A lot has happened since the Bronze Age. There are thousands of different types and grades of metal out there, and each one is developed for very specific applications.
Every day, you’ll regularly come into contact with dozens of kinds of metals. Here’s an interesting guide that will walk you through some of these common metals and where you’ll find them.
Table of Contents
This is hands down the most common metal in the modern world.
Steel, by definition, is simply iron (the element) mixed with carbon. This ratio is usually around 99% iron and 1% carbon, although that ratio can vary a bit.
Fun fact: There was over 1.8 billion tons of steel produced worldwide in 2017 (half of which was produced in China). An average African elephant weighs about 5 tons. If you were to stack elephants one on top of the other to form a really peculiar bridge to the moon (not actually possible), it would still not be as heavy as the weight of the steel that’s made each year.
There are actually a lot of different kinds of steel. Here’s an overview of the main types:
This is the basic steel, good ‘ol carbon and iron, although some other very small amounts of other elements might be added.
The three general categories are low, medium, and high carbon steel. More carbon means harder and stronger. Less carbon means cheaper, softer, and easier to produce.
Carbon steel is most commonly found as a structural building material, in simple mechanical components, and in various tools.
Think of it as genetically modified steel. Alloyed steel is made by adding other elements in the mix. This changes the properties and essentially makes the metal customizable. This is an extremely common type of metal because it’s generally still very cheap to make.
Common alloying elements for steel include manganese, vanadium, chromium, nickel, and tungsten. Each of these elements will modify the metal’s properties in different ways.
For example, alloying steel can give extra strength to high-performance gears, more corrosion and wear resistance to medical implants, and increase the amount of pressure that pipelines can handle. It’s generally considered the workhorse of the metal world.
Technically this is a kind of alloy steel, but there are so many types in such massive quantities that it usually gets its own category. This is the steel that is specifically focused on corrosion resistance.
This is basically just steel with a noticeable amount of chromium. The chromium creates a super thin barrier when it corrodes which slows rust. If you scratch off the barrier, a new one will immediately form.
You’ll see a lot of this in kitchens; knives, tables, utensils, anything that comes into contact with food.
Not-so-fun fact: Just because something is stainless steel, that doesn’t mean that it can’t rust. Different compositions will prevent rusting to various degrees. Stainless steel that’s used around salt water needs to especially corrosion resistant so it doesn’t rot out. But all of the types of stainless will rust if not cleaned and properly cared for.
If you want to know more about stainless steels (and how to identify them) click here for my guide.
Iron (Wrought or Cast)
Even though this is a super old-fashioned metal (especially common during the “iron age”) it still has a lot of modern uses.
For one, it’s the primary ingredient in steel. But beyond that, here are a few other applications and an explanation of why iron is used:
- Cookware (like skillets) – The porous surface will allow cooking oils to burn in and create a natural non-stick surface
- Wood stoves – Cast iron has an extremely high melting point so the stove can handle high temperatures
- Heavy machinery bases and frames – this heavy metal reduces vibration and provides rigidity
Fun fact: Iron is the sixth most common element in the universe.
As far as metals go, this is a really modern one. Aluminum was first made in 1825, and since then it’s been the foundation for some massive accomplishments.
For example, because of its amazing strength-to-weight ratio, this is the metal that’s largely responsible for flight and getting man to the moon. It’s easily formed (malleable), and it doesn’t rust, which makes it great for soda cans. And, (arguably) most importantly, it can be made into a really thin sheet that can be used to BBQ fresh-caught fish to moist perfection.
While the process for making aluminum is a bit more complicated than some of the other metals, it’s actually an extremely common metal. It’s the most common non-ferrous (not containing iron) metal on the planet.
While it doesn’t rust, it will oxidize. Iron is actually the only metal that “rusts” by definition. Aluminum will corrode when it comes in contact with salt. However, it will not corrode in contact with water. This makes aluminum really useful for making things like freshwater boats.
You probably interact with aluminum on a daily basis more often than you think. This article will explain why.
Magnesium is a really cool metal. It’s about 2/3rds the weight of aluminum, and it has comparable strength. It’s becoming more and more common because of this.
Mostly commonly, you’ll see this as an alloy. That means that it’s mixed with other metals and elements to make a hybrid material with specific properties. This can also make it easier to use for manufacturing processes.
