Why is gold more expensive than aluminum

When aluminum is more expensive than gold


Aluminum is literally one of the most common elements on earth. So how is it that aluminum is once more expensive than gold?

Was it similar to the relatively common and easy-to-learn mined diamond that came to be seen in the last century due to the tight control of what is available to consumers and some of the best marketing the world has ever seen? (For reference, mining 1 carat diamonds costs about $ 50, although it sells dramatically more, even low quality ones are for industrial use. On the high end, appropriately high quality ones sell for, on average, around $ 25,000 once cut and polished, usually by cheap labor in countries like China.)

The simple answer is that although aluminum makes up about 8% of the earth's crust, it has never been known to occur in its metallic form anywhere in the world. Instead, aluminum is mainly used as a chemical compound around the world, for example in potassium aluminum sulfate.

Before aluminum was discovered, or even theorized, so-called "alum compounds," such as potassium-aluminum sulfate, have been used extensively since ancient times for everything from leather-tanning to fire-proofing. In fact, potassium aluminum sulfate (colloquially known as potassium alum) is still used today in mixing things like aftershave and baking soda and most awesome of all, in the crystal state it can be used as a "Deodorant stone"That you rub on yourself to get rid of body odor.

At first glance, it now seems like these chemical compounds are called "alum" because they contain aluminum, but this is not the case. The word "alum" is the slang term for a wide variety of compounds that are not necessarily aluminum, for example Chromium potassium sulfate often contain Chrome alum. The word aluminum itself is a derivative of that the word "alum," not the other way around.

It is generally held that aluminum was not theorized to exist until around 1807 when chemist Sir Humphrey Davy argued that alum salt was made from a still undiscovered metal, metal Davy "aluminum." There is, however, some debate among the scientific community as to whether Davy was really the first person to make this leap, as postulated 30 years earlier in 1778, the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier in his seminal book Elements of chemistry as he called it "Argilla" "(Alumina) as a solid metal in theory, but that the technology of the day might not have been able to separate strongly bound oxygen atoms. In fact, clay is tentatively listed as an actual element in Lavoiser's original draft of his Table of Elements.

Aluminum as we know it today was originally made in a laboratory by Hans Christian Oersted by heating aluminum chloride with potassium amalgam in 1825. In honor of Davy's work which had primarily inspired the Oersted experiment, the new metal was christened "aluminum".

The metal stains that Oersted produced using this method were so small and impure that an accurate analysis of the metal was impossible.

Two years later, Friedrich Wöhler entered the aluminum-manufacturing scene and developed a new type of aluminum in powdered form by improving on Oersted's original experiment to isolate it. Even then, it took another 18 years to manufacture enough of the metal for scientists to properly study its properties, and it wasn't until 1845 that aluminum's remarkable lightness was determined.

Nine years later, in 1854, Henri Sainte-Claire Deville developed a way of making the metal on a much larger scale with the use of sodium, for the first time in history, kilograms of the metal can be made at a time. For the sake of comparison, it had taken Wöhler years to produce the same amount of aluminum that Deville could produce in a single day.

A year later, in 1855, 12 small aluminum ingots were displayed on the "Exposition Universelle"organized a major French exhibition on the legacy of the French emperor Napoleon III. Almost immediately after the exhibition the demand for this magical metal skyrocketed. Its luster combined with its almost ghostly lightness compared to other metals made it an ideal metal for jewelry and it lasted not long before the French elite wore brooches and aluminum buttons.

This passing whim that the upper echelons of aluminum had angry with Deville to no end because he felt that the metal had significant practical uses benefiting from the masses, not just as a curiosity to be used by the elite. to be displayed

One person who shared Deville's vision was Emperor Napoleon III himself granted the Deville an almost unlimited budget to examine and produce the metal long before the exhibition. Napoleon had hoped that this new metal could be used in light weapons and armor for his army. Although a few helmets were made, the sheer cost of refining the metal put the plan on hold indefinitely.

Frustrated, Napoleon III had melted down his shipment of aluminum and pressed silverware. As history repeats many times, Napoleon III was rumored to have eaten off the aluminum plates while his guests had to get by with gold. Whether this story is true or not, at this point aluminum was really harder to come by than gold and the price that, despite its prevalence on earth, held up against gold.

All of that changed in 1886 when it was discovered (twice) that you could easily get oodles of aluminum with electrolysis. The discovery was made by Paul Lois Toussaint Héroult and Charles Martin Hall almost at the same time in France and America, completely independently of each other. For this reason the process (which is still used today) is called the Hall-Héroult / process in honor of the two.

Two years later, it was discovered by Karl Bayer that aluminum oxide could be made very cheaply from bauxite. As a result of these two things, the price of aluminum dropped 80% overnight. In a few short years, aluminum went from literally the most expensive metal on earth to the cheapest. For reference, in 1852 (before the Héroult / Hall process), aluminum sold for upwards of $ 1,200 a kilo. By the beginning of the 20th century, the same amount of aluminum cost less than a dollar.

If you liked this article, you might also like:

  • The fascinating origin of forks, spoons and knives
  • Why used blueprints often to be printed on blue paper
  • Usually why shouldn't you put metals in the microwave
  • Why pencil "lead" means "lead"
  • Why are anvils the way they are and why blacksmiths often tap the anvil after a few strikes on the object they're working on shaped

Bonus facts:

  • If you've ever seen "aluminum" instead of "aluminum" it's not a typo. It's just because in The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry the consistent spelling of the word "Auminium," is contrary to what you often see, especially in the United States.
  • While it is often touted that De Beers is massively hoarding diamonds in order to artificially inflate them, this is not as much the case today as it was a few decades ago. As their monopoly slowly slipped away, they've instead started to sell off their supply piles and help provide control, simply cut production during times of low demand. For example, in 2009 they cut their mining efforts in half because of the recession sales hurting significantly. The rest of the industry followed suit and the price of diamonds remained high.
  • A high quality, clear, synthetic 1 carat diamond costs approximately $ 2,500 to manufacturers in a state it is ready to be sold as jewelry to the consumer. The average consumer price tag for the 2011 Diamond was $ 3,500. As previously mentioned, 1 carat, high quality diamond mined costs dramatically less to get you to a state for sale than jewelry nor RETAIL SALES for approximately $ 25,000.

Karl Smallwood writes for the popular Interesting Fact website TodayIFoundOut.com. To subscribe today I found from the "Daily Know" newsletter, please click here or like them on Facebook here. You can also check them out on YouTube here.

This post has been republished with the kind permission of TodayIFoundOut.com.

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