Tuesday 25th June 2019

Resource Clips

20 common metal alloys and what they’re made of

by Jeff Desjardins | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | March 8, 2019

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

This 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).




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 to 1,200 BC) is an important 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.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.