Initially, the ore was smelted directly at the site in bloomeries. These consisted of clay and iron and reached temperatures of up to 1,300 °C. However, this was not sufficient to obtain pure iron. Unwanted elements were therefore removed from the material by heating and hammering (forging). Wrought iron was very pure and contained hardly any carbon (<0.08 %). Therefore, it could not be hardened by heat treatments. The first wrought iron was created around 1,500 BC with the help of so-called low furnaces. The blast furnace was invented in China about 1,000 years later.

In the Roman Empire, metalworking played a major role in the military as well as in crafts, agriculture and construction. Precious metals and copper were used in Roman coinage. Precise medical instruments were also made of metal at that time, for example, forceps for pulling teeth or star needles for the treatment of cataracts. Iron and bronze were the most important raw materials for the military. The former was used to make swords, for example, while the latter was used to make helmets, breastplates, and greaves.

At a time when the first farmers were just settling in Central Europe and were firing clay pots, craftsmen in ancient Egypt were already joining jewelry made of gold and copper by spot heating. Soldering is considered the first method for thermally joining two metal parts. As early as around 2700 B.C., the Egyptians joined copper pipes for the urban water supply with the aid of fire welding. This technology can also be found on agricultural equipment, art objects, and weapons over a period of several thousand years.

Ancient blast furnace