Metals of Antiquity

The seven metals of antiquity are gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. Essential to early metallurgy and alchemical work, these were the only known metals for early human history, and all early tools and ornamentation were made from these metals. 

Most precious jewelry utilizes gold and silver, copper, tin, iron, and their alloys (such as brass and bronze) are still widely used in jewelry today.

Prehistoric use of metal is believed to have begun with copper. While copper is known for its warm rosy orange color, copper ores are often a beautiful blue or green. Chrysocolla and malachite all contain high amounts of copper. The beautiful blue of turquoise comes from a hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate.

By combining different elements in careful proportions, alloys can be made that bring forth certain features of the base metals that are highly desirable, like a higher melting point, or increased strength. Many copper ores naturally contain other salts and metals, and the earliest bronze items were made from smelted copper ore with naturally occurring traces of arsenic.

Copper's ductility, or ability to have its shape changed without breaking, means it is a wonderful metal to be formed, or shaped with hammers.

Later, technology would continue to improve, and copper would be intentionally combined together with tin under high heat to create an alloy, a version of bronze that is similar to what we use today. The Bronze Age had begun, a time of ever growing technology to create strong and durable tools, weapons, and objects of ornamentation. 

Along with the discovery of bronze, gold and silver were commonly found in their pure form, and are very workable and not as reactive as copper. Brass, a combination of copper and tin, is very durable and looks similar to elemental gold but it oxidizes quickly and needs frequent polishing. (For the beauty and durability of gold at an affordable price, gold-filled jewelry is an excellent choice.) 

Initially, meteoric iron - iron from meteor strikes on earth - was all that was available to early smiths. It was commonly used to create tools and weapons. As technology improved, early metalworkers experimented and learned how to smelt iron for more durability and strength, and the Iron Age began.