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20 Common Metal Alloys and What They’re Made Of

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Every day, you’re likely to encounter metals that cannot be found anywhere on the periodic table.

You may play a brass instrument while wearing a white gold necklace – or maybe you cook with a cast iron skillet and store your leftovers in a stainless steel refrigerator.

It’s likely that you know these common metal alloys by name, and you can probably even imagine what they look and feel like. But do you know what base metals these alloys are made of, exactly?

Common Metal Alloys

Today’s infographic comes to us from Alan’s Factory Outlet, and it breaks down metal and non-metal components that go into popular metal alloys.

In total, 20 alloys are highlighted, and they range from household names (i.e. bronze, sterling silver) to lesser-known metals that are crucial for industrial purposes (i.e. solder, gunmetal, magnox).

20 Common Metal Alloys and What They

Humans make metal alloys for various reasons.

Some alloys have long-standing historical significance. For example, electrum is a naturally-occurring alloy of gold and silver (with trace amounts of copper) that was used to make the very first metal coins in ancient history.

However, most of the common metal alloys on the above list are actually human inventions that are used to achieve practical purposes. Some were innovated by brilliant metallurgists, while others were discovered by fluke, but they’ve all had an ongoing impact on our species over time.

Alloys with an Impact

The Bronze Age (3,000 BC – 1,200 BC) is an important historical period that is rightfully named after one game-changing development: the ability to use bronze. This alloy, made from copper and tin, was extremely useful to our ancestors because it is much stronger and harder than its component metals.

Steel is another great example of an alloy that has changed the world. It is one of the most important and widely-used metals today. Without steel, modern civilization (skyscrapers, bridges, etc.) simply wouldn’t be possible.

While nobody knows exactly who invented steel, the alloy has a widely-known cousin that was likely invented in somewhat accidental circumstances.

In 1912, English metallurgist Harry Brearley had been tasked with finding a more erosion-resistant steel for a small arms manufacturer, trying many variations of alloys with none seeming to be suitable. However, in his scrap metal heap – where almost all of the metals he tried were rusting – there was one gun barrel that remained astonishingly untouched.

The metal alloy – now known to the world as stainless steel – was a step forward in creating a corrosion-resistant steel that is now used in many applications ranging from medical uses to heavy industry.

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Explained: India’s Gold Demand During Diwali

Why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?

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india's gold demand during diwali

India’s Gold Demand During Diwali

In India, gold’s significance goes far beyond investment and jewelry. The yellow metal is woven into India’s cultural history and is revered by a population of over 1.3 billion.

India is one of the largest markets for gold consumption, with jewelry, bars, and coins accounting for the bulk of annual demand. Indian gold demand typically peaks between October and December on the back of Diwali, the festival of lights, followed by thousands of weddings.

But why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?

Gold’s Significance During Diwali

Indians consider it auspicious to purchase gold—a symbol of wealth, purity, and prosperity—on many festive occasions, and Diwali is the biggest one of them.

Diwali is a five-day festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, based on Hindu mythology. For many Indians, this festival is associated with welcoming good luck, positivity, and prosperity.

People often dedicate gold purchases during Diwali to deities, especially Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Gold is also a popular festive and wedding gift at this time of the year.

India’s Record Gold Demand in Diwali 2021

India’s gold consumption in the second half of every year is typically higher than in the first half, coinciding with Diwali in October (beginning of Q4), according to data from the World Gold Council.

YearGold Jewelry, Bar, and Coin Demand
(tonnes)
YoY % Change
H1 2010447N/A
H2 2010555N/A
H1 201159032.1%
H2 2011384-30.8%
H1 2012404-31.5%
H2 201251032.7%
H1 201355737.9%
H2 2013402-21.3%
H1 2014370-33.5%
H2 201446315.3%
H1 2015350-5.5%
H2 20155079.5%
H1 2016229-34.5%
H2 2016437-13.9%
H1 201736358.4%
H2 2017408-6.6%
H1 2018341-6.2%
H2 20184202.9%
H1 20193729.2%
H2 2019318-24.2%
H1 2020166-55.5%
H2 2020281-11.8%
H1 202128572.3%
H2 202151282.3%
H1 20223067.3%

Following a significant drop in demand in 2020, Indians bought a record amount of gold jewelry in Q4 2021 at 265 tonnes, worth $15.3 billion at the time. Overall, gold jewelry, bar, and coin demand in H2 2021 saw an 82% increase year-over-year.

This increase was largely driven by the festive season and pent-up demand from subdued celebrations and consumption in 2020. As of the first half of 2022, gold demand was up 7.3% relative to 2021.

