Story of Metals

Since man first discovered copper (Around 9000BC), a naturally occurring, relatively pure metal, native to many countries, the study and knowledge of metallurgy has been fundamental to the way humans have lived. Stemming from a very basic curiousity as to how this new material could be used, and it's behavior in various situations and under a variety of conditions metallurgy has developed from an art to a science.

Prehistoric man is known to have used six metals. These were:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Lead
  • Iron.

Each with distinct properties, Prehistoric man discovered that some metals were more useful for certain jobs and they began to specify particular metals for applications. For example; Gold and silver are very soft and were therefore predominantly used for decoration and bullion for trade. Copper offered Prehistoric man more qualities and could be hardened by hammering or forging and was therefore used to make tools - albeit very primitive ones. The discovery of Bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) changed the way that Man lived, hunted, fought and prospered. It was stronger than copper, could be hardened by forging, and could be cast to a specific shape.

Lead is soft, easily worked, and Prehistoric man realised that it was perfect for making into vessels to transport liquids. Later on, Lead would be a fundamental material in the manufacture of pipes such as those used to transport water in the early Roman Empire.

Gold, Silver and Copper are all examples of Native metals that naturally occur in a relatively pure state. Ancient man first found and began using Native Metals approximately 5000 years BC. Over the next 2000 years, leading up to the Bronze age, man mastered how to find, manipulate and use these native metals in better ways and in a range of applications.

Gold and Silver

Nuggets of gold were often the easiest to find and use. A large piece of gold separates from its mother rock and then gets carried into a stream or a river. Naturally found mixed with sediment in river beds across the globe, Gold was easy to collect and relatively easy to shape. Silver was the same. Unbelievable but true, less than two percent of gold in its natural form comes as gold nuggets. Most of it is much smaller, sometimes it is so small that it is hard to see with the eye.

The flowing water tumbles the gold and so it comes that the gold nugget gets its unique natural look. Usually a gold nugget contains 75 to 97 percent gold, and the remainder is mostly silver. Most of the natural formed gold nuggets got melted down for production. Therefore, these rare gold specimen are regarded very highly by collectors and are more worth than the internationally standard gold value

This bead, found at a pre-historic settlement in southern Bulgaria, dates back to 4,500-4,600 B.C., the archaeologists say, making it the oldest gold artifact


A copper pendant discovered in what is now northern Iraq has been dated about 8700 B.C. For nearly five millennia copper was the only metal known to man, and thus had all the metal applications.

Native copper is an uncombined form of copper that occurs as a natural mineral. Copper is one of the few metallic elements to occur in native form, although it most commonly occurs in oxidized states and mixed with other elements. Nuggets of the metal could be found in streams in a few areas.

Early users of wrought (naturally occurring) copper who noticed that when they hammered this metal it got significantly harder and stronger. The discovery that copper could also be obtained by heating Blue Stones or minerals (primarily copper sulfide ores) occurred between 4000 - 3000 BC which provided abundant source of copper.


Tin has been known since ancient times. We do not know who discovered it.

Although tin could be used in its own right (ex. tin ring and pilgrim bottle found in Egyptian tomb 1500 BC) when alloyed with copper improves their properties compared with pure copper. This not only melts at a lower temperature, so making it easier to work but produced a metal (called bronze) that was much harder than copper, and ideal for tools and weapons

The ancient Greeks obtained their tin by sea-trade and referred to the source as ‘The Cassiterides’, meaning Tin Islands.