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There were so many instances in Game of Thrones when someone unsheathes a Valyrian steel weapon, like when Mormont presents Jon Snow with Longclaw and like the one where Brienne pulls out the reforged sword made from Ice when she is about to fight the Hound the person opposite to them immediately identifies them as Valyrian steel.

As a viewer in that short glance I never could tell them apart. Is there an explanation in the TV show or in the books which gives a description of them and how do they differ from the regular steel which makes the distinction very quickly discernible?

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    Maybe it has a very strong smell. ;) – magnattic Feb 23 '15 at 16:12
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    haha. smells like strawberries. – Dredd Feb 23 '15 at 16:17
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    Easy - if the sword cuts all the way through your torso then your opponent was using Valyrian steel. ;) – user18705 Feb 25 '15 at 16:22
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    @SilentD The Hound and the Mountain cut through like that with just regular swords!! – Dredd Feb 25 '15 at 16:24
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    You just said, someone "immediately identifies them as Valyrian Steel." You know a sword is Valyrian Steel when someone tells you. – KSmarts Feb 25 '15 at 17:20
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According to the Game of Thrones Wiki page about Valyrian steel:

Valyrian steel is recognizable from its sharpness, as well as a distinctive rippled pattern visible in blades made from it

While it's hard to detect sharpness from eyesight alone, the "distinctive rippled pattern" can be detected easily by those who know where to look for it.

Couple of examples where it's easy to spot such patterns:

  • I would also think (out of universe - viewer's standpoint) that when the "person opposite" the sword identifies it as such, they are using a plot device to exclaim that the sword is something special ... just so that the viewer is up to speed with the situation. Leave nothing to chance. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 23 '15 at 19:28
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    Side note, that "distinctive rippled pattern" is the product of a forging method called pattern welding (which is a modern attempt to replicate the lost style called Damascus steel) where metals of different composition are forged together, twisted and then etched to reveal the pattern. You can see this process in the making of a replica of Snow's sword by the guys at Man at Arms. – nwellcome Feb 23 '15 at 21:42
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    @nwellcome Yes, and VS is often described to be modelled after Damascus Steel. – Möoz Feb 24 '15 at 1:39
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@Shadow Wizard's answer is correct as per the TV-Show.

I'd like to add the books' description of the blades which may help to identify how people can instantly recognise the Valyrian Steel blades.

This is Bran's description of Ice (the ancestral sword of House Stark):

“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 Song of Ice and Fire: Book One - A Game Of Thrones, Chapter One (Bran I).

And This is Jon's description of Longclaw:

When Jon turned it sideways, he could see the ripples in the dark steel where the metal had been folded back on itself again and again. “This is Valyrian steel, my lord,” he said wonderingly.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One - A Game Of Thrones, Chapter Sixty (Jon VIII).

You see what I'm getting at here: Valyrian Steel blades have a distinctive 'ripple' effect from the folding technique used to forge them. They are also quite 'dark' and 'smoky' in colour. This is very distinctive and instantly recognisable.

The blades used in the TV-show are not 'dark' or 'smoky', but people can still recognise the blades instantly by their distinctive 'ripple' effects and immaculate sharpness.

4

Pattern welding is used as a visual cue in the TV series. But this cannot be all there is to it. Pattern welding is a method of making a blade by platting together strips of softened metal and then hammering them together.

In the books however it is stated that Valyrian steel swords are lighter and can be melted down to make new blades. This suggests that Valyrian steel is an alloy that can no longer be sourced. It is not stated whether they are lighter because they are less dense or because they are stronger so less metal is needed.

How about a compromise? Valyrian steel is a valuable alloy that is sharper and lighter than steel but perhaps a little too brittle? So swords are made by pattern welding it with regular steel. The result is lighter than the equivalently sized steel sword and has a rippled pattern because the two metals do not mix.

  • Excellent point about the weight, which is referenced multiple time across the series. – DukeZhou Jan 25 '17 at 22:05
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Valyrian steel has also something in common with Mandalorian steel, yes it is the way it is worked but it is also the actual metal.

In Valyrian steel it is the flame forging (using dragon's breath) and in Mandalorian it is the beskar itself. So no regular steel can be "worked" into a Valyrian steel sword.

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    Hi, Welcome to movies, your answer states some interesting facts can you elaborate them or find some quotes from the book to back your claim? – Dredd Feb 24 '15 at 16:16
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Valyrian steel cannot be found anymore because it was made from magic and dragon fire. The way one identifies a Valyrian steel sword is that it has a rippled, rust-colored, reddish effect from being folded back over itself time and time again. It does not ever need to be sharpened, and it is stronger and lighter in weight. They say it looks like fire. In S4 E1, Tywin Lannister says that there are only 3 men known of in the world who can work with Valyrian steel. Tobho Mott reforged Ice, Ned Stark's sword, into 2 swords for Lord Tywin. They cannot be made anymore, but can be reforged from another piece of Valyrian steel, only by those who know how. It seems that is it the same material as Obsidian, or Dragonglass, according to Samwell Tarly and Jon Snow. That is why Jon Snow took dragonglass with him to Hardhome, knowing it could be used to kill White Walkers. In S3 E8, Samwell Tarly killed a White Walker with one, proving it is true. In Hardhome S5 E8, Jon kills a White Walker with Longclaw. Which we know is Valyrian Steel. It can't be alloyed with any other steel as it isn't made the same way as any other steel, it wouldn't mix.

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    There's a distinct difference between obsidian (dragon glass) and Valyrian steel (dragon steel). – kuhl Oct 22 '15 at 19:48
  • Why can't any more Valyrian steel be made. Did the technique die out during the Doom of Valyria ? Can't Danaerys try making some.😋 – A.R.K Oct 20 '18 at 8:30
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    "Valyrian steel cannot be found anymore because it was made from magic and dragon fire." However likely, this is still speculation. All that is known is "the secret of its making was lost with the Doom of the Valyrian Freehold". – BCdotWEB Nov 7 '18 at 16:16
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You're all wrong. Only due to a minor technicality though. It is true that valyrian steel is often made from folding the metal in on itself, but not always, the blade cannot be recognised that way. When Ned Stark is executed, the sword of Winterfell (aka Ice) is melted down and the steel is reforged into two long swords, one of which is given to Jaime Lannister, the other of which is given to Joffery Baratheon. So those swords weren't forged in the traditional fashion, but that doesn't mean it's not Valyrian steel.

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    They were re-forged in the traditional fashion; Tobho Mott knows how. The thing with VS blades is that once they're made, they can be reformed without losing the initial 'enchantments', as long as the smithy knows how to rework it. – Möoz Mar 17 '15 at 10:02
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    one simply doesn't call answers with more than 25 upvotes as all wrong!! – Dredd Mar 17 '15 at 13:49
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    I meant all the answers. The up votes don't matter it's still not technically correct. – Matthew Stevenson Mar 17 '15 at 18:44

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