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What is Valyrian Steel


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#1 Lannisters will win

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 11:44 PM

I was just thinking about Valyrian steel and its properties. What makes it so sharp/hard/light when this idea hit me. I believe valyrian steel is a combination of traditional steel and obsidian, also known as dragon glass. I have several reasons for believing this. 

 

1. Valyrian steel is famous for among other things its sharpness. I think it is accurate to say that valyrian steel swords are sharper regular steel swords. And what material is known for its sharpness as well, obsidian. Examples of this include the maesters at the citadel cutting themselves on the obsidian candles, several people cutting themselves on the obsidian daggers Jon found, Jon himself proclaiming that Obsidian was sharper than steel, but brittle, and several other examples. 

2. Obsidian is some form of volcanic glass (made by volcanos or perhaps dragons), If this is correct, then Obsidian is in fact harder than steel (to be clear I am not saying it is not brittle but by the scientific definition of "hardness" obsidian is certainly harder than steel). This could explain why less steel is necessary for the forging of a Valyrian blade.

3. Obsidian is lighter than steel, which could explain why valyrian steel is lighter than traditional steel.

4. In AFFC, Sam claims that "Dragonsteel" (which I believe is Valyrain steel) is effective against the others. The only material that we know of that is effective against the others is obsidian. Therefore it would make sense that obsidian is part of the construction of Valyrian steel. 

5. The fifth reason I have for believing this is the way that valyian steel acts with coloring. From ASOS Tyrion IV:

 

"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—"

 
As you can see, Valyrian steel does not take the dye used for steel very well. It is my belief that the reason for this lies in the combination of obsidian and steel. Notice that the end result was rippled, as if only a portion of the blade accepted the coloring. This would make sense if Valyrian steel was a combination of obsidian and and regular steel because only the regular steel would be heated to the level necessary to recieve the coloring, obsidian would have to reach a much higher temperature in order to be successfully colored. 
 
 
Though I am not sure how the combination of obsidian and steel happened (most likely has to do with Valyria having access to hotter temperatures via volcanic activity and dragons) I think this is most likely the origin of Valyrian steel. If this theory has been discussed previously I apologize but I couldnt' find anything in the search. please tell me what you think. 

 



#2 Gendrys Forge

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 11:54 PM

No offense but I think you are absolutely wrong.



#3 Lannisters will win

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 12:13 AM

I course take no offense, what is your theory regarding Valyrian steel? 



#4 mindchap

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 12:23 AM

From SSMs:

A brief question about Valyrian steel - is it the metal that makes the sword so special (provenance, age, etc), or is it the forging (spells, techniques)

Forging techniques and spells, actually. There is magic involved in the making of Valyrian steel.

 

In other words, if a smith knew how, could he take some fresh, high-quality steel and produce an equally fine sword?

Not unless he could work the magic.

From this I gather that it's not the steel so much that matters, but rather the way it's forged.

If you're interested you can google the following and read all of GRRM's various comments on Valyrian Steel: :)

 

Valyrian steel site:www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/



#5 Lannisters will win

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 12:31 AM

well it seems like victory in 2 for Gendrys Forge and mindchap. Ill be sure to check SSM more carefully next time I post.



#6 The Kinkslayer

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 12:43 AM

All Valyrian magic is rooted in blood or fire.. so Valyrian steel is rooted in both, fire for forging the blade, blood for quenching it.

 

Source: ancient books from Santa Fe.. just kidding, no source.


Edited by The Kinkslayer, 14 May 2014 - 12:44 AM.


#7 Skoboe

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 12:55 AM

From a purely metallurgical point of view, no, sorry. Obsidian is mostly silica, with traces of magnesium and magnetite to give it it's dark colour.

 

Silica is an impurity that is intentionally removed during the smelting process...in fact silica is added to some metallurgical processes to help form a slag to trap contaminents after the flux does it's work.

 

The MgO would be reduced and bubble out with the other contaminants, with the Fe3O4 would be reduced as well to iron, with the oxygen being removed.

 

But I love the history of metallurgy more than the science (in fact, being a metallurgist drives me bat-shit crazy sometimes!), and the mystery that surrounded Toledo Steel and the Japanese methods for centuries makes me smile.

 

It's a fantasy novel, and the 'magic' of Valyrian steel is primarily in it's rarity and it's long lost secrets. It should be left at that.



