What is a Toledo sword?
A Toledo sword was a sword produced in Toledo Spain during the 15th to the late 20th century. By using a unique forging method, including both the design and ergonomics, the Toledo sword makers produced a blade, using Toledo steel, that was renowned for its strength, flexibility and durability.
What is Toledo steel?
What made the swords forged in Toledo Spain superior was the raw materials used in their construction.
The blade was made from “Toledo steel,” an unusually hard layered metal with an iron core,
It was comprised of a high carbon steel outer layer that was forged around a low carbon content inner steel core. This unique method of forging gave the sword flexibility without breaking, qualities that made the Toledo sword legendary.
Toledo sword identification
Nearly all blades produced at the Toledo sword factory were marked with the year of production (until the 20th century).
There is also a reference to the Fábrica (the abbreviation To, or the legend Fábrica de Toledo or Fábrica Nacional de Toledo).
In the late 17th and beginning of 18th century the mark of the current Spanish king usually appeared (for instance, C IV for Charles IV).
Sometimes a reference to Artillery Corp, which was in charge of the factory, was added.
Because of that, the appearance of Artillería or Arta does not necessarily mean that you are looking at an artillery sword.
Blades were only stamped with regimental marks from 1761 to 1814.
But be careful: for example, Heavy Cavalry swords were marked as CaLa, which means “Caballería de Línea”, not Light Cavalry.
From the second part of 19th century to the Fábrica’s closing, several stamps combining crossed cannons with Fábrica de Toledo legend were used along with serial numbers, and after WWI the last official mark, combining F, N & T letters under a royal crown, first appeared. In the same way, Dragoon swords were marked with a D.
How much are Toledo swords worth?
An actual authentic, Toledo sword from the 15th-17th century would have to be inspected and appraised by a professional appraiser.
Where to buy a sword in Toledo Spain?
History of the Toledo sword
The Toledo sword had already become a legendary fighting weapon as early as the 5th century B.C., when Hannibal’s army, outfitted with swords made in Toledo known as a falcata, used them to defeat the Roman legions during the Punic Wars.
Rome was so impressed with the Toledo falcata they later adopted the sword and it became one of the standard weapons of the Roman legions.
Toledo had became the center of the sword making world and the best of the swords produced from the 15th to the 17th century.
During this period, blade production in Toledo was the responsibility of individual smiths, who were associated in a guild.
The guild was in charge of keeping production quality at a high level, but the production was not centrally located. The blade making occurred at the smiths’ local forges located throughout the city.
In the late 17th and the early 18th century, blade production in Toledo was slowly beginning to decrease.
There were several reasons this occurred.
The swords’ popularity began to wane with the rise of the firearm.
Fewer individual orders were being placed as the sword was losing its importance in fashion, as it was no longer a part of how a gentleman dressed.
The French Bourbon kings, who arrived in the 18th century, brought the smallsword fashion with them. The importation of the lighter French thrusting weapon affected the production of the heavier Spanish rapier.
Because of this downturn in the industry, another issue arose.
The lack of blacksmiths in Toledo.
As the orders for Toledo blades decreased, so did the amount of Toledo blacksmiths.
This presented a real problem for the Spanish army.
The cavalry was still dependent on swords and the infantry still required bayonets.
The decreasing number of bladesmiths threatened the supply of quality blades for troops.
How was this problem solved?
The Royal Sword Factory of Toledo
The Royal Sword Factory of Toledo (Real Fábrica de Espadas de Toledo) was dedicated in 1761 by King Charles III of Spain. The main objective of this new sword factory was to ensure that the Spanish army and navy officers were supplied with weapons such as swords, daggers, and machetes.
The Mint of Toledo was chosen as the new site for the sword factory. The mint had stopped producing currency in 1745 and was no longer in use, so it was repurposed as the new home for the sword factory. (source)
You can still visit the site of the Mint / original sword factory in the historic area of Toledo.
