For thousands of years, humans have been prospecting, mining and refining metals. The invention of smelting was a true technological advancement for mankind and marked the end of the Stone Age. Working with native metals such as copper, silver, gold, lead, and tin came first. These metals have fairly low melting points and the ability to cast and forge them was revolutionary. The Bronze Age was born when tin was mixed with copper, creating the first alloy and better weapons of war.
As the centuries passed, metallurgists tried to figure out how to smelt iron. Iron doesn't occur in its native form and melts at a far higher temperature than any of the metals that had been smelted previously. By developing an ingenious process, iron was at last smelted, forged, and put to good use. Thousands of years have passed since the Iron Age began, and since then many exotic compounds have been created to support our quest for better and better technology. Did you know that the addition of tungsten to steel created the super-alloy that was first used in cannons in WWI? And that the modern-day smart phone is built out of at least 13 different metals?
Whether you've recovered natural gold (nuggets, flakes, wire gold, pickers, flour gold) or have unwanted jewelry or beat up coins, you can affordably smelt and/or melt these at home.