Aluminium as a miracle material.
According to space pioneer hero Impey Barbicane in “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne, aluminium “possesses the whiteness of silver, the indestructibility of gold, the tenacity of iron, the fusibility of copper, the lightness of glass” – clearly the ideal choice of material for the capsule that was about to be launched from a cannon into space. While much of what the great French storyteller wrote may have been the stuff of fantasy, his praise of aluminium has been borne out by subsequent developments. Aluminium is the most widespread metal in the earth’s crust, but almost always occurs in bound form. It was only in 1854 that anything approaching an economically viable process for its extraction was developed. Feather-light yet incredibly strong, tough, corrosion-resistant, easily cleaned and sufficiently soft to be sculpted into complex shapes, it was no wonder aluminium soon became known as “the miracle material.”
It was employed mainly for jewellery purposes, with some metals and artworks made from aluminium attracting higher prices than those from gold or platinum. Its use in automotive construction still lay far into the future.