Original sword factory / Toledo Mint
Address: C/ Núñez de Arce,12
In 1777 the sword factory moved to a new location along the banks of the Tagus river, and the factory was placed under the administrative control of the Spanish Army’s Artillery Corps, where roughly 5,000 weapons were manufactured annually.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the sword factory primarily assembled brass-hilted swords and sabers.
Until 1839 the hilts (and scabbards) for all models except the infantry model were bought from individual producers in northern Spain.
One of those individuals was Ybarzábal, famous arms and armor producer from the
Basque Country, marking hilts and scabbards with his name.
Pieces dating from that period are of special interest to collectors.
After 1839, all sword parts were produced and assembled in Toledo.
At the end of the 19th century, in 1868, hydraulic plants and new machine tools were installed. With this new power source using water from the Tagus river, the weapons factory was able to increase production to about 40,000 blades a year.
At the beginning of the 20th century, only cavalry swords and officer models for all corps were produced.
Following the end of the Spanish Civil War, production was then reduced to officer swords only.
Because of the reduced demand for quality swords, the Royal Sword Factory of Toledo closed in the late 1970s.
The two-hundred-year history of blade forging excellence had reached an end.
Toledo Spain Military Swords
Military swords for many countries are still being produced in Toledo Spain. Bermejo has been producing military swords since 1910. Bermejo produces military swords for 62 countries, including the United States Marine Corp.
Sword Shops in Toledo Spain
Nowadays, most tourist souvenir shops in Toledo are selling either industrially made reproduction or imported “wall hanger” display type swords.
The value of this type of decorative sword is generally less than $50.00
Toledo swords crafted by modern local artisan swordsmiths
There are still a few good artisanal swordsmiths that operate in Toledo today. These local blacksmiths still hand forge modern replicas, and the value of the replica swords they make can be anywhere from $150 USD to $2000 USD.
Even though Toledo was historically an artisanal city or an industrial city, modern day Toledo Spain is a tourist city, and most of the swords you will find for sale in Toledo have been produced in factories or have been imported. In some cases the individual parts and pieces will be imported, assembled locally in Toledo, and then sold as being “Made in Toledo”.
Replica sword business
Souvenir and gift shops in Toledo sell replicas of some of history’s most famous swords, both real and fictional.
Window displays are full of blades that are supposed to be from the Crusades and the Reconquista, as well as swords from the wildly popular Lord of the Rings movie trilogy – which boasts two authentic Toledo-made swords – and the Game of Thrones series on HBO.
Also, Marto still produces swords in Toledo, in fact, their factory is about 10 minutes north of the city. They produce a wide variety of swords like this model of the sword they have for sell on Amazon
Hand forged swords
There are still a few remaining artisinal swordsmiths in Toledo.
One such shop is Mariano Zamorano Fábrica de Espadas, where you can watch the owner Mariano Zamorano and his craftsmen forge their work.
In addition to offering his handmade swords for sale, he also sells replica swords and knives.
What is the Toledo Salamanca?
The Toledo Salamanca was a rapier used in the 1986 film Highlander.
It was based on a real historical sword, Spain’s King Philip II’s rapier, which is on display at the Royal Armory Museum in Madrid.
However, in the film, it is incorrectly referred to as a Toledo Salamanca Broadsword despite it actually being a rapier.
The rapier was designed to be used in thrusting attacks, having a slender blade with a sharp tip.
Marto Swords in Toledo produces a decorative high-quality replica of the King Phillip II rapier.
The decorative replica sword is made in Toledo, as all Marto swords are.
Here is a video that shows the process of how the decorative replica swords are made at Marto in Toledo. It is in Spanish but has English subtitles.
Not only is Toledo world famous for swords, but the city offers some of the finest Spanish knifes for sale.
If you are interested in geniune Spanish knives, or you plan to visit Toledo and you want to buy a knife on your trip, I wrote an article as a guide to buying knives in Toledo. Be sure to check it BEFORE you make a purchase.