Tales of Tolgard
Metallurgy is the science of purifying and mixing metals and is the foundation for metalworking. There are several important terms and processes associated with metalworking, or blacksmithing, and the materials it generates.
Ores are the rocks that contain desirable minerals which are obtained from within the ground and mountains of the Material Plane. Most often they are obtained by the efforts of dwarven miners, but all races with even the barest hint of civilization mine to some degree or another. To be useful for the creation of tools and weapons, however, ores must be refined into metals. This smelting process generates slag in addition to metals.
The process by which metals are purified usually involves heating mined ores until they are molten or semi-liquid. Then the impurities tend to float to the surface where they can be scraped off. The remaining pure metals are usually poured into molds to make ingots or bars of the pure metal.
Alloys are made up of two or more elements, at least one of which it metallic, that combine to form a new material with metallic properties. Examples include bronze which is an alloy of copper and tin, electrum which is an alloy of gold, silver, and copper and steel which is an alloy of iron and charcoal. The two or more materials have to be heated to high temperatures before they will fuse and create alloys. Alloys are utilized for one or more of the following reasons; to make something that is lighter, stronger, harder, easier to work with, or aesthetically pleasing.
Billon is a specific type of alloy that utilizes precious metals. These more often occur with silver, but sometimes use gold or platinum as well. The precious metals make up the minority of the new substance while other, less valuable, metals make up the majority. Billon is used for decorative flourishes on metalwork, jewelry, and often coins.
Patina is ultimately rust but it is much more than that. Most metals react to the air in some fashion or another- the surface layer that changes is called the metal or alloy’s patina. Sometimes it can help defend the work; for example, take bronze. Once a bronze statue has its green patina, corrosion stops. Its patina will not flake off and the metal is protected from further decay by it. Sometimes a patina, even if it does not totally protect the metal, is desirable in an artistic sense due to the exotic colors some alloys and metals take on when they begin to rust. A work of art coated by a patina is called patinated.