfomred.. by a lack of discussion. ..

seems pretty obvious if you are "hiding bigbrain "discouveries" from your peers because of some abstract fear of a potential possiable.. ect that this attitude only helps people make fakes to begin with and intentionally stunts any sort of informaiton about these topics....
and is the reason faking happens in any case as most people financially involved in these topics have a vested interest in giving deceptive information and there is little free accessable informaiton to reference sometimes "an expert told me" ect... expert whos also the seller.. . .

if anyone can make a real good fake of an antique weapon thats actuially convincing and worth what its sold for then they can make new reproductions and sell them for as much as the antiques..

If you wanted to fake .. lets say a fine antique shamshir.. well you could sell your sword for the same as the real antiques without telling a single lie..
as i can safely say today nobody can produce an even rude copy of a shamshir and sell it for less than the originals.

fakery in antique arms is normaly either rather embarressing or its done by mixing and matching antique parts.

convincing fakery in antique arms ushaly focuses on mass produced items.. or "rare" variations of some item that already exsists.. like a bayonet with some "special" feature.. for example a 1907 smle bayonet with a sawback or some nonsence. or some rare markings.. a mosin nagant in tibetian service with some fake marking they invented that nobody can check ect ect.


in other realms of fakery there is a real profit to be made huge volumes (almost most chinese "antiques" sold today are fakes for example-chinese government even made alot of them in the past , and id say many marble greek and roman busts are fakes too and there is some corruption between some governm ent funded museums, fakers and auction houses in this area for sure.. .. fake ceramics , stone items,, ect are much easier and much more profitable to fake than antique arms (mostly).. which are exceptionally hard to fake convincingly when the buyer is informed. as the items are far more complex and have 100x or 1000x the reference points for assessment compared to a ceramic item.

This is in theory is a forum to discuss the collecting, use, construction and history of antique arms.

antique dealing, auctions and collecitng is full of scammers, frauds and fakery..
it has always been so. and its so sucessful because of the secretive, deceptive or competitive nature of many collectors and sellers and a lack of informaiton for newcomers and potential buyers in a hostile competitive environment. lets make an effort to reverse such a stagnant culture..
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