Festive lights

All that shimmers and shines

Metals and minerals will help bring your celebrations to life this season

Last updated: 18 December 2023


From festive lights to feasts, sparkling gifts to stunning tabletops, many of our holiday traditions make surprising use of metals and minerals.

Here are 7 festive favourites that our products may be helping to produce this season.

Twinkling lights

Whether they’re wrapped around a tree, lining the streets, decorating your home or decking out the shops, festive lights are synonymous with the start of the holiday celebrations. And there’s one metal that really makes your lights light up: copper.

As the best non-precious conductor of electricity on the planet, copper is used to make the wiring in all sorts of electronic lights, including most festive lights.

You might also spare a thought for aluminium and lithium, which could help you to achieve an energy efficient seasonal sparkle as components in your solar panels and rechargeable batteries.

Shining decorations

There’s another very versatile metal that lends most decorations their shimmer and shine. It’s used to coat trinkets from glitter to tinsel, novelty items to treasured ornaments. Can you guess what it is?

Aluminium. Lightweight and infinitely recyclable, aluminium has countless applications in our everyday lives, from the very small to the very large.

Made from the raw material of bauxite, which is refined into alumina and sent to smelters for processing, aluminium is one of the world’s fastest growing major metals. Its seasonal uses go far beyond decorative, as you’ll see later in this list.

Glimmering gifts

If you’re lucky this year, maybe a luxury gift will have your name on it. Diamonds are everybody’s best friend when set aluminium a stunning ring or a stylish watch, and our white and coloured diamonds are some of the world’s most sought-after gems.

Tablets, phones and laptops also make popular presents, but you’ll find they’re a little hard to charge without this element. Lithium – the lightest of all metals – is critical to making your phone, tablet or laptop function.

Set to experience the fastest growth rate by weight of all minerals between 2021 and 2040, lithium won’t just be used in devices, but the vast majority of rechargeable batteries, according to the International Energy Agency. This makes it essential for powering the clean energy transition.

And you’d find it hard to see anything on your tablet or phone without borates – the crystallised salts that contain boron. They’re used in the glass and fibreglass used for device screens and parts as well.

Dining utensils

Steely settings

While some people might still pull out the traditional silver for special occasions, these days those sets are mostly preserved as family heirlooms. For practical eating, you’re much more likely to find the world’s most commonly used alloy in your cutlery collection. Do you know what it is?

Steel, which is made from the primary raw material of iron ore. 98% of global iron ore production is used to make steel in various forms, according to Geoscience Australia.

When it appears in cutlery, iron ore has typically been combined with carbon, nickel and chromium to make stainless steel, which is known for being especially malleable, rust-proof and stain-resistant.

Colourful covers

Industrial salt has all sorts of surprising uses, including as a dye enhancer in the textile industry.

So, whether you’re appreciating a favourite tablecloth you take out each year or a new outfit bought for the annual celebrations, you may have salt to thank for its vibrant colours.

Although the details of the process are quite scientific, the basic idea is that salt enhances colours by enabling dyes to fully penetrate the fabric. It’s a seasoning with more than one purpose this season!

Essential transport

A time for catching up with family and friends from near and far, the holiday season often means extra travel to see the ones you love. Steel and aluminium will play an essential part.

Planes, trains, buses, cars, ships and even electric scooters all rely on these 2 metals for components from chassis to engines, wings to wheel axle .

In fact, an average car uses around 900kg of steel, according to the World Steel Association. It will typically comprise most of a vehicle’s main body structure, such as panels, doors and trunk panels. Aluminium is used for the lighter weight parts, such as radiators, bumpers and so on.

So, no matter where you go and what transport you take this season, these manoeuvrable metals will help get you there.

Fine dining

Food is many people’s favourite part of the holidays. Depending on where you live and how you celebrate, there’s bound to be a seasonal selection of fruit and vegetables that are part of your culinary traditions.

The agricultural industry uses a range of minerals to help their crops grow. One common example is borates. Borates are a mineral essential to plant growth and used in many commercial fertilisers.

We’re also partnering with growers around the world to explore the use of other resources extracted from our operations. Like anhydrite, a by-product from the aluminium production process, which has been used by blueberry growers in Quebec, Canada to make an effective fertiliser. Or CHAC, another aluminium by-product that can help correct soil acidity and provide crop nutrients.

Borates are also part of the dinnerware your festive feast is served on – they're used in many shiny glazes for fine china and glassware.

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