One of the most popular applications of magnesium is in the automotive industry. Magnesium is considered a step up from aluminum when it comes to high-strength weight reduction, and it’s not astronomically more expensive.
Some places where you’ll see magnesium on a performance car are in the wheel rims, engine blocks, and transmission cases.
There are disadvantages to magnesium, though. Compared to aluminum, it will corrode more easily. For example, it will corrode when in contact with water, where aluminum will not.
Overall it’s about double the price of aluminum, but it’s generally faster to deal with in manufacturing.
Fun fact: Magnesium is really flammable, and it burns super hot. Metal chips, filings, and powder need to be carefully disposed of to prevent explosions.
Copper is another old-fashioned metal. Today you’ll see it often as an alloy (more on that later) or in a reasonably pure state.
Common applications include electronics, water pipes, and giant statues that represent liberty. Copper will form a patina, or an oxidized layer, that will actually prevent further corrosion. Essentially, it’ll turn green and stop corroding. This can make it last for centuries.
If you want some more info on why this metal turns green, then you might find this article I wrote to be an interesting read.
Brass is actually an alloy of copper and zinc. The resulting yellow metal is really useful for a number of reasons.
Its goldish color makes it really popular for decorations. It’s common to see this metal used in antique furniture as handles and knobs.
It’s also extremely malleable, meaning that it can be hammered out and formed. This is why it’s what’s used for brass instruments like tubas, trumpets and trombones. They’re easy to hammer into shape (relatively speaking) and they’re durable.
Another really cool property of brass is that it will never spark. A steel hammer, for example, can make a spark if you hit it a certain way. A brass hammer doesn’t do that. This means that brass tools are great for areas that might be around flammable gases, liquids or powders.
This is made primarily with copper, but it also contains around 12% tin. The result is a metal that’s harder and tougher than plain copper.
Bronze can be an alloy with other elements, too. For example, aluminum, nickel, zinc, and manganese are common alloying elements. Each of these can very noticeably change the metal.
Bronze has massive historical significance (like in the Bronze Age) and is easy to pick out. One common place to see it is in massive church bells. Bronze is tough and strong, so it doesn’t crack or bend like other metals when it’s being rung. It also sounds better.
Modern uses include sculptures and art, springs and bearings, as well as guitar strings.
Fun fact: Bronze was the first man-made alloy.
This is an interesting metal because of how useful it is.
On its own, it has a pretty low melting point which makes it very easy to cast. The material flows easily when melted and the resulting pieces are relatively strong. It’s also very easy to melt it back down to recycle it.
Zinc is a really common metal that’s used in coatings to protect other metals. For example, it’s common to see galvanized steel, which is basically just steel dipped in zinc. This will help to prevent rusting.
Fun fact: About 12 million tons of zinc is produced annually, and half of that is used for galvanizing.
This is a really amazing modern metal. It was first discovered in 1791, first created in its pure form in 1910, and first made outside of a laboratory in 1932.
Titanium is actually really common (the 7th most abundant metal on Earth), but it’s really hard to refine. This is why this metal is so expensive. It’s also really worthwhile:
- Titanium is biocompatible, meaning that your body won’t fight and reject it. Medical implants are commonly made from titanium.
- Its strength to weight ratio is higher than any other metal. This makes it extremely valuable for anything that flies.
- It’s really corrosion resistant
- Titanium nitride (titanium that’s reacted with nitrogen in a high energy vacuum) is an insanely hard and low-friction coating that’s applied to metal cutting tools.
Fun fact: The reason that titanium resists corrosion is because it instantly reacts with oxygen, creating a really thin, hard barrier that protects the metal. If you scrape off the barrier, a new one instantly forms. It’s kind of like it’s self-healing.
Bonus fun fact: Titanium isn’t found naturally on its own. It’s always bonded to another element.
Tungsten has the highest melting point and the highest tensile strength of any of the pure metals. This makes it extremely useful.
About half of all tungsten is used to make tungsten carbide. This is an insanely hard material that’s used for cutting tools (for mining and metalworking), abrasives, and heavy equipment. It can easily cut titanium and high-temperature superalloys.
It gets its name from the Swedish words “tung sten“, which mean “heavy stone”. It’s about 1.7 times the density of lead.
Tungsten is also a popular alloying element. Since its melting point is so high, it’s often alloyed with other elements to make things like rocket nozzles that have to be able to handle extreme temperatures.
