Is aluminum a precious metal?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Is aluminum a precious metal? The answer to this question depends on how we define “precious.” Traditionally, precious metals are those that are rare, valuable, and often used for decorative or investment purposes. By this definition, aluminum does not fit the criteria of a precious metal. However, aluminum does have an interesting history that may shed some light on why it was once considered precious and highly sought after.

In the late 18th century, aluminum was indeed considered a precious metal. It was even more valuable than gold and silver because it was incredibly difficult to extract from its ores. At the time, aluminum was a rare and exotic material, and its scarcity made it highly prized. In fact, aluminum was even used to make jewelry for royalty and other wealthy individuals.

One of the reasons why aluminum was so difficult to extract was because it is highly reactive and easily forms compounds with other elements. It was not until the early 19th century that a viable extraction method was developed by Danish chemist Hans Christian Ørsted. This method involved reacting aluminum chloride with potassium amalgam, resulting in the production of pure aluminum.

The breakthrough in aluminum extraction led to a significant decrease in its price and availability. Suddenly, what was once considered a precious metal became much more common and affordable. In fact, aluminum became so abundant that it was used for everyday items such as utensils, cookware, and even soda cans.

Today, aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and the most abundant metal. It is widely used in various industries, including construction, transportation, and packaging. Its low density, corrosion resistance, and excellent conductivity make it a versatile and valuable material.

While aluminum may not be considered a precious metal in the traditional sense, its importance and ubiquity cannot be underestimated. It has revolutionized modern industries and has become a vital component in many aspects of our lives. From airplanes to smartphones, aluminum is everywhere.

While aluminum may have been considered a precious metal in the past due to its rarity and difficulty of extraction, it is no longer classified as such. Its abundance and wide range of applications have made it a common and valuable material in today’s world.