The processing of metals

At the origins of human history, techniques for processing metals had a rather slow development, due to the difficult progress of metallurgy; on the contrary these techniques received considerable impulse once the nomadic life was abandoned in favor of a more sedentary lifestyle.

The first metal to be processed, starting from the fourth millennium b.C., was the copper found in the soil or, in small nuggets, in streams. The analysis of remains from archaeological sites in Asia Minor, the islands of the Aegean and the Near East has shown that in that period, people were able to separate silver from lead, and techniques of chiseling, embossing and demascening, still used today, were already known.

In 2500 b.C. the main procedures of copper processing, sufficiently matured, began to be applied to precious metals (gold and silver) and alloys (bronze). The most popular methods for modeling metals were forging and beating, both cold and hot. From these methods, hammering and temperature, annealing, refining, grinding (which laid the foundation for polishing and grinding, useful in the manufacture of mirrors), union of several sheets of metal (by means of joints flattened or nails and, subsequently, by welding) and casting came from. These techniques are still the most widely used methods for artistic processing of metals.

It is believed that most of the decorative techniques have been developed when, thanks to the development of trade, raw materials began to come in abundance from Persia, Mesopotamia and Southwest Egypt to advanced urban civilizations: the consequence was, therefore, the emergence of new categories of artisans such as goldsmiths and silversmiths. Over time, therefore, men have used the metal in order to satisfy their own ambitions and express their artistic skills and often got to create objects of great value.