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One of the two forms in which iron is obtained by smelting. Wrought iron is a soft, easily worked, fibrous metal. It usually contains less than 0.1% carbon and 1–2% slag. It is superior for most purposes to cast iron, which is hard and brittle because of its higher carbon content. In antiquity, iron was smelted directly by heating ore in a forge with charcoal, which served both as fuel and reducing agent. While still hot, the iron-and-slag mixture was removed as a lump and worked (wrought) with a hammer to expel most of the slag and weld the iron into a coherent mass. Wrought iron began to take the place of bronze (being far more available) in Asia Minor in the 2nd millennium BC; its use for tools and weapons was established in China, India, and the Mediterranean by the 3rd century BC. Later, in Europe, wrought iron was produced indirectly from cast iron (seepuddling process). With the invention of the Bessemer process and open-hearth process, steel supplanted wrought iron for structural purposes, and its use in the 20th century has been principally decorative.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on wrought iron, visit Britannica.com.