An Introduction to Metal Alloys
Whether you know it or not, we use metal alloys every day. It’s in things that we wear, such as jewellery, and it’s in the tools that we use to cook dinner or get through a day at work. While some reading this might be thinking ‘I already knew that, tell me something new’, there are some fascinating facts about metal alloys you probably didn’t know.
Firstly, metal alloys are a mix of a minimum of two metals. Depending on how homogeneous the alloy is, and the size of the crystals, the blend can form a mixture or a solid solution.
Although it can exist naturally in the world, most of the gold you encounter on a day to day basis is in fact an alloy. We refer to how much alloy is in gold as its karat – 10 karat gold is 10 parts gold, 14 karat is 14 parts gold and pure gold is the full 24 out of 24 karats.
Most metal alloys with silver in their name actually aren’t made from that metal, and they’re only named that because of their colour. Although sterling silver consists mainly of silver, some metals called silver don’t contain any silver at all! For example German Silver and Tibetan Silver are completely silver-free.
Lead and tin forms the alloy that makes solder. Solder is used for forming bonds between various materials including other metals. This said, there are other special types of solder used in the manufacture of certain goods, such as silver solder used when making silver jewellery. The reason for this is that real silver isn’t an alloy and will in fact melt to join itself.
When you combine any element (with the exception of iron) with mercury it will form what is known as an amalgam. These amalgams are used in mining and dentistry.
Although it was once noted that brass and bronze were two separate alloys, today brass is any copper alloy. Sometimes brass is listed as a type of bronze, or bronze is listed as a type or brass.
What the Greeks called ‘white gold’ is in fact a naturally occurring alloy called electrum. Electrum consists of silver and gold mixed together with other various metals. The Ancient Greeks were using it for cups, coins and plates as far back as 3000 BC.
An alloy of chromium, carbon and iron, stainless steel gets the stainless in its name from the chromium content. A layer of chromium oxide forms on the outside of the steel stopping oxygen from getting to the metal. This stops rust from forming on the outside of the steel – hence the name stainless. Despite its name, over exposure to corrosive environments such as the sea, can remove the protective chromium covering and leave a mark on the metal.
So there you have it, our brief introduction to metal alloys. If you’d like anymore information, then please don’t hesistate to contact our expert team here at NeoNickel who’ll be happy to advise you.