Personal Comments, Reflections, Etc. on Swords
I spent some serious time discussing swords with some metalurgists whose background was in steel. Pretty much came to the same conclusions as http://www.angelic.org/highlander/metallurgy/grades.html except that (without considering the esthetics) the first choice was a custom alloy very, very similar to D2 tool steel or L-6 tool steel. Note that D2's biggest weakness is the grain boundary problem (and thus breakage) caused by too much chrome (so it is fine for knives, spear and arrow heads, tools, but not for long blades and swords). L-6 can rust, but it is unlikely to break.
As for blade design, the blade design for mostly unarmored, shieldless, combat in the modern era against a mix of weapons was a cross between a katana and a cut and thrust saber (vs. a hacking/draw cut saber). But then, the people I was dealing with were all very focused on the last 25% of the blade and the use of the point.
The intended use is extremely important. If I were a character on the Highlander series, I wouldn't care much for the use of the point. They are all unarmored and can only be killed by cutting off their heads. Further, if you cut off a limb, they lose it (at least for a while), everything else seems to keep healing until they run out of energy.
If I was fighting against men in full armor, a damascus forged blade would not be as useful as Richard the Lion Hearted's sword (as he aptly demonstrated). Against a man without armor, the wrecking bar approach to sword play has significant weaknesses. The Bardiche is an excellent weapon against heavy armor.
On the other hand, in modern America, a jo stick is about as much of a weapon (outside of a registered and licensed for concealed carry handgun) as you can carry.
As a result, in sword purchases, buy what appeals to your sense of aesthetics, and don't worry about the other issues.
For training, I can't recommend the use of bokkun enough. Wooden swords with the right weight and balance are inexpensive, much safer to use, and perfect for learning -- without encouraging all manner of foolishness.
I would also recommend studing Jo Budo (the use of the Japanese Short Staff) as it is very tied to sword use.
I'm not planning on using a sword for anything but a decoration. I competed in sword kata a long time ago and have no plans to start again. I've studied Shotokan since 1970 (with significant breaks for various reasons) and Judo since 1968. Lettered in wrestling in High School. Studied JuJutsu in the early 1980s and Akido in the late 1970s. I find them all to have their benefits.