Toledo, Spain, has been a sword-making hotbed for 2,500 years — now just 2 artisans are keeping the tradition alive

  • Toledo, Spain, has been a hotbed for sword-making since the 5th century BC.
  • But the art of sword-making is dying in Toledo, with just two artisans keeping the ancient tradition alive.
  • Mass-produced swords from foreign competitors have made it difficult to stay in business.
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

The swords forged in Toledo, Spain, were once considered the finest in the world.

Blacksmiths here have been making fine steel weapons by hand since the 5th century BC, furnishing armies throughout history.

But almost 40 years later, the art of sword making is dying in Toledo, and the city's forges are in danger of shuttering for good.

"The future of sword making is like coal — dark," sword-maker José Ramón Moreno told Business Insider Today. "If things don't change, Toledo's sword making will become a legend. There is no one to follow us nor is there much more business to continue. This is all going to disappear within a few years."

Moreno learned the craft from his father when he was 16 years old. Back then, in the 1980s, there were a few hundred bladesmiths in Toledo.

And better days may not be on the horizon, as few young people have shown interest in learning the craft of sword making.

Meanwhile, foreign competition is endangering the nature of the business. Mass-produced swords that come mainly from China can be found in Toledo shops for half the price or less of handmade ones.

"Nowadays everyone can make a sword," Moreno said. "Because you take a big, beautiful oven that indicates at so many degrees you have to heat, at so many degrees it has to cool down, and that is something anyone can do from a computer."

But to be able to make a sword just on instincts alone — by looking at the color of the steel, hearing how it sounds — takes talent.

"You have to know how to forge from whatever is given to you. This is the art of knowing how to forge."

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