1) ‘Damask’ derives ultimately from Damascus and the word was used for imported products associated with that city. It is best known as the name given to a rich silk fabric or a twilled linen decorated with images.

1402 lego eidem capellć vestimentum sacerdotale de panno de damask, Healaugh

1472 a Doblett of blake Damaske, Pontefract

1483 unam togam de Damask coloris argenti, Harewood

1558 to Saynt John’s alter one vestment of brouune damaske, Knaresborough. Colloquial spellings were not uncommon. 1523 ix yerdes of flowryd dames to make the whytt capes apon, Ł3 xs viijd, York

1665 a paire of dammis sheetes aboute 3 yards longe, 20s, Selby.

dates 1402 1472 1483 1523 1558 1665

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2) The verb to ‘damask’ shares the same origin as the fabric of that name but it meant to decorate a metal object with designs which were cut into the surface and filled with gold or silver.

1450 optimum ciphum meum coopertum et deauratum et chaceatum cum opere Damasci, Beverley. In the cutlery trade it was to decorate the blade of a knife or sword. 1586 a Case of pystoles gylded and Dammaske with flaske and furnituer for the same, Sheffield. It occurs in the records of the Cutlers’ Jury in 1614, when Adam Bate was fined for damasking of low priced kniues with silver wire and it was carried over into the by-laws of the Cutlers’ Company. 1625 None to damaske, inlay or Studd … any knives or wares, or intermixe the same with any Pewter, Tinn, Lead, Brass or other Counterfeit Stuff. A much earlier entry in the York chamberlains’ accounts appears to link the two meanings of this word, for it records the purchase of ‘damask’ to decorate the sheath of the Mayor’s sword. 1453-4 Et j quart’ damask empto pro cooptura vagine gladii maioris … et pro suicione eiusdem … ac pro argent’ deauracione.

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Photo by Kreuzschnabel CC BY-SA 3.0