This isn’t real.
Nickel is a really common element that’s used all over. Its most common application is in making stainless steels, where it boosts the metal’s strength and corrosion resistance. Actually, almost 70% of the world’s nickel is used to make stainless steel.
Interestingly, nickel only makes up 25% of the composition of the five cent American coin.
Nickel is also a common metal to use for plating and alloying. It can be used to coat lab and chemistry equipment, as well as anything that needs to have a really smooth, polished surface.
Fun fact: Nickel gets its name from medieval-era German folklore. Nickel ore looks a lot like copper ore, but when the old miners couldn’t get copper from it they blamed a mischievous sprite named Nickel.
This is a metal that has been used for a long time to make blue pigment in paints and dyes. Today, it’s primarily used in making wear-resistant, high-strength steel alloys.
Cobalt is very rarely mined by itself, it’s actually a by-product of the production of copper and nickel.
Tin is really soft and malleable. It’s used as an alloying element to make things like bronze (1/8th tin and 7/8ths copper). It’s also the primary ingredient in pewter (85-99%).
Fun fact: When you bend a bar of tin, you can hear something called a “tin cry”. This is a twanging sound of the crystal structure reorganizing itself (called twinning).
Lead is really soft and malleable, and it’s also very dense and heavy. It’s got a really low melting point, too.
In the 1800s it was discovered that lead is actually pretty toxic stuff. That’s why it’s not so common in modern times, although it wasn’t all that long ago that it was still found in things like paints and bullets.
Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause brain damage and behavioral problems, among other things.
That said, it still does have modern uses. For example, it’s great for radiation shielding. It’s also occasionally added to copper alloys to make them easier to cut. The copper-lead mix is often used to improve the performance of bearings.
Technically speaking, silicon is a metalloid. This means that it has both metallic and non-metallic qualities.
For example, it looks like a metal. It’s solid, shiny, bendable, and has a high melting point. However, it does a terrible job of conducting electricity. This is partly why it’s not considered a full metal.
Even still, it’s a common element to find in metals. Using it for alloying can change the metal’s properties quite a bit. For example, adding silicon to aluminum makes it easier to weld.
Random, Interesting, and Useless Information
What metal has the longest name?
According to the periodic table, praseodymium (pray·zee·ow·di·mee·uhm) has the longest name out of any element. It’s used mainly in alloys. For example, it’s used as an alloying element in magnesium for making aircraft engines. It’s also used in the flints for cigarette lighters and in permanent magnets.
How many types of metals are there?
94 of the 118 elements on the periodic table are listed as metals. In other words, about 80% of the elements that we know of are some kind of metal!
- Foil paper.
Aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, nickel, tin, zinc, or any combination of these elements are considered common metals.What are different types metals? ›
Some examples are lead, aluminium, copper, zinc, and brass. Metals may be classified on the basis of their atomic structure as per the periodic table. Metal may be classified as alkaline, transition, or alkaline earth metal.What are different metals used for? ›
For example, copper is commonly used in electrical wiring; gold is used in many computer technologies and silver is often used in electronic circuitry. Aluminium has become one of the most commonly used metals in aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding and the train and automobile industry.What do we make from metal? ›
Essential metal alloys such as steel, which is iron mixed with small amounts of carbon, produce some of the most used metal objects humans use today, such as automobiles, building structures, appliances, and much more.What can you make from metal? ›
Lithium, Beryllium, Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminium, Potassium, and Calcium are metals in the first twenty elements. Hydrogen, Helium, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine, Neon, Phosphorous, Sulphur, Chlorine, and Argon are the non-metals in the first twenty elements.Is Diamond a metal? ›
Diamond is not a metal in anyway its just an allotrope of carbon. It does not show any physical properties or chemical properties of metals like electrical conductivity, malleability, ductility, reaction with acids or salts etc.What are the name of 10 metals? ›
The metals list which makes up the periodic table includes iron, lead, gold, aluminum, platinum, uranium, zinc, lithium, sodium, tin, silver, etc.What are the first 10 metals? ›
Group 2 elements are called alkaline earth metals because their oxides remain inside the crust of the earth and are very stable. Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine, and Neon are the first 10 elements of the periodic table.