With Diwali celebrations in full swing, will India see another record quarter for gold demand? It remains to be seen, with gold’s festive tailwinds likely to meet economic headwinds in the form of uncertainty and higher import duties.

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All the Metals We Mined in 2021 in One Visualization

See the 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2021.

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all the metals mined in 2021

All the Metals We Mined in 2021

“If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it” is a famous saying that encapsulates the importance of minerals and metals in the modern world.

From every building we enter to every device we use, virtually everything around us contains some amount of metal.

The above infographic visualizes all 2.8 billion tonnes of metals mined in 2021 and highlights each metal’s largest end-use using data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Why Do We Mine So Much Iron Ore?

Iron ore accounted for 93% of the metals mined in 2021, with 2.6 billion tonnes extracted from the ground. It’s important to note that this is ore production, which is typically higher than metal production since metals are extracted and refined from ores.

Metal/Ore2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Iron ore2,600,000,00093.4%
Industrial metals181,579,8926.5%
Technology and precious metals1,474,8890.05%
Total2,783,054,781100%

With 98% of it converted into pig iron to make steel, iron ore is ubiquitous in our lives. Steel made from iron ore is used in construction, transportation, and household appliances, and it’s likely that you encounter something made out of it every day, especially if you live in a city.

Due to its key role in building infrastructure, iron ore is one of the most important materials supporting urbanization and economic growth.

Industrial Metals

Industrial metals are largely used in steelmaking, construction, chemical manufacturing, and as alloying agents. In 2021, the world mined over 181 million tonnes of these metals.

Industrial Metals2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Aluminum*68,000,00037.4%
Chromium41,000,00022.6%
Copper21,000,00011.6%
Manganese20,000,00011.0%
Zinc13,000,0007.2%
Titanium (mineral concentrates)9,000,0005.0%
Lead4,300,0002.4%
Nickel2,700,0001.5%
Zirconium Minerals (Zircon)1,200,0000.7%
Magnesium*950,0000.5%
Strontium360,0000.2%
Uranium48,3320.03%
Bismuth*19,0000.01%
Mercury2,3000.001%
Beryllium2600.0001%
Total181,579,892100.0%

*Represents refinery/smelter production.

Aluminum accounted for nearly 40% of industrial metal production in 2021. China was by far the largest aluminum producer, making up more than half of global production. The construction industry uses roughly 25% of annually produced aluminum, with 23% going into transportation.

Chromium is a lesser-known metal with a key role in making stainless steel stainless. In fact, stainless steel is usually composed of 10% to 30% of chromium, enhancing its strength and corrosion resistance.

Copper, manganese, and zinc round out the top five industrial metals mined in 2021, each with its own unique properties and roles in the economy.

Technology and Precious Metals

Technology metals include those that are commonly used in technology and devices. Compared to industrial metals, these are usually mined on a smaller scale and could see faster consumption growth as the world adopts new technologies.

Technology and Precious Metals2021 Mine Production (tonnes)% of Total
Tin300,00020.3%
Molybdenum300,00020.3%
Rare Earth Oxides280,00019.0%
Cobalt170,00011.5%
Vanadium110,0007.5%
Lithium106,0007.2%
Tungsten79,0005.4%
Niobium75,0005.1%
Silver24,0001.6%
Cadmium24,0001.6%
Gold3,0000.2%
Tantalum2,1000.1%
Indium*9200.1%
Gallium4300.03%
Platinum Group Metals3800.03%
Rhenium590.004%
Total1,474,889100%

*Represents refinery/smelter production.

The major use of rhenium, one of the rarest metals, is in superalloys that are critical for engine turbine blades in aircraft and gas turbine engines. The petroleum industry uses it in rhenium-platinum catalysts to produce high-octane gasoline for vehicles.

In terms of growth, clean energy technology metals stand out. For example, lithium production has more than doubled since 2016 and is set to ride the boom in EV battery manufacturing. Over the same period, global rare earth production more than doubled, driven by the rising demand for magnets.

Indium is another interesting metal on this list. Most of it is used to make indium tin oxide, an important component of touchscreens, TV screens, and solar panels.

The Metal Mining Megatrend

The world’s material consumption has grown significantly over the last few decades, with growing economies and cities demanding more resources.

Global production of both iron ore and aluminum has more than tripled relative to the mid-1990s. Other metals, including copper and steel, have also seen significant consumption growth.

Today, economies are not only growing and urbanizing but also adopting mineral-intensive clean energy technologies, pointing towards further increases in metal production and consumption.

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