As I have said in a previous article of mine, I adore the skill of metalworking. Refined beyond a hunk of rock, Iron was a milestone advancement in human development. Iron improved the efficiency of farming, gathering, hunting, building. From spear tips, arrowheads, to belt buckles, bracelets, even false teeth. The implementation of metal into mankind's history inevitably led to the discovery of steel.
Shaping steel is still used today. Sure, certain alloys are better for specific purposes, but for art, steel is (for lack of a better term) the gold standard.
In my opinion, it speaks great volumes when somebody dedicates their life to shaping steel. Into blades, armour, horseshoes, whatever is needed. It takes focus, skill, and commitment to learn how to shape steel into intricate designs and these qualities are what makes a craftsman into an artist.
Traditional ways of shaping metal are to heat it until it glows white-hot. After this, hammers strike the metal and force it to bend to their will. Forging steel isn't just shaping the metal, but enforcing your own will onto the world around you.
Swords became a common way to express expertise, blades becoming tapestries for new designs, new ideas. Of course, armour was invented and improved. From a mail shawl, to splint armour, and eventually, the genius crafting of the famous plate mail.
For combat, the designs were almost purely utilitarian. A rounded, bulbous, chest to deflect impact. Armaments and armour were in a constant arms race, but those who wore their armour as a symbol of status? They could afford to be more decorative.
Engravings were among the first of these visual aspects to be implemented, followed by shaping of helms. Attached is an image of an ornate set of plate mail.
Quite interestingly, you can notice the thin waist of this armour. In modern standards, this is ascribed to be a feminine trait. Historically, however, this was seen as a masculine trait. While I have unfortunately been unable to find a copyright-free image of the suit I was looking for, King Henry the 8th of England wore a ceremonial suit with a waist so narrow that it rather famously restricted his ability to bend. The dip in the waist also helped with the weight distribution of the armour, keeping some weight onto the hips, so that not all rested squarely on the wearer's shoulders.
Another trait rather common to depictions of armour is the infamous "boob plate" armour. Typically worn by women in fiction, this armour seems to be modeled after the shape of the wearer's chest .This would have been impractical in a battlefield situation, but it is possible that it would have been worn by women in ceremonial dress. (That may not be related to the topic, but I felt that it's an interesting fact).
But as you can see, metalworking has always had an aspect of art behind it. From the earliest, accidental, use to the modern recreations of armour and blades. Of course, the importance of aesthetics fluctuates depending on the purpose.
This has been my delve into the artistic presence on metalworking. I do hope that you have enjoyed.