I think that when something sounds exotic, people instantly get the impression that its better because of its exoticness. Like that because it takes more skill to make and looks more beautiful, it must somehow have magical properties that make it instantly superior to other things of its kind.
Damascus steel, such as the knife blade to the right here, is one prime example of this. People commenting on forums left right and center on how because this knife has been made of damascus steel, it cuts better and deeper or if given a sword even, that the steel makes the weapon handle better because it is lighter or somesuch nonsense. The fact of the matter is that there are indeed reasons as to why special production methods were used in the making of these quite frankly beautiful weapons but that does not make them superior because of it.
Of course you have to take this in context as well and remember the period of history that this pattern welding technique was used and then maybe, and only then, could you possibly see that there was a definite improvement in the quality of the sword or axe or whatever, in comparison to their non pattern welded brethren.
Now I'm going to stop talking about Damascus because the Japanese katana, regardless of what various companies want you to believe, was not made of it. Damascus is a steel that is deliberately folded together with other dissimilar steels and it is this contrast between these different types of metals as well that makes it was it is. It produces a very beautiful pattern but it is not the folded steel that the Japanese smiths used to make and it is not made because of the same reasons.
The quality of Japanese steel ore was inferior to a lot of places. They were given a raw material, an iron sand, that was full to the brim with impurities and this obviously was difficult to work with. The reason that japanese steel was folded was to burn out these impurities in the steel and to make the mix of materials in the steel, evenly spaced throughout.
Think of two different colours of plasticene (and forgive me for this analogy). When you start off, you may have red and blue. As you fold these over and over, the red and blue becomes more or less purple with parts of each blob of plasticene having been folded throughout. This is what the smiths were trying to achieve, a solid lump of superior steel that was consistent in its intended composition. When the steel has gone through the process of being turned into a sword, the pattern that is jokingly called Damascus by the marketing divisions of various sellers, isnt Damascus, but rather the by product of this long perfected forging technique.
The patterns that were made were obviously prized for their aesthetic value and each smith had their own style that they worked on throughout their lives, trying to improve upon with every sword they made. This was so much the case that when handed a sword, many sword judges will be able to guess who made it, purely by looking at its patterning and the style and shape.
But anyway, I am starting to digress.
With the advent of modern steels, this process from a, and I stress this, purely from a practical sense, is no longer needed. We are able to use alloys and materials and construction techniques that were simply not available to the Japanese smiths of old. This means that the steel that we pump out by the truckload is just as good as the steel that took an age and untold labour to produce all those years ago. From a standpoint of durability, folding the steel can actually weaken it if done incorrectly or simply just not done as well as it could be. For this reason you should be very careful when thinking about buying a cheap folded steel sword. From the cutters point of view, the only benefit you get is the appearance.