#8 mindchap

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 01:08 AM

well it seems like victory in 2 for Gendrys Forge and mindchap. Ill be sure to check SSM more carefully next time I post.

Don't feel bad, I once thought that maybe they extracted the iron from dragonbone. :shocked: And there is still the argument that some make suggesting that maybe dragonsteel and Valyrian steel are two different things.



#9 averde

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 01:34 AM

Everyone's answer is going to be "magic made it lol so dumb" but in reality Valyrian steel and it's properties are based off the real world Damascus steel from the same medieval period that Westeros setting is inspired from. To this day we don't know how people made that steel and can't recreate it, so a real world non magic method for creating Valyrian steel in Westeros is possible even though no one living in the series knows how.

#10 TheCoffeeThatWasPromised

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 02:30 AM

Didn't Valyria have volcanoes?? Stannis found lots of obsidian on Dragonstone which incidentally had a volcano.

So, what if Valyrian swords are forged inside Volcanoes using obsidian and fire/blood magic?


Edited by TheCoffeeThatWasPromised, 14 May 2014 - 02:30 AM.


#11 Kienn

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 03:08 AM

I think obsidian (or dragon bone for that matter) could definitely be part of the production of Valyrian steel.

 

The use of magic means you can throw traditional metallurgy out the window, the hand-wavyness of magic allows the combination of materials for their properties that normally wouldn't be achievable. Even traditional metallurgy relied on "impurities" in steel to get the properties they wanted. If you simply continuously fold and refold steel to make it more and more pure you'll end up with worse steel (for sword purposes) than if you stop at the right time, because it is the impurities that give steel for swords its important properties(steel itself is just iron with impurities). Even if normally glass isn't one of the desirable impurities... with magic it could be.

 

The only issue I would take with the OP is #2 - real obsidian is softer than (carbon) steel, and there's nothing so far to make me think Westeros obsidian is any different. Sharpness is different from hardness. Not sure what a volcano has to do with hardness at all.


Edited by Kienn, 14 May 2014 - 03:10 AM.


#12 Ser No One

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 03:10 AM

I like this theory. I think it's well thought and well explained. I'm with you on this.

 

Of course, it's not enough, as it was pointed out before, you need to work the magic too, to create Valyrian Steel.

But I don't think GRRM said that magic is all that is needed, and that if you know the magic, you can create Valyrian Steel from any metal. My bet is on a combination of both a different chemical composition and magic.



#13 Lannisters will win

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 04:00 AM

Please let me clarify; what I meant by hardness was referring to the mohs hardness scale, which defined hardness by the ability of one material to scratch another. By this measure obsidian is in fact "harder" than steel, though obsidian is more brittle. My thought was that through some sort of magic the desirable properties could be combined to create Valyrian steel.

#14 Waters Gate

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 04:27 AM

 

 

From a purely metallurgical point of view, no, sorry. Obsidian is mostly silica, with traces of magnesium and magnetite to give it it's dark colour.

 

Agree.

 

Thing is, i have this sneaking suspicioun that obsidian may indeed be an important ingredient of "lightbringer". But then why mix obsidian with steel if that sounds so "incompatible" from a metalurgic point of view for the creation of Valyrian steel? Must valyrian steel include some obsidian for you to be effective against others or something? Sure valyrian steel might be a mix of all sorts of unknown ingredients,; maybe a alloy of many ore's combined or strenghtened trought magic. Then there seem to be plenty of possibilety's for ingredients, liek the ores or bones that cna be found in dragons themselfs. Obsidian is an option that makes very few sense compared to tohers here.

 

For me a lot of hints for what regards the possibilety of obsidian being an ingredient to "lighbtbringer" lies with the glass candle's in oldtown, as these glass candle's on the surface seem to offer all the feature's for them to quasi perform as a "lightbringer".

More pedanticly, these are 3 feet long razorsharp obsidian blade's which have lasted for century's at the citadel. A remarkable thing, because by norm a 3 feet long thin and sharp piece of obsidian would probably not last for century's, would need to be cut out of rare pieces and would take one hell of a knapper to do it well withought breaking the whole piece.

 

To put it differently: Apparently there are 2 kinds of obsidian. Normal obsidian, and valyrian obsidian which seems to be magic induced. The valyrian obsidian apparently can be used to create obsidian blade's of remarkable lenght and durabilety that eminate light.

