First and foremost, be aware that most everything you read about the legendary properties of Damascus Steel is bunk. Pure and unadulterated bunk. This also applies to anything you’ve read about Samurai swords, pattern forged Viking swords, and any other “sword of legend”. These blades are tools; sometimes they’re well made tools but the real world of steel manufacturing changed with the Bessemer process in the 1840s, when exact control of the amount of carbon in a steel blank could be controlled. You can make as good a sword blade from any modern laminate steel, like that found in an automobile leaf spring.
That doesn’t mean Damascus steel isn’t a remarkable material, and that the blades made from it are valueless. They can be collector’s items, and lots of craftsmen who want to recreate the old ways, to find out how things were done in the 12th century onwards exist, and they’re showing a lot of innovation in steel and blade manufacturing.
Damascus steel is an excellent tool for knife blades, and in the modern world, knives are much more useful than swords as general toolsand compared to the stainless steel that most knives are made from, Damascus steel holds a better edge, is more durable, and is harder to break or damage than the traditional stainless steel knife blanks. (Stainless steel knife blanks exist because for 99% of what most people use a knife for, they’re good enough, and they’re cheaper to make being a single casting blank that’s then ground down to a blade. They also have the advantage of not tarnishing or rusting, making them much lower maintenance.)
However, the primary purpose of owning a Damascus steel blade is aesthetics. The patterns in the steel caused by carbon impurities are attractive, and range in styles and patterns that come from the lot of steel that was used to make the blade, its forging technique and how many times it was layered over to fold it. Damascus steel knives are one of the few truly practical tools that also qualifies as a work of art. (In our estimation, the Craftsman Vanadium Steel Lug Wrench set also qualifies, but, well, we’re guys who like to work with our hands.)
Fortunately, most of the techniques for creating Damascus steel were recreated in the last century. Germany made thousands of Damascus steel blades for the Army in World War II, and a number of researchers and medieval recreation societies went into the business of recreating Damascus steel as a production methodology in the US in the 1970s. Now, there are several artisan craftsmen who make Damascus pattern forged steel blades of nearly every pattern; most will tell you that their method of creating it is either the most authentic or will result in a better blade than all the imitators.
Again, most of them are selling you an excellent knife bladebut it’s still just a good steel blank.