Friday, February 28, 2014

Worth More Than Gold...!

Now here is a bit of history from the folks over at KnowledgeNuts than you may not know! I'll admit it came as a real surprise to me!

See? That's what happens when you think you know it all. Along comes something like this and ruins it all for you! Reckon I'm not as smart as I thought I was!

The Metal That Was Once Worth More Than Gold
By J. Wisniewski on Thursday, February 27, 2014

Aluminum is one of the three most common elements found within the Earth’s crust. However, until relatively recently, extracting aluminum from the bauxite ore in which it naturally occurs was a costly and difficult process. And prior to the advent of efficient chemical and electrical processes to separate aluminum from bauxite in the late 1800s, the shiny, flexible metal was more valuable than gold.

Supposedly, aluminum’s discovery dates back to the ancient Roman Empire. One Roman history tells of an unusual goldsmith who gave the Roman emperor Tiberius a plate crafted from a silvery and lightweight new metal made from “clay.” When Tiberius saw what was most likely an aluminum plate, he ordered the execution of the goldsmith. Tiberius feared the goldsmith’s new metal might reduce the value of Rome’s vast stores of gold and silver. Tiberius’s beheading of the unfortunate goldsmith kept aluminum in the ground for the next two millennia.

Almost 2,000 years would pass before aluminum reemerged in Europe, and when it did so, it was in incredibly rare quantities. Pure aluminum was a far rarer find than gold or silver, and prices during the 19th century reflected this. Early attempts at extracting aluminum from bauxite proved too laborious or expensive and were mostly nonstarters. Until more efficient extraction procedures were developed, annual US production of aluminum did not exceed about 93 kilograms (3,000 troy ounces). By comparison, US goldmines produced 93,300 kilograms (3 million troy ounces) of gold in 1853.

Aluminum’s status as the world’s most precious metal attracted the interest of European royalty in search of the most conspicuous and costly modes of consumption. King Christian X of Denmark sported an aluminum crown. To impress dinner guests, Napoleon III’s tables were set with tableware made from aluminum. And as late as the 1880s, when the Washington Monument was being built and aluminum was chosen for the pyramid’s capstone, the metal’s worth was still roughly equivalent to silver.

Aluminum’s value took a nosedive in 1886, though, when a new method was devised to extract aluminum from bauxite. The electrolysis process devised in the US and France allowed for the affordable isolation of aluminum from bauxite. Shortly after, the cheap, flexible, non-toxic metal flooded the market in a variety of uses. By the early 20th century, aluminum could be found in the wrappers and bags of countless foods and commercial products. Just decades after only the wealthiest European elites could afford to dine off of aluminum, the hoi polloi was ripping open aluminum-wrapped Lifesavers rolls.

Just think about it. If the simpler process had not been discovered, we might have been collecting coins made from pieces of aluminum! Sort of boggles the mind!

Coffee out on the patio this morning! Sunshine and apple butter fritters for everyone!


Mamahen said...

WOW!! I never would have thought.... The patio, sushine and apple butter fritters.... I'm in :))

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
Seems like the friendly thing to do...sharing all the good stuff while we have it!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Chickenmom said...

Learned something again, Mr. Hermit - thanks! The fritters sound wonderful!

Sunnybrook Farm said...

The rest of the story will be that future generations will mine the stuff out of what is now our landfill sites.

linda m said...

Learned something new this morning. I love learning history from reading your blog - sure beats sitting in a classroom. Thank you for the history lesson. Patio, sunshine, apple butter fritters and coffee with friends sounds like a great way to start out on this bitter cold day. Have a great weekend.

Rob said...

I never even suspected that, aluminum is so common today.

They used 1853 for the gold mining numbers, have you ever read how Marshall found the gold in Sutter's Mill in California in 1848? It was just sitting there, all he had to do was bend over and pick it up.

JO said...

Very interesting I didn't know this. See we learn so much coming to visit you for coffee and today apple butter fritters Thank you once again.

Dizzy-Dick said...

What people have the least of is usually puts the price up. So, I can see aluminum being more costly than gold at that time.