Iron is one of the most common elements on earth. Nearly every construction of man contains at least a little iron. It is also one of the oldest metals and was first fashioned into useful and ornamental objects at least 3,500 years ago.

Pure iron is a soft, grayish-white metal. Although iron is a common element, pure iron is almost never found in nature. The only pure iron known to exist naturally comes from fallen meteorites. Most iron is found in minerals formed by the combination of iron with other elements. Iron oxides are the most common. Those minerals near the surface of the earth that have the highest iron content are known as iron ores and are mined commercially.

Iron ore is converted into various types of iron through several processes. The most common process is the use of a blast furnace to produce pig iron which is about 92-94% iron and 3-5% carbon with smaller amounts of other elements. Pig iron has only limited uses, and most of this iron goes on to a steel mill where it is converted into various steel alloys by further reducing the carbon content and adding other elements such as manganese and nickel to give the steel specific properties.