Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aluminum: From Riches to Rags

Did you know in the late 19th Century Aluminum was more valuable than gold?  And it was only really discovered in 1825?   You can even find early Victorian jewelry with aluminum & gold used together.

Of course, as time went on (and more discoveries of deposits)- it was then as valuable as silver, then...not a long time after that, as valuable as...aluminum.

And though Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth crust, you'll never find it a a pure element-(the image is not a chunk of natural aluminum, rather it is an alloyed by-product from a smelting plant)- the metal is too reactive, but it is found in bauxite and hundreds of other minerals and ores- which are mined & smelted.

What makes aluminum interesting is that when exposed to air it forms a thin surface layer of aluminum oxide (you know- the white stuff that forms when you wash your aluminum pots)...

The forming of that layer made aluminum impossible to weld (until later alloys allowed for that)....but that didn't stop people from riveting aluminum:

You'll notice Warren McArthur's works from the 40's & 50's have those lovely decorative rings- which held the tubes together without having to worry about welding:

The aluminum oxide layer allows the metal to be COLORED (like titanium).....which is called anodizing....not painted, actually stained through an electrical process.

I could go on about this now lowly metal.....but I won't.

Respect aluminum- it's not as valuable as it once was....but it's a worker.  Try living without it.

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