The Different Types Of Metal: Traits, Uses, & More

In the guide below, we outline the different types of metals, their traits/properties, their uses, and other relevant information. 


Summary – The Different Types Of Metal

The Different Types Of Metals

Metals can be categorised and sub-categorised according to different factors

Some of the ways to categorise some of the main types of metals might be ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, brittle metals, refractory metals, white metals, base metals, noble metals, and precious metals


What We Use Metals For

We use metals for almost every industry across society

We list some of those industries in the guide below


Most Commonly Used Metals

Iron based metals are some of the most commonly used refined metals, such as steel and aluminum.


Where Mined Metals Come From – Ores, Minerals & Metallic Elements

Mined metals come from mined ores that are made up minerals and metallic elements


Turning A Metal Ore Into Refined Metal

Once a metal ore is mined from the Earth, metal needs to be extracted from the ore.

Once metal minerals or elements have ben extracted from the ore, they can then go through other processes to become refined metal (also called pure metal).


Recycled & Recovered Metals

In addition to mined metals, metals can come from used metals which can be recycled, reclaimed and recovered to be used again


The Different Types Of Metal

Metals can be categorised and sub-categorised according to the metal elements they contain, or other factors such as their physical traits, chemical reactivity, economic value, and so on.

Some of the different categories of metal might be:


– Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals are any metals that contain iron (such as steel), as well as alloys of iron (such as stainless steel)


– Non-Ferrous Metals

Non ferrous metals are metals that do not contain iron.

Aluminum, copper, gold, and silver are some examples of common non-ferrous metals


– Brittle Metals 

Brittle metals are brittle instead of being malleable or ductile

Some examples of brittle materials are beryllium and also chromium


– Refractory Metals

Refractory metals are extraordinarily resistant to heat and wear

Some examples of refractory metals include niobium and also molybdenum


– White Metals

White metals are white-coloured metals (or their alloys) with relatively low melting points

Some examples of white metals include zinc, cadmium, and tin


– Base Metal

Base metals are metals that are easily oxidized or corroded

Some examples include iron, nickel, lead, and zinc


– Noble Metals

Noble metals are the opposite of base metals i.e. they are resistant to corrosion or oxidation

Some examples include gold, platinum, and silver


– Precious Metals

Precious metals are metals that are of high economic value

According to, ‘[Chemically, precious metals are] less reactive than most elements, have high luster and high electrical conductivity’

Gold and silver are some examples of precious metals


– Other Ways To Categorise Metals

There are other ways to categorise metals that are not listed above

As just one example, in their guide, lists the different types of precious metals, rare earth elements, and lastly minor metals

‘Technology’ metals may be their own sub-category of metals too


How We Use Metals Across Different Industries In Society

Metals are used across almost every industry in society.

Just a few examples are buildings, infrastructure like bridges, vehicles, the energy sector, jewelry, defence, and electronics and technology.

You can read more about how metals are being used and will be used in the future in electronics and new technology in this guide.


Metals are present in nearly all aspects of modern life (


Most Commonly Used Metals Across Society

Iron based metals are some of the most commonly used refined metals, such as steel and aluminum.


Iron, a heavy metal, may be the most common as it accounts for 90% of all refined metals; aluminium, a light metal, is the next most commonly refined metal (


Some of the most common metals are aluminum, copper, carbon steel, and stainless steel (


The metal market consists of establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing all types of metals such as iron and steel, aluminum, base metals, and precious metals.

The industry is highly fragmented [in terms of manufacturers and suppliers]



Difference Between Ores, Minerals, & Metallic Elements

Before listing the different types of metals, it’s worth getting a very basic understanding of the difference between ores, minerals, and metallic elements (i.e. where metals come from):


– Ores

Ores are a natural material made up of minerals (and these minerals are made up of elements).

Metals ores are mined from the Earth.


– Minerals & Elements

Minerals are made up of one element (pure mineral), or several elements (compound mineral).

These elements can be metallic elements, or other types of elements.

According to some reports, most minerals found in ores tend to be compounds of different elements, but some can be one element like silver or gold (although, silver usually also contains small amounts of gold, arsenic, and antimony)

Because some minerals found in ores are compounds of different elements, some metals are a by-product of mining for other metals i.e. the extracted ores can contain minerals and elements used for multiple metal products.


– Metallic Elements

You can see a full metallic elements table at

It’s worth noting that the ‘Lanthanides’ group of metallic elements are actually the rare earth metals, and because of their properties, are used in a lot of new technology and electronics.

You can read more about them at, or


Turning Metal Ores Into Refined Metal

Once metal ores are mined from the Earth, these metal ores are sent to metal refineries to turn a raw metal ore into refined metal.

Metal is extracted from the ore, and then minerals and elements go through other processes of refinement into pure metals.

Ore crushing and dressing might be the first step that processes an ore.

Metallurgy is the second step where minerals are reduced and refined before pure metals are formed.


Recycled & Reclaimed Metals

In addition to mined metals, metals can come from used metals which can be recycled or recovered to be used again

Metals can be recovered from products that contain metal (such as e-waste products), and can also be reclaimed as scrap metal from standalone metal













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