In 1876, the decree banning the wearing of swords was promulgated and metalworkers lost work producing sword guards for domestic use. With government support they began instead to utilise their skills to produce intricately engraved and inlaid products made of gold, silver, copper, shakudo, shibuichi for export.
Over time great metalworkers impressed us with the beauty of their creations and we in Japan are proud of their brilliant artistry.
Eventually government backing ended and in more recent years, high quality metalwork exhibiting such incredible craftmanship are no longer made.
Now these Meiji era objects have become very valuable, however you can find other beautiful and unique metalwork even now.