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Between the 1600 and 1800s the role of the samurai sword changed from that of a functional weapon to one of social status and wealth. As with many decorative objects, the more elaborate the ornament, the higher the perceived value and this became very much the case with the samurai sword towards the end of this period. Mokume-Gane was one of the many intricate metal working techniques developed by Japanese craftsmen for this very purpose.
In its basic form Mokume-Gane is made up of layers of different coloured metals which are fused together using only heat to form a billet (stack of fused metal). This billet is then forged, carved and rolled to reduce the thickness into workable material but also to achieve the inimitable patterns which are indicative of this technique. Each piece created is unique and quite beautiful and is truly a work of art even before it is created into a piece of jewellery. To this end much of the Mokume-Gane jewellery you will see is quite simple in design so as not to overshadow the beauty of the metal itself. http://www.freemasonmart.com/
When metal is simply fused together as opposed to fully joined by soldering, there is always a risk that it may come apart again under pressure or when subjected to considerable force. An integral part of the Mokume-Gane technique relies upon the repeated application of force so when traditionally practised it was an extremely difficult procedure to master. However newer more failsafe methods have been developed and today up to 30 layers of metal can be fused together in an electric kiln where the heat, pressure and atmosphere can be carefully controlled. This ensures the metal is perfectly fused rather than melted together resulting in a stronger bond. The metal can then be carved to create the patterns and forged to flatten the surface over and over again until the desired finish is achieved. Still labour intensive but much less likely to separate during forging.