We're just days away from receiving our second shipment. We'll be carrying more than a few metal pieces - brass lanterns, copper tableware, iron trunks, etc. - so I thought it wise to do a bit of research. I was expecting to read a couple of articles that leaned a bit to the dry side; after all - I've never truly payed any attention to metallurgy. What I'd learned over the next few hours was anything but expected.
At this point my inner geek is just itching to describe and expand on every detail but in the interest of your time and readability, I'll try to restrain myself. 'As old as time itself' is a common (and overdramatic) expression some people use to describe age. In the case of metalworking in India, this expression can be taken literally. According to the internet, Indians were beginning to shape and use copper right around when some bright fellow thought it would be a good idea to measure time. Skip forward about four thousand years and picture yourself in ancient Rome. You've been invited to dinner at the home of the city's wealthiest family. Don't be surprised if the spoon you're sipping your soup off of is made in India. Silverware of this kind was a mark of status and success at the time, such was the reputation of Indian metal smiths. Indian weapons became a very hot commodity not long after this. I suppose our ancestors began asking for swords rather than saucepans at some point. Western blacksmiths tried in vain to study and replicate the techniques of their Indian cousins. Metalworking in India was a very secretive affair - father's would often pass on their knowledge only to their sons. This layer of mystery only added to the demand for Indian-made goods. After the British took ownership of India, they introduced measures to control metalwork in their new colony for fear that the artisans would stop moulding statues and start forging cannons instead. A few signatures and seals were enough to put a halt to India's 5,000-year-old love affair with metal. Today, India is rediscovering this love. The forges are lit and the hammers are banging away once more! - Ray.