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Wrought Iron - The Power And Glory Of The Black Art

We take wrought iron for granted. It's so sturdy and reliable, we assume it will last forever and continue to do its job as a coffee table or a chandelier or a bookcase. And, indeed, it will.

Yet beneath its stalwart exterior lurks a history of romance, mystery and magic worthy of the Black Knight himself. In fact, once upon a time, wrought iron was believed to be a gift from the gods. Which is not surprising, since the earliest iron ore was extracted from meteorites.

Still, the gods apparently decreed that man at least participate in the unwrapping of their gift. The first step was understanding that there could actually be something within the meteorite that was worth extracting. The possibilities were certainly not obvious.

And exactly how to turn the raw material into something useful must have been even less so. It had to be melted twice to reduce the carbon content, then hammered to further expel the carbon and impurities so that the iron would be malleable.

To be sure, gold and silver and bronze were, at the outset, more blatantly ornate. Although even that would change in time. But initially, iron was the outcast 'black metal.' Yet if it was less pretty than its glittery sisters, it was also far stronger. And more useful.

When it turned out that the warriors with the iron swords could beat the warriors with the bronze swords because wrought iron, being stronger and more flexible, was less likely to break in battle, it took on the proportions of the miraculous.

As the true power of wrought iron became apparent, men who were capable of creating it were not just held in awe, they were regarded as sorcerers with magical powers. In fact, they became part of the elite pantheon of the gods. In Greek mythology, the blacksmith was represented by Hephaestus, and in Roman mythology by Vulcan.

This perspective, however, was not without its downside. During the Middle Ages, many small towns had written into their bylaws that this enchanting and satanic art could not be taught under penalty of death.

But times - and fears - do change. By the sixteenth century, wrought iron had blossomed from sword point to work of art. The elaborate intricacy of such wrought iron creations as the Tijou Screen at Hampton Court and the entrance gates at Chirk Castle are positively breathtaking. And the almost lace-like delicacy of Robert Bakewell's truly glorious Arbor at Melbourne Hall might convince even the most adamant skeptic that wrought iron is, indeed, a gift from the gods.

So the next time you set your coffee cup down on that wrought iron coffee table, you might want to show it some respect. Lest you anger Hephaestus. Or Vulcan.

Gregory Kerwin, raised in a world of antiques in his grandmother's houses in Paris and Southern France, has spent the decades since accumulating more beautiful and unusual things, still mostly French. You can find them at http://tkcollections.com/

Source: www.articlecity.com