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In my world there is a metal commonly associated with enhanced magical properties. However as a balancing system I don't want this metal to be combined or forged in any way. The technology level is around Gregorian year 0, but they do have magic available so they could creatively get around minor problems like heat requirement etc. Is there a metal that could fill the following properties (in this era), or do I need to invent one entirely?

  • Occurs naturally in shards/nuggets no larger than an inch.
  • Cannot be molten down at this technology level.
  • Cannot be forged together/fused at this technology level.
  • Is as rare as Gold.
  • Does not occur in large deposits (a few bits at a time max).

The aim is to develop a magical process that eventually can reforge this metal into a weapon, but this shouldn't be possible with their regular technology. So bonus points if it is workable with modern technologies.

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  • $\begingroup$ For your shards/nuggets, do they have to be the pure metal? Or can they be an oxid of some kind? $\endgroup$ – OneSaltyAceTanker Mar 12 '20 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ Does it have to be metal? could it be a rare natural occurrence of something else? like fulgurite? $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Mar 12 '20 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ @OneSaltyAceTanker it doesn't have to be extremely pure, but pureness would be nice. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Mar 12 '20 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @ITAlex if it is forgeable with modern technology, you can his is an option, but I would prefer a metal. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Mar 12 '20 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure how Tungsten is found, but it's legendarily hard to work with because it has such a high maximum temperature. The problem is that nothing we have now can hold tungsten and not melt or burn itself, which makes working it while it is both mixing and fusing with the surface of whatever you place it on and whatever you work with. This problem (besides very good full-body heat protection) would likely be enough to make Tungsten a good candidate even if its ore is found differently than you describe. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 12 '20 at 19:59
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Native nuggets of platinum/iridium alloys exist (always found as an alloy). They have a melting point beyond any temperature attainable with pre-17th century technology (a steel furnace won't melt them), can't be joined into larger pieces (platinum is more ductile even than gold, but less malleable, and can't be cold welded), and are even more chemically noble than gold.

In our world, these nuggets are much rarer than gold nuggets, but they form the same way, so a minor (hand-waved) change in crustal chemistry and geology could lead to veins of platinum/iridium resembling the vein of gold/silver/copper alloys found in rock.

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    $\begingroup$ I like it. I doubt the usefulness of these metals for any kind of weapon, but I wasn't counting on that anyway. I'm sure I can come up with something suitable. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Mar 12 '20 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ A hundred years ago, the place you were most likely to see platinum/iridium was the point of a gold fountain pen nib. It was used because of its hardness; it would stand up to the abrasion of paper for decades of daily use (while stainless steel, once available, wouldn't). It was also used in glow plugs for model airplane engines, when they ran on alcohol fuel, for its catalytic properties. Platinum wire will ignite hydrogen in air with no spark, and needs only mild heating to do the same for methanol. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Mar 12 '20 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ As a professional geochemist, I fully support this answer. Iridium and its alloys are what you are looking for. $\endgroup$ – Gimelist Jun 2 '20 at 11:32
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Your best approaches are things like titanium or aluminium where, rather than anything resembling a pure ore, they're found in oxides requiring chemical processes of moderate complexity to extract.

That gives you the plot space for advanced magic/alchemy needing to understand exactly what's going on before they can get the pure metal out.

You'll probably then want some excuse to alloy with iron anyway, rather than using the pure metal.

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    $\begingroup$ I ask because I really don't know. Are there "nuggets" of metallic aluminum in nature? Oxide yes. And rubies yes. But metallic form? $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Mar 12 '20 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ @puppetsock Aluminium is usually found in form of bauxite ore. Rule of thumb: If a metal can oxidize, then you usually won't find it in elemental form in the ground. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Mar 12 '20 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ "[The aim is to eventually forge this metal into a weapon]" - then it has to be useful, and therefore not a noble metal : ruthenium (Ru), rhodium (Rh), palladium (Pd), silver (Ag), osmium (Os), iridium (Ir), platinum (Pt), and gold (Au); the only metals that do not readily oxidize, so: titanium, +1, the modern processes for which might as well still be called magic. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Mar 13 '20 at 1:47
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I'd say, your best bet would be something like chromium.

  • It is relatively rare (10 known places on our Earth where you can find decent quantities.
  • To aquire pure chromium you need a complicated chemical process
  • In it's pure form chromium is forgable

Bonus: Chromium occures, amonst others, in a specific type of iron ore, although in varying percentages. Means you would have a source of magic metal with differing power levels.

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    $\begingroup$ Chromium is always found in compounds, never as native metal. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 12 '20 at 19:43
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Gold is useless for weapons because it is too soft. Your metal also can be too soft to be useful for weapons. On the other hand, silicon is too brittle so again, hardly can be worked and used.

If you want a random metal to be too brittle, which prevents working it and using it as a weapon just make it having impurities and/or crystal defects. When those removed the metal becomes more useful.

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