This type of decoration, applicable to all artistic objects, incrusting threads of gold or silver into a more common metal, such as blued iron, steel or copper has been practised since ancient times including by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It developed greatly in the East when the Roman Empire moved to Byzantine, the best pieces that arrived from Europe originating from Damascus, meaning that the art took the name of Damascene, although "Ataujía" is more fitting, another name it was given. Damascene work is imitated the world over. The luxury shown in all of Europe from the end of the XV Century contributed to the resurgence of an art that had been forgotten in the West: the sumptuous armour of Carlos I and Felipe II.
As firearms developed, damascene began to lose importance, being reduced to an accessory of gold and silverwork or jewellery.
Toledo is currently the main production point of damascene in the world, and this is where the most diverse pieces can be found. Mudejar and Renaissance style work continues to be carried out, together with some new styles, such as those called "vistas".
Authentic Toledo damascene is a foundation of the prestige of a very refined craft technique. Without doubt, it is the "star" of the metal sector and a source of wealth for Toledo and Castile-La Mancha Craftwork.
The tradition of ceramics in the city of Toledo dates back the XI Century.
It is china, finely decorated with metallic reflections. During the reign of the Taifa king Al-Mamoun, ceramic pieces were produced of incredible beauty.
Jugs, candle holders, dishes, pitchers, and long-necked spherical bottles were all abundant. Decoration was carried out using glass coloured by iron, copper and magnesium oxide etc., as well as the outstanding "cuerda seca" (dry cord) decorations.
The great ceramics worker and researcher Mr. José Aguado holds the theory that the potters in the workshops in Medina Azara and Elvira, after the destruction of these cities, moved to the Toledo Court and there continued manufacturing "luxury ceramics".
There are many buildings and spaces in the open air in Toledo that feature this type of tiling or ceramics and which can be admired during visits.
The characteristic furniture of Toledo and which is present in many old homes, is BARGUEÑO (a Spanish Renaissance cabinet), although entrance hall cabinets of various decorated sizes and arcades are also important. Benches, armchairs, fraileros (Renaissance armchairs), chairs, tables and doors complete the production.
The bargueño, whose name places its origin from the nearby district of Bargas for some and from a carpenter called Vargas for others, has been produced from the XVI Century to today.
The essential quality of this furniture is its transportable character, since the majority of them have handles on the side for said purpose; as well as the almost total absence on the outside of decorative motifs, limiting itself to a light decoration based on forged iron and fretwork. In contrast to the exterior, the inside appears heavily decorated with glass, bone, ivory and tortoiseshell.
The Toledo armchair manufactured with a seat made of bulrush (a plant that grows in marshy places and that can grow to two and a half metres high). Its leaves are the raw material used by the craftsmen.
This is a decorative technique often used in cabinetry. The woods to be carved must be of good quality, be perfectly dry and clean, the most employed being walnut, red pine, birch, oak, olive and box wood.
As well as in Toledo, there are a large number of workshops in other towns of this province, such as Escalonilla, Lagartera, Polán and Ventas con Peña Aguilera.
Another of the arts that is quite common in the city of Toledo is of forged iron and tin products. Historic railings like those at the railway station, the grills on doors and balconies of the houses in the Historic Quarter or the traditional streetlamps in Corpus Christi testify to this.
In some workshops people also still used to work with tin, using the techniques of doubling, cutting, perforating and engraving that produced lamps, decorative candelabras, and mirror frames.
In earlier times, the majority of production was for cooking and commercial products: oilcans, candleholders, milk churns.
Fashions and social changes have exerted a great influence over this profession. Currently, there is still a "decorative-tourist" production line, which has lead to the creation of a collection of objects for the decorative market, in many cases by painting works in bright colours, obtaining very ornamental baroque products of great brightness because of the saturation of colours employed and the variety of geometric shapes.