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utilitarian value, tenacity, Metalwork, metal objects, solid state

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Metalwork, in the fine arts, objects of artistic, decorative, and utilitarian value made of one or more kinds of metal—from precious to base—fashioned by either casting, hammering, or joining or a combination of these techniques.

Characteristics of Metalwork

All metals share certain characteristics: a uniform smooth complexion; great strength and tenacity, but also easily worked surfaces; and malleability (their capacity to assume any desired shape). This inherent malleability of metals is exploited by pressure in its solid state or by molding when it is liquefied by heat. In addition, metals were the first reusable materials known (unlike stone, shell, or wood), since broken or obsolete metal objects can be melted down and the substance reused. This relative permanence came to be appreciated after the discovery of smelting in about the middle of the 5th millennium bc.


McNab, Jessie, M.A.

Associate Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Author of "Silver, 1969" and the volume "Silver of the Smithsonian Library of Antiques".

Article key phrases:

utilitarian value, tenacity, Metalwork, metal objects, solid state, molding, shell, base, heat, casting, wood, capacity, substance, fine arts, pressure, stone, addition, middle, surfaces, combination, techniques

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