History and Usage of Tin

Tin is a chemical element located in the period table. The symbol for Tin is Sn which is derived from Tin’s Latin name, stannum. The atomic number for Tin is 50. Tin is a soft, malleable metal that resists corrosion well and can be found in a number of alloys.


Tin is one of the earliest known metals, and has been used in the past as a component of bronze. As early as 3,500 BC, Tin was used in bronze implements because if its hardening effect on copper. The mining of Tin is believed to have begun around Classical times, in Cornwall and Devon. With the civilizations of the Mediterranean, a thriving Tin trade was allowed to develop. After 4000 years of Tin mining in Cornwall, the last Cornish Tin Mine was closed in 1998. Although the American Heritage Dictionary speculates that the word Tin was borrowed from a pre-Indo European language, no one is exactly sure where the word Tin originated.

The word Tin is often used improperly in modern times, as people often use it as a generic phrase for any sort of metal that is silver in color and available in thin sheets. Objects like tin foil and tin cans are actually made out of steel or aluminum, though there is a thin layer of tin in cans in an attempt to prevent rusting.


Because Tin bonds easily, it has been used to coat lead, zinc and steel in order to prevent corrosion. Containers fashioned from steel plated with Tin are used widely for preserving food, which forms a large part of the metallic tin market. This is why cans are often called ‘Tin cans’, even when created from steel. There is always at least a small amount of tin incorporated into the metal.

Other important tin alloys include bronze, Babbitt metal, die casting alloy, phosphor bronze, pewter, soft solder, bell metal and White metal. Many of the metal pipes found in a pipe organ are created with a tin and lead alloy. Spotted metal, used in the pipes, is created when a 50%/50% alloy cools, and a mottled or spotted effect is created when the lead cools slightly faster than the Tin. The amount of tin present in organ pipes can define the pipe tone, as Tin is one of the most tonally resonant of all metal types.

Glass for windows is made using what is often called the Pilkington process, and entails floating molten hot glass atop molten hot tin, creating what is known as float glass, in order to create a perfectly flat surface. Tin is also commonly used in solders, especially in joining pipes, electric circuits, bearing alloys, glass making, and a wide variety of other applications.