The history of metal casting part 1

The history of metal casting

Metal casting has been employed by civilizations through the ages to produce goods, structures and materials used in the world all around us – from bridges through to medical equipment and even car parts.

The origins of metal casting date back at least 5000 years. Although the basic principles of pouring molten metal into a mould still apply, the process has evolved considerably over the centuries alongside the discovery of different metals and technological advancements.

In this the first of three blogs, we chart some of the key milestones in the development of metal casting from Chalcolithic times through to the present day. This is not intended as an exhaustive history. Instead, it is a guide to some of the key moments in the development of this popular manufacturing process.

Key milestones in metal casting

Although it is difficult to establish when casting first began, archaeologists have unearthed vital clues from the Middle East dating back 5000 years.

3200 B.C. A copper frog, the oldest known casting in existence, is made in Mesopotamia. Copper was a popular material for metal working due to its high ductility (stretch).

3000 B.C. The Bronze Age starts in the Near East. Bronze alloys are used in casting, offering key benefits such as low weight and a low melting point. Bronze tools and weapons are cast in permanent stone moulds at this time.               

3000-2500 B.C. Early use of investment (lost wax) casting for ornaments and jewellery. Artefacts from this period have been unearthed in various regions, including the Near East.

600 B.C. Use of cast iron statuary in China. The first iron products were not cast in Europe until 1200 to 1450 A.D.

233 B.C. Iron ploughshares are cast in China.

500 A.D. Cast crucible steel is produced in India.

c. 1100 Early descriptions of investment casting, written by Theophilus Presbyter, are published. It is thought that he was a Benedictine monk.

1313 Development of the first bronze cannon in Ghent. Although records indicate that the first cannons were invented in China in the late 13th century, this is believed to be the first European use.

1500s Sand is used for the first time as a moulding material in France.

c. 1540 The first full account of foundry practice by Vannoccio Biringuccio is published posthumously. Biringuccio recommended the use of the dregs of beer vats and urine as binders for moulding sand.

Biringuccio is often referred to as the ‘father of the foundry industry’ and his descriptions of foundry practices are often cited in many later works. However, it wasn’t until 1645 that the term ‘foundry’ appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary.

In the next blog, we will taking a look at the use of metal casting in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Haworth Castings has been producing fully finished, high-precision aluminium sand castings for the past 60 years. For further details, please call us today on +44 (0)1794 512685 or email us:




Main sources of historical information:

Muhammad Azhar Ali Khan, Anwar Khalil Sheikh, Bilal Suleiman Al-Shaer, Evolution of Metal Casting Technologies: A Historical Perspective, (2017)

Harold M. Cobb (editor), Dictionary of Metals (2012)

AFS Technical Department, Timeline of Casting Technologies