Iron. Iron is the most useful metal of all. It is strong, abundant, and easy to work with, especially when refined into various types of steel.What are 10 uses of steel? ›
It is used in the construction, automotive and aircraft industries, heavy industrial equipment, transport infrastructure, household appliances, weapons and so on. These are all things that have been shaping the world as we know it for several centuries. However, some applications of steel can still be mindboggling.Which metal is most used? ›
Steel is the most commonly used metal in the world today, widely used by the building industry. An alloy of iron and other elements, steel has the benefits of high tensile strength combined with low cost which make it perfect for use in construction.What can be made from gold metal? ›
- JEWELLERY. The use of gold in making jewellery dates back to around 6,000 years ago. ...
- FINANCES AND INVESTING. ...
- DENTISTRY AND MEDICINE. ...
- AEROSPACE. ...
- Electronics. ...
Today's coins are made from metals such as nickel, copper, and zinc. Instead of using one metal to make a coin, multiple kinds of metal are pressed together into layers.What is gold made of? ›
100% of gold found naturally is isotope Au-197. 28 other isotopes can be produced artificially and are all radioactive. Gold along with silver and copper, form a column in the periodic table. They are found naturally and were the first three elements known to man.What can be made by silver? ›
Solar technology, electronics, soldering and brazing, engine bearings, medicine, cars, water purification, jewelry, tableware, and your precious metals portfolio—silver can be found practically everywhere.What can be made by copper? ›
It is commonly used to produce a wide variety of products, including electrical wire, cooking pots and pans, pipes and tubes, automobile radiators, and many others. Copper is also used as a pigment and preservative for paper, paint, textiles, and wood.What are 3 things made with steel? ›
Here are some examples of steel products: Buildings: metal roofing, steel beams, reinforcing steel and mounting brackets. Vehicles: private cars, trucks, trains and cycles. Infrastructure: Bridges, steel safety barriers for roads, lighting and high voltage pylons, railings and railways.What are the 22 nonmetals? ›
In the above table nonmetal elements are H,He,C,N,O,F,Ne,P,S,Cl,Ar,Se,Br,Kr,I,Xe,At and Rn.
There are about 70 metals out of 92 natural elements in the periodic table.What are metals 5 metals? ›
Some of the examples are Gold, silver, copper. Iron and aluminum. Sodium is also a metal with atomic number 11 and can be cut by knife, but it should be cut by pouring cyclohexane. Silver is the best conductor of heat and electricity.What are the 20 properties of metals? ›
- Metals can be hammered into thin sheets. It means they possess the property of malleability.
- Metals are ductile. ...
- Metals are a good conductor of heat and electricity.
- Metals are lustrous which means they have a shiny appearance.
- Metals have high tensile strength. ...
- Metals are sonorous. ...
- Metals are hard.
Metal is a solid material which conduct heat & electricity ,hard, shiny, malleable, fusible, and ductile. Metals are the substances which have the tendency to donate electrons .They are electropositive in nature.What are the 22 metals in periodic table? ›
Glass is made of silicon dioxide or quartz. Therefore, it is not at all a metal, it is an amorphous non-metal.Which is the hardest metal? ›
- While there are several parameters for categorizing metals in terms of hardness, chromium (687-6500 MPa) is the hardest known metal on the planet.
- It should not be confused with Tungsten, which has the highest tensile strength of any metal.
- Tungsten in its pure form is typically brittle and can shatter on impact.
Yes, black diamonds are real and natural diamonds. They come naturally from the earth with the same chemical composition as traditional colorless diamonds. The main difference between white and black diamonds are the number of inclusion and spots, which are responsible for giving black diamond their color.What are the first 20 element and their symbols? ›
- Hydrogen (H)
- Helium (He)
- Lithium (Li)
- Beryllium (Be)
- Boron (B)
- Carbon (C)
- Nitrogen (N)
- Oxygen (O)
- Hydrogen. H.
- Helium. He.
- Lithium. Li.
- Carbon. C.
- Nitrogen. N.
- Oxygen. O.
- Sodium. Na.
- Magnesium. Mg.
The eight precious metals — gold (Au), silver (Ag), platinum (Pt), iridium (Ir), palladium (Pd), rhodium (Rh), ruthenium (Ru), and osmium (Os) — are conveniently grouped together in the periodic table.What are the 7 other metals? ›
The metals of antiquity are the seven metals which humans had identified and found use for in prehistoric times in Europe and the Middle East: gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury.What is the biggest metal in the world? ›
|Rank||Type of Metal||Atomic Weight|
- Rhodium. Mostly mined from Russia, South Africa and Canada, Rhodium is highly prized for its high resistance to corrosion and heat. ...