 

How do you make this kind of obsidian given the type of material? Mix it with gems or diamonds maybe via magic? Atleast it would seem more logical to me that obsidian could bond with gems and diamonds trough magic making it harder and giving off light, rather than metal would be mixed with it, even if it's still somewhat irrational and "fantastic". 

 

btw. Arn't the eyes of dragons said to be like gemstones?


Edited by Waters Gate, 14 May 2014 - 04:29 AM.


#15 FalseSpring

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 04:40 AM

Obviously it's impossible to add obsidian to steel. Also obsidian is not hard, it is just sharp. It's one of the sharpest stones because of the molecular structure - it can be as thin as 1 atom thick at it's sharpest point. It doesn't have an organized structure, so that allows for extreme sharpness. Regular ole steel is definitely harder than obsidian. 

 

I think perhaps metaphorically you might be right. Overall, Valyrian steel just seems to be blades infused with magic. Obsidian seems to have magical properties. 

The fact that you can melt them down to make smaller swords or daggers shows that it's not about infusing them with magic, but rather the actual alloy already has those Valyrian steel properties.

I always thought dragon steel just meant obsidian. 



#16 Kienn

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 05:01 AM

Regular ole steel is definitely harder than obsidian.

 

You really shouldn't say this without being specific.

 

"Regular steel" is fairly meaningless... steel can actually range from softer than obsidian to much harder.

 

By Mohs:

Low carbon steel - 4

Obsidian - 5

High carbon steel - 8

 

By Sclerometer:

Low carbon steel - ~25

Obsidian - ~50

High carbon steel - ~200

 

So steel isn't "definitely" anything compared to obsidian, but good high carbon steel that could be called "regular" specifically with regards to swords would be 2-4 times(a ~200 hardness would be with modern methods) harder than obsidian.


Edited by Kienn, 14 May 2014 - 05:02 AM.


#17 FalseSpring

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 05:02 AM

 

You really shouldn't say this without being specific.

 

"Regular steel" is fairly meaningless... steel can actually range from softer than obsidian to much harder.

 

By Mohs:

Low carbon steel - 4

Obsidian - 5

High carbon steel - 8

 

By Sclerometer:

Low carbon steel - ~25

Obsidian - ~50

High carbon steel - ~200

 

So steel isn't "definitely" anything compared to obsidian, but good high carbon steel that could be called "regular" specifically with regards to swords would be 2-4 times(a ~200 hardness would be with modern methods) harder than obsidian.

My bad - was unaware.



#18 Waters Gate

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 05:04 AM

 

 

The fact that you can melt them down to make smaller swords or daggers shows that it's not about infusing them with magic, but rather the actual alloy already has those Valyrian steel properties.

 

That in itself though is a very good consideration you make and makes it somewhat easier to "narrow it down".

 

It's very difficult to know what the ingredients behind valyrian steel would be. Well one ingredient seems not so difficult to consider, that being steel, though that said it doesn't mean that it must be certain that VS contains iron/steel.

 

Another hint to what it might be is the fact that it was very rare, even arguably for Valyrians apparently as for ex. the targaryans did not take VS armor sets with them from valyria.

 

So why was it rare? Steel certainly isn't rare. Neither is obsidian in a place with plenty of volcano's. 

-Maybe the magic was the rare element. Afterall we know magic played a part and maybe there was only so much "mana". This explenation doesn't please me that much though.

-Maybe the rare element was typical to the soil of Valyria, and could only be mined there. neither a pleasing explenation as minerals are typicly more widespread

-Maybe the rare element was part of the dragons. Though this explenation sounds ok to me, i wonder why the targaryans then didn't make more VS from their dead dragons

-Maybe it was a metal that simplyneeded the heat of dragonflame to be worked. Nah, the fact that it's stil worked kinda exclude's that.

 

-Maybe the rare element is something to be found in a meteorite rather than earth: This one i like in the sense that Dawn is considered a VS blade as well but is known to be made from a meteorite. Such rock deffinatly would be rare and to me the fact that dawn is made from it actually serve's as potentially very good reason to argue that meteorite rock might be a key element.


Edited by Waters Gate, 14 May 2014 - 05:05 AM.


#19 Kienn

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 05:04 AM

Obviously it's impossible to add obsidian to steel.

 

Most magic is similarly "impossible"



#20 FalseSpring

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 05:22 AM

Meteorite theory makes the most sense to me.