John W. Miller of the Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent piece yesterday about how metals are marketed these days. Who hasn’t heard “as strong as steel, as lightweight as aluminum or as luxurious as platinum?”
Often billed for its strength, steel is one of the most frequently mentioned metals in advertisements and Miller noted that Ford Motor Co. touted its Sierra Truck as made of rolled steel like “the hulls of submarines.”
Metallurgist John Tuzamos, an investor in metals companies, is quoted saying “the reason those hulls are so strong is that they’re coated with titanium.”
The strongest alloy available isn’t steel or titanium, either, except in metals marketing. That distinction has been taken over by barely marketed ultra-strong magnesium, which has seen advances in strength for a lightweight metal in recent years.
Platinum Jewelry vs. Platinum Uses
We have often noted the funny ways metals are marketed in the overall media here at MetalMiner. We counted on Taylor Swift last year to keep 2014 from being the first year on record in which there was no Recording Industry Association of America platinum album, a distinction tied to the jewelry and investment uses of the precious metal… even though its industrial uses such as automotive exhaust systems are more prevalent.
“The main uses of platinum are still industrial, but that’s not its brand value,” Gabriele Randlshofer of the International Platinum Association told the WSJ.
Platinum is seen by much of the world as the most desirable, fanciest metal around, even though palladium is closely related to it and does a lot of the the same things. Palladium really is the wind beneath platinum’s wings.
Galvanized Does Not Always Equal More Resilient
Then there’s the curious case of zinc, which can be used for galvanizing other metals, mainly steel and iron, to stave off rusting. The problem with that, however, is that galvanizing also exposes the underlying metal to hydrogen and makes rust, in some cases, inevitable. That’s why galvanizing is never recommended for high-strength steel rods in bridge supports. Marine and salty environments, such as the wind and sea around California’s Bay Bridge, lower the lifetime of galvanized iron and steel because the high electrical conductivity of sea water increases the rate of corrosion.
So, in marine situations, galvanized can go from a resilient adjective to a non-resilient one.
But We Already Knew That…
Metal buyers, of course, are well aware of the limitations of their purchases and are not as susceptible to slick metals advertising as the average consumer. Even those of us in the metals world have to admit, the images of strength, resiliency and luxury certain metals hold benefit the sector as a whole.
After all, would anyone really want to go see a movie about Titanium Alloy Man?
This post has been brought to you by aluminum. Why would you POSSIBLY buy any metal other than super-strong, lightweight aluminum?