The History Behind Aluminium

Aluminium, a versatile, multifaceted and ergonomic material. From being used in the kitchen foil we cook and preserve foods with, to being used in drinks cans – aluminium has a long history of being a metal that is primarily used for it’s versatile qualities rather than it’s aesthetic.

However, aluminium and design have gone hand in hand. Though other metals like copper, gold, bronze and silver are known for being mainly forged for jewellery and art, aluminium unmistakable shiny lustre continues to enchant industries of all kinds.

With this in mind, we thought to delve into a commonly forgotten history of aluminium’s relationship with design.

Aluminium in the 19th Century

Though alum was used in ancient societies, aluminium itself was a complex process to refine from its ore, meaning that for a large majority of history aluminium was unknown. However, in the 19th century, aluminium was discovered and was at first difficult to extract. This meant that aluminium was considered more expensive than gold and in turn a luxury item – a far cry from today’s abundance of kitchen foil and drink’s cans. Presented internationally in 1855, aluminium was suggested to be used in arts, medicine, music, cooking and tableware.

As the production and extraction of aluminium sophisticated, it started to be used in the creation of art and jewellery. For instance, created in 1893, the Statue of Anteros in Piccadilly Circus in London was considered to be the first major artwork that used aluminium. By the end of the 19th century, aluminium was widely used in jewellery, eyeglass frames, optical instruments and everyday items.

Aluminium in World War One and Two

One of the reason’s why aluminium has become so popular as a utilitarian material is due to it’s heavy production during both WWI and WWII. This is because aluminium’s main features are that it is a lightweight and corrosion-resistant material, and was crucial in the development of aviation during these wars.

Aluminium flourished further during these eras as it became known how potent aluminium was for recycling, meaning that it can be created and further used in abundance after the wars.

Interestingly, aluminium’s efforts in the war have overshadowed it’s other major design feature – in the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building, constructed in 1931, was the first building where aluminium was widely employed in construction and in its interior.

Aluminium usage in the 1950’s and onwards

At this point, aluminium shifted towards being a mass-produced material for commodities like drinks cans, consumer packaging, and kitchenware. These are the products that we most associate with aluminium today. However, there were still many luxury and innovative creations that used aluminium.

One of these was the creation of the Earth’s first artificial satellite in 1957, paving the way for astrological and astronomical scientific innovations, eventually leading to space shuttles being crafted from aluminium.

In the 1980s Steve Jobs recognised the combined beauty and strength of aluminium, using it to craft the first iPhone and iPods.

Here at Now Aluminium, we pride ourselves on utilising this hardy, durable and attractive material for creating stunning glass bi-folds and sliding doors. To find out more about our products, why not pop by our showroom? Or if you have any specific questions, contact us here.