Aluminum is too reactive to be found in nature. It wasn’t purified until the 1800’s and then it was so hard to get pure that it was valued as a precious metal much like silver and gold. Only within the last 100 years has aluminum been able to be produced in mass at a low cost.

Iron on the other hand is abundant and not nearly as reactive. Indeed people have been able to refine iron for thousands of years.

Iron is lower on the reactivity series than aluminum and can be displaced from its ore by heating it and adding carbon. Aluminium needs electricity to extract it in big amounts so it was only after electricity was discovered that we could get lots aluminum.

Iron ore is found in Europe and is also quite straight forward to extract the metal using rudimentary processes. The use of metals were generally first used in Europe.

Aluminium is found mostly outside Europe and the extraction process is very complex and requires huge amounts of heat energy (usually supplied using electricity) that early man just couldn’t make at the temperatures and timescales required.

In the 1800’s aluminum was more expensive then gold was because of the difficulties in obtaining it. It exists in nature as a compound and is not found in a natural state. The earlies metals such as Iron can be found in lumps of meteorites and deposits, usually heavily oxidized, but easily smelted in fires.
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