Damascus Steel is a lamination fabrication technique where in metal pieces are fusion welded in layers. The process was first seen in Persia around 500 BC and used to produce welded blades. The laminate composition of a Damascus Steel blade is attained by alternating layers of soft malleable wrought iron and a hardenable and temperable steel with a high carbon content. The steel portion of the blade gives it strength and the ability to hold a fine edge, while the iron provides elasticity so it won't break when struck. The layering of the steel patterns revealed by etching the surface has been refined into a decorative art.
The term Damascus Steel itself comes from the European Crusades who came in contact with these superior weapons at the trading city of Damascus. When the technology spread across Asia into India it was called Wootz. The Japanese surpassed all other regions with their refinement of lamination techniques. The Japanese have a rich vocabulary that developed along with the development of the manufacture of this steel, with up to 100 individual words for pattern welding. One such term is mokume, "wood eye metal".
Damascene is an inlay process in which precious metal is hammered into a background field in a free pattern. The background field is a metal surface, such as steel, that has been crosshatched to make a rough texture. The technique is thought to have a peak in development in Kyoto, Japan where it was introduced probably from Korea before 650 CE. In Japan where it is called Nunome Zogan it is used for decoration of jewelry and objects. A variation of this refined art is named after Toledo, Spain.
This process requires the artism to first create crisscross lines on a metal surface, which resembles a file's surface. Gold or Silver is then tapped into the background while forming patterns. This inlay can be created with either wire or metal sheets cut into shapes. After inlaying is completed the surface is oxidized and cleaned in a number of steps. An older method for the cleaning steps is to use a strong solution of green tea, which contains tannic acid. Lacquer is applied in layers to let the inlay stand out from the now dark background metal.