Metals have had a long history of symbolic relationships. Most notably, the attachment of symbols to metals can be traced to the ancient science of alchemy. Among other things, alchemists were interested in turning base metals into gold and silver. Along the way, they created some very intriguing elemental alchemy symbolic codes. The engaging modern day interpretation was designed by the artist Murray Robertson.

From his Glasgow Print Studio, Robertson has more recently been involved in the visualization of many aspects of scientific study.

metal symbols

Metal Codes Facilitate Global Metal Trade Scrap metal also has codes attached to it and these are largely unknown to our customers. Since scrap metal, like any commodity, needs to be traded interchangeably, a basic set of standards is required to enable buyers and sellers to negotiate in both the domestic and global marketplaces. There also needs to be a standardized terminology for each of the different commodity grades.


You can imagine, for example, how difficult it would be for a trader in North America to arrange a sale of scrap metal in Asia without standards and terminology that were common to both buyer and seller. It would be chaotic. The industry standard for this has long been provided by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). While the alchemy symbols would not be sufficiently given all the various grades of metals that are traded, they have chosen some very interesting codes.

Here are some examples: metal codes The complete Scrap Specification Circular can be found on the ISRI website in the commodities section of their Program & Services. It is reviewed on a regular basis and also includes specifications for glass, plastic, paper, tire, and electronic scrap. The website address is For those fully engaged in the scrap metal business, the ISRI scrap metal specifications provide the means to upgrade their material to the point where it is saleable by specific grade.

In fact, we have used some of these descriptions on our website in the Materials We Buy section for this very reason i.e. to allow our customers to upgrade their material and thereby increase its value. Anything we can do to inform customers about how they can improve their return is part of what we do. It is better for them and it is better for us too as it reduces the time and cost involved in handling, sorting, grading, and processing material. It’s all in aid of returning the benefit to those who want to take their material to the next level. scrap yard in Mississauga