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Thread: Silver Weapons

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  1. #1
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    Silver Weapons

    All the physical weapons mentioned in Harry Potter canon seem to be made out of silver. Voldemort conjures a silver shield in his duel with Dumbledore in OotP. The Sword of Godric Gryffindor is described as being silver, as is Bellatrix's knife. And in Tales of Beadle the Bard, the Warlock with the hairy heart cuts out his heart with a silver dagger.

    Why are all of these weapons silver? Silver has to be just about one of the worst metals to make any sort of weapon out of, since it is a very soft metal. A silver blade will get dull and bend very quickly.

    What's wrong with goblin-forged steel? Does silver have magical properties that would make it preferable to steel? Or did J.K. Rowling just think silver sounded cooler than steel?

    Thoughts?

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    What's wrong with goblin-forged steel? Does silver have magical properties that would make it preferable to steel? Or did J.K. Rowling just think silver sounded cooler than steel?
    Because steel is an alloy and the goblins from days of yore probably hadn't invented it yet. Steel is magnetic which is rather a poor quality to have in a magical sword if your enemy can hold up a magnet and get the weapon from you.

    Silver has a longer history - Greeks/Romans etc used it in medicine and it's a precious metal.

    And yeah, it's far far far far cooler than steel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wiki
    A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal.
    It can probably conduct magic and absorb magic better than another metal. And it's harder than gold.

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    I agree with almost everything Carole says (silver certainly is cool). But:
    Quote Originally Posted by Equinox Chick View Post
    Because steel is an alloy and the goblins from days of yore probably hadn't invented it yet.
    Iron weapons supplanted bronze weapons when the bronze age moved into the iron age (who’d have thought!) 2500 to 3000 years ago.
    Steel was “invented” about 2000 years ago (I think the Indians had it first, but they exported it through the Middle East, and we thick westerners called the resulting material Damascus steel.)
    By the founders era properly quenched, hardened and tempered steel was available to Norman Knights, so there’s little doubt that Goblins would know about it.
    I’ll skip the lecture on manufacturing techniques (urine and guano were always popular manufacturing materials for our ancestors whether for holding dyes to cloth or adding carbon to iron).

    However, we’re dealing with magic. In Lord of the Rings the sword Narsil (at least after it was broken and reforged as Andúril) along with Bilbo/Frodo’s sword “Sting” and Gandalf’s Glamdring all actually glowed! Does JRRT ever says what they are made of (Adamantite)?

    With a magic sword, does the metal matter on a different level? Does silver add something which iron or steel would not? What about the intent of the smith?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Equinox Chick View Post
    It was invented but the process wasn't refined until Renaissance times. Steel was cheaper than silver, but not stronger. It was fairly brittle.
    Carole, I must disagree. Steel can be brittle, but it is stronger that silver, and it retains its edge better.

    I have the good fortune to know (not well) a Norwegian guy who is a keen re-enactor and jouster. I’ve worn his chainmail – an interesting experience, and not as uncomfortable as you’d imagine (the photographs are not for publication). No one can wear his plate armour, because it’s made to measure.

    Viking era Scandinavian swords were made from layers of high- and low-carbon steel. High carbon provides durability and low-carbon flexibility.

    Norman and Anglo-Saxon swords were similar. The medieval smith’s abilities were almost magical to his contemporaries. There is (I think) a lot of debate as to whether smiths made steel deliberately or accidentally. Simply by smelting you can get a little steel and a lot of iron. Even knife blades were made by welding (or beating) a (brittle) sharp steel edge onto a softer iron back.

    If medieval Muggles were that good, we must assume that goblins were better.

    As I said, there may be magical reasons why goblins choose silver. Perhaps the folklore is right, and it’s possible to drive off ghosts, fairies, witches, goblins and other malevolent supernatural creatures with “cold iron”.

    -N-

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    Last edited by Northumbrian; 06-01-2011 at 11:32 AM. Reason: the post gremlins are back

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil
    Steel was “invented” about 2000 years ago (I think the Indians had it first, but they exported it through the Middle East, and we thick westerners called the resulting material Damascus steel.)
    By the founders era properly quenched, hardened and tempered steel was available to Norman Knights, so there’s little doubt that Goblins would know about it.
    It was invented but the process wasn't refined until Renaissance times. Steel was cheaper than silver, but not stronger. It was fairly brittle.

    And I can't see Fleur wanting to wear a steel tiara on her head.

    ~Carole~
    Last edited by Equinox Chick; 06-01-2011 at 09:29 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil the Knight
    Carole, I must disagree. Steel can be brittle, but it is stronger that silver, and it retains its edge better.
    I bow to your chain-mail wearing days. I think the process was refined during Renaissance times, so it was easier to smelt in larger quantities, but that's the info I got from a combination of Horrible Histories and Wiki, so *shrugs*

    And I wonder where this post will appear.

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    Carole

    It was one chain mail wearing day (actually about 30 rather scary minutes).

    Manufacturing techniques improved over the centuries, but even early medieval smiths could recognise different grades of steel. There was simply less of it and quality wasn't so consistent as it was during the Renaissance. Make a dodgy sword and if it breaks, the wielder is in trouble. Make a dodgy cannon and if it explodes your artillery line is in trouble.

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    I can't quite make sense of the posting order of this thread (hehe), so I'm just going to reply to the original post.
    I think the coolness factor would have probably played a role for JKR's decision.
    For an answer that might make more sense for the HP world, there might be certain properties that silver has which are unknown to Muggles. Maybe silver can be magically strengthened, and moreso than other metals, which could also explain why silver forged by goblins is so special.

  9. #9
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    I think that in the case of Voldemort's shield, the dagger, and the sword, JKR isn't meaning that they are MADE from silver, but rather that they are a silver COLOUR. There probably is silver in them, but I mean, ok, forks and spoons are silver. Are they all made of silver? No. Mine are made from stainless steel, yet I call them silver. I am looking for silver shoes, are they made from the metal? I sincerely hope not.

    Also, there's something about silver (the metal) and werewolves...can't remember what exactly though.
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  10. #10
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    I also think a lot of it might have to with literary licence. The world of written novels have the luxery of not always having to follow what makes since in the real world when something will work better on a symbolic level.

    Think about it...in the world of Harry Potter, we are taking children with a fifth grade education, giving them immeasurable magical power, and even time travel, with only the most basic knowledge of history, physics, and other such things.

    And silver has long since been associated with magic in folklore. I personally feel the decision regarding silver over steel was one of personal choice by J.K. to give more of an artistic and whimsical flair to her stories.

    But Tim, I know you tend to favor 'gritty' over 'whimsical', so I think as long as you can explain favoring steel over silver in your stories, I think you can make it work.

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