Alloys and Metals


  • Suasa (soeassa, swassa): Suasa is an alloy made of copper (56%), silver (19%) and gold (25%), although percentages vary  thereby producing a variety of color shades including orange, red, whiteish and so forth. The addition of zinc (rare) yields a green hue. Suasa typically has a copper hue but enough gold to avoid patination from regular handling. The Malays believe that he who wears this metal shall be free of all sorts of bad luck. The Javanese were said to esteem suasa (with its magical properties) more highly than gold [Reference], however, rulers valued gold above all else. Suasa is sometimes called Seven Village Metal in Indonesia. Some entire blades were constructed of suasa with the belief that they could inflict wounds that would never heal, and counter the magical protection from iron that some enemies might have.
  • Bronze: A mixture of copper with a low melting point metal such as tin, zinc or lead. Tin was most common in early times. In recent history, zinc is more common (yielding what we today call brass). Bronze was the first alloy to be mastered. It combined the workability of copper with increased strength, afforded a range of colors, and resisted corrosion.
  • Brass: Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. In certain cases of religious belief, iron and steel were thought to be poison or evil. The use of brass dots was thought to lend apotropaic (averting or countering evil) properties to the blade. The religious belief that iron and steel of a blade causes death is well known in North Africa (e.g., Tuareg) and led to the use of brass in the hilt to protect a person’s hand from touching the metal. Some blades are made entirely of brass, which, due to the softness of the metal is generally unsuitable for combat. These weapons are more likely to used for talismanic or ceremonial purposes.


See: Steel Types and Patterns


Copper is thought to be the first metal that was worked by humans because it is found naturally in the form of nuggets, is relativly plentiful and easy to work. Excavations in Turkey date use of copper as early as 6300 B.C.E. Copper provides a base for many alloys, as discussed above.

Forged Copper for Protection, Kabui Naga Dao

In some cultures, copper is believed to have a power of “spell bleaching”, i.e., overcoming or nulifying the effects of magic. Thus, copper-bearing weapons are the first choice when dealing with someone with spiritual protection (such as an amulet, tattoo). A Kabui Naga dao in my collectiion has a unique feature of copper and brass forged into the steel of the blade on eone side near the spine.


Blades from India may feature a decoration called "Ganga-Jamni”.  When gold and silver are used together in a decoration, is called Ganga-Jamni. It is supposed to imitate the manner in which the muddy stream of the Ganges and the pure waters of the Jumna flow for some time together, side-by-side, but unmixed, at their junction below the fort at Allahabad. (Jens Nordlunde)

In Islamic belief (which is likely to have a pre-Islamic basis) iron is thought to attract evil; gold or brass repels evil.

Gold is softer and not as structurally sound as silver. These characteristics, along with a high price, limit its use in edged weapons. The most decorative, highest prestige weapons and accessories will make use of gold. 


Silver is a primary material used in the most visible portions of many edged weapons and accessories. The metal used has many forms, including sheets, threads, beads and nails. A few silver nails/studs in the hilt of a weapon are a common decoration. Silver may also be cast into many forms suchs as rings, bells and other larger decorative features.


Lead is used in the manufacturing process but does not typically appear in the final product. For example, molten lead is used to to protect the ferrule of a blade, scabbard uppers and chapes from damage during decorative processes such as embossing and engraving. It has a low melting point temperature versus steel and silver which makes it easy to remove the lead at the end of the process.


Introduction to Japanese Alloys