- Platinum. ...
- Gold. ...
- Ruthenium. ...
- Iridium. ...
- Osmium. ...
- Palladium. ...
Around 75% of the elements in the periodic table are metals. Metals are known for conducting electricity and heat well. Many metals are strong, shiny, and hard. They are also often malleable, meaning they can be shaped without breaking or cracking.What are the top 4 precious metals? ›
- Rhodium. Rhodium is one of the metals you will find listed on Market Spot Price, right up there with Gold, Silver, Platinum, and Palladium. ...
- Platinum. This identifiable metal held the throne in commodity pricing for decades until it was overtaken by Gold. ...
- Gold. ...
- Ruthenium. ...
Why Kansa? Copper or brass reacts with sour food, salt and lemon which can be harmful for the body. Therefore, they are not recommended to eat or cook in. Whereas, Kansa or Bronze does not react with sour acidic food hence, it is the best metal to eat and cook in.Where is metal found? ›
How are metals found in nature? Most pure metals come from the earth's crust. They are found in ores, which is a solid material that minerals and metals can be taken from. Nearly a third of the planet's mass is the element iron and most of that can be found in the planet's core.How is metal made kids? ›
The first step in producing a metal is to crush the ore into small pieces. The next step is to purify, or clean, the ore. Metallurgists then take apart the chemical compound that contains the metal. Sometimes they heat the ore so that the chemical elements separate and liquid metal flows out.
Brass is still commonly used in applications where corrosion resistance and low friction are required, such as locks, hinges, gears, bearings, ammunition casings, zippers, plumbing, hose couplings, valves, and electrical plugs and sockets.What are 2 uses of steel? ›
Steel is the world's most important engineering and construction material. It is used in every aspect of our lives; in cars and construction products, refrigerators and washing machines, cargo ships and surgical scalpels.What metal does NASA use? ›
High strength alloys of aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel have been in common use for decades.What is metal made of? ›
What Are Metals Made up of? Metals are made up of atomic materials such as electrons, neutrons, and protons. Atoms of different elements can be distinguished from one another by the number of protons they contain. Metals comprise about 25% of the earth's crust.Which metal is the cheapest? ›
- Iron is the most widely used and the cheapest metal.
- The different varieties of iron depend upon the amount of carbon content present in it.
- Iron is used in construction, farming, household utensils, electricity poles, etc.
Some of the common examples of metals are gold, silver, copper, platinum, and iron. Gold and silver are used in the form of jewelry and decorative items.What are 10 things made by glass? ›
- Window panes.
Utensils, Pencils, Bottles, Nail cutter, and Wires are the objects used in our everyday life which are made of metals.What are the 3 most common metals? ›
|Rank||Base Metal||2019 Production (millions of metric tons)|
3rd Century AD
The first mass production of steel is credited to China. It's believed that they used techniques similar to what's known as the Bessemer Process, in which blasts of air were used to remove impurities from the molten steel.
In nature, glasses are formed when sand and/or rocks, often high in silica, are heated to high temperatures and then cooled rapidly. The Glass in Nature display shows specimens of glass made in nature. Obsidian or volcanic glass, for example, is molten rock that has quickly cooled, becoming rock in a glassy state.What are small glasses called? ›
The lowball glass, Old Fashioned glass, or rocks glass, are all names for a short tumbler with a solid base which holds around 6 to 8 ounces of liquid. A solid base aids with drinks that require 'muddled' ingredients. These low glasses can also be used for serving a neat pour of liquor.Is glass a crystal? ›
Key difference: Glass is a generic name, while, crystal is a subcategory of glass, made in the same manner as glass but with different materials. Hence, all crystal is glass, but not all glass is crystal.What are 2 examples of a metal? ›
Metals are generally shiny, malleable, and hard. Metals are also good conductors of electricity. Examples of metals are Gold, Silver, Iron, Uranium, and Zinc.Who make things from metal? ›
A smith, or metalsmith, is a person who makes things from metal.What are metals 6 examples? ›
The metals like Sodium ( Na) and Potassium ( K ) are easily cut with the help of a knife. Other examples of metals are iron, copper, silver, aluminum, calcium, gold etc.