From its earliest appearance over 30,000 years ago, the sword has occupied a unique place in history and human imagination. Unlike weapons of brute force, the sword requires skill to create and to wield, and it has more than earned its name as "the Queen of weapons.”
The earliest bronze swords were leaf-shaped, flaring from the sharp point and narrowing towards the hilt. Examples have been found throughout the Mediterranean, Europe and Scandinavia. By the 16th century B.C., swords were common throughout Asia.
The invention of steel heralded a major advance in sword design. Stronger and lighter than bronze, steel soon became the preferred material for weapons. Steel swords were common in Rome and across the Iberian Peninsula as early as the 4th century B.C., and examples dating from the 3rd century B.C. have been found in China.
As trade and exploration widened, swords changed hands and traveled great distances. Swordsmiths adapted some features and combined others to create fresh designs. Soon several broad categories of sword types were recognized. These included single-edged, double-edged, flat bladed and curved swords, with sub-types in each category.
Until the invention of firearms, swords dominated the field of battle. Anyone who could afford to do so would have a sword made especially for personal use, and it was important one’s sword be impressive as well as efficient. Some bore inspiring inscriptions, while others sported ornate metalwork or jeweled hilts. It was common for the owner to name his sword, just as he named his horses and dogs.
Though swords are no longer weapons of choice, they continue to capture our interest. Their intensely personal nature, the history attached to each piece, and the high level of workmanship make them valued by collectors as well as those who appreciate beauty. Swordsmiths still make swords, and fencing is one of just four sports to be continuously featured in every modern Olympics.