What is the Most Popular Metal?

Those of us who work with metals know that they are made out of materials that are either taken from the earth or that are recycled.  But do you know which elements that constitute metals are the most abundant?

Here are the most popular metals by several definitions of “popular:”

On Earth:

If popular means abundance by weight in the Earth’s crust, then aluminum takes the prize with 8.2%.  Iron is a close 2nd place with 5.6%.  We are not certain of the metals in the inner core of the earth, but most likely 80% iron and 5% nickel.

In the Universe:

The early stages of the Big Bang only produced very light elements:  hydrogen, helium, and lithium.  Heavier elements (metals) were created within stars, but even stars have limited heavy-metal capabilities.  Elements heavier than iron (26) must be made in energy-absorbing processes like supernovas in large stars, and their abundance in the universe generally decreases with increasing atomic mass.  So that gold (76) you are wearing probably came from a distant star collision.

In Jewelry:

Nearly every metal has been used in making jewelry over the centuries.  Today’s most popular are sterling silver, gold, platinum, palladium, titanium and stainless steel.

In Construction:

Steel (98%), aluminum, copper.

In Currency:

U.S. coins as a composite:  80% copper, 13% zinc, 5% nickel, 2% tin.

As a Commodity:

On the London stock exchange, 2012 industrial metal contracts (25 tons per contract):  aluminum (60 million), copper (36 million), zinc (30 million), lead (14 million)

In Google Searches:

For elements, the most popular is gold, so it gets a Google score of 100:  100-gold, 58-silver, 30-iron, 21-aluminum, 19-copper, 17-magnesium.


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