The MGS Precious Metals Blog

Manhattan Gold & Silver is an industry leader in precious metal pricing and refining with more than 30 years of experience. During our time in the business, we’ve found the topic of precious metals to be a vast and interesting one. Here on our precious metals blog, we write in-depth posts about the science of precious metal refining, historical and modern uses for precious metals, market news, and much more. Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay current, and discuss the latest posts on our Facebook and Google+ pages.

Why Aluminum is no Longer a Precious Metal

May 18, 2017 03:00

Prior to the 1880s, aluminum was a precious metal worth more than gold. During those times aluminum was extremely difficult and costly to refine, and all but impossible to accomplish on a mass production scale.
These factors not only made aluminum more valuable than gold – they also contributed to aluminum’s appeal as a prestigious and luxurious metal. In 1855, aluminum bars were a featured attraction at the then world-famous Exposition Universelle de Paris. During his reign as Emperor, Napoleon III of France allegedly owned a collection of aluminum plates and flatware that were strictly reserved for entertaining only the most esteemed guests. In 1884, a capstone made with 100 ounces of pure aluminum was set on the great Washington Monument.
But today, we use aluminum to wrap up old food. What happened? While aluminum was difficult to refine, it’s not a geological rarity, like gold. Aluminum is actually the most abundant element in the earth’s crust and the third-most common element (after oxygen and silicon) on the entire planet. The development of the Hall-Héroult electrolytic process in 1886 completely solved this problem by making aluminum smelting cheap, fast, and easily adaptable to industrial-scale production. This combined with aluminum’s commonality reduced its value and eliminated its precious metal status.

Originally valued at about $1200 per kg in the 1850s, aluminum dropped all the way to $1 per kg by the 1890s. Talk about a market shake up! While the drop in value may have stung the aluminum investors of yore (if there were any), the boon to humanity cannot be understated. Thanks to aluminum, we have power lines, airplanes, food and beverage containers, and so much more. What would Napoleon think of that?


Sell Your Lot

Sell Your Lot >

Get an instant payout quote for your precious metals, then choose from 2 ways to sell.

MGS Apps

MGS App >

Download our precious metals prices app and take advantage of a suite of unique tools, including historical charts, price alerts and more!