The hilt of a rapier is encased in complex iron strands. It can be consisting of quillons which range from small to large, serpentine coils. Some swords have bars, rings, plates, and cups that are placed instead of the quillons. For beginners in martial arts, such design serves as protection for the hand from being wounded during attacks. The more important reason however is that it hinders the opponent’s narrow rapier blade from moving about and counter-thrusting.
The cross-section of the blade can be a simple cylinder, diamond, hexagon, octagon, or four-pointed star. Distinct European cultures have divided the parts of rapier blade into three to as many as nine parts. For the sake of discussion, we limit the division into four:
• Rapier Ricasso is the unsharpened, unbevelled part of the blade. It is isolated from the rest of the sword by the intricate hilt on one end and the guard on the other end.
• Rapier Forte is the nearest to the ricasso or guard. It is the widest, sturdiest, and thickest among the rest of the blade’s parts.
• Rapier Terzo or Medio is the body of the rapier. It is usually thick in cross-section, has some kind of beveled sharp edge or none, and is responsible for flexibility and bending. Bending rapiers were not possible though in the Renaissance, as swordsmen favored rigid and unyielding blades.
• Rapier Debole is the weakest among the four divisions. It is farthest from the guard and contains the tapered, sharpened point.
Difference with side sword
Rapier was born out of the side sword, which was in turn a descendant from the Knight sword (the arming sword). The usual length of a rapier is about 0.98 meter long and would weigh typically about 2.2 pounds. There are antique rapiers however that are lighter than two pounds or are heavier than three pounds. The width of the blade can be around one inch or less. The side sword on the other hand is typically heavier at 2.5 pounds. It has an average length of one meter, and is made of a double-edged, tapered blade. The side sword is also more versatile than the rapier, because it can be used effectively for both armored and unarmored close combat.
Difference with small sword
It later on became apparent in mid-15th century that the rapier was bulky and too long for its purpose. Thus, the small sword or dress sword was forged to address such concern. It was smaller, shorter, and lighter. The small sword is about 0.75 meters long, has a triangular cross-section, and weighs less than two pounds.
Collectible Rapier Swords
If you want to have your hands full on sword collecting, rapiers can be a good start. For one, the antique rapier has a limited period of two centuries, with the side sword preceding it in 15th century and small sword replacing it by 17th century.
There are also many novel varieties available. Since most of the smiths and swordsmen of Renaissance Europe were experimenting on the form and design of the rapier sword, it was inevitable that many versions of the sword were produced. You can narrow down your choices to certain fencing rapiers and designs that are scarce to find then and even scarcer to trade now. In this way, you can build your collection with rare swords whose antique sword values are sure to rise in the coming years.