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The History of Wrought Iron Doors

blacksmith working hot metal with a hammer and anvil

How much do you know about the humble door? While our wrought iron front doors are definitely things of beauty and strength, there’s even more to them than meets the eye. Behind each of them is a fascinating history that reaches back thousands of years, beginning with the discovery of one of our planet’s most versatile materials.

Believe it or not, the story of our doors begins in outer space …

The Dawn of the Iron Age

It seems obvious that the first forging of iron came about in the Iron Age, but that’s not quite true! Although the Iron Age—which, at the earliest, started around 3,200 years ago—did first figure out how to extract usable iron from iron ore, nature had provided earlier humans with a form that was already ready to go: meteorites.

Iron ore contains large percentages of carbon, which normally need to be reduced through various means before it becomes the strong and durable material we love. The iron in meteorites, though, is purified as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, thanks to the intense heat and pressure. This made meteorite iron rare but incredibly valuable in ancient times. Tutankhamun even used meteorite iron for his own dagger!

The Incredible, Versatile Wrought Iron

As the centuries rolled by, smelting and purification methods got better and better, until a very high purity of iron was reached, containing almost no carbon at all. This came to be known as wrought iron, meaning “worked” iron, because it was hammered into shape instead of poured into a mold.

At this purity, iron is incredibly malleable and tough and will take incredible amounts of strain without breaking. Early ironsmiths instantly found a number of uses for this wonder metal and, up until the 20th century, wrought iron has been used in such applications as:

  • Swords, axes, and spears
  • Hammers and nails
  • Warships
  • Railways
  • Cutlery
  • Construction (including the Eiffel Tower!)
  • Horseshoes
  • Pipes
  • Railings

And, of course, doors!

The Security and Beauty of Iron Doors

The idea for making doors out of iron seems to have come out of the early Middle Ages— around the 9th and 10th century. With all the invading and the empire-building going on at that time, people quickly realized that wood was simply not good enough, and they started fortifying existing structures with the best material they could find.

A little while later, around the 12th century, churches and cathedrals across Europe also began to adopt wrought iron for their own iron front doors. These were less for security and more for beauty, featuring elaborate and intricate metalwork that can still be seen today across France, Italy, and England.

European Style Comes to America

Interestingly, gold, silver, and copper were more frequently used in pre-Columbian America, mostly due to their availability and ease of use. However, in the 16th and 17th centuries, French settlers also brought with them the smelters, patterns, and wrought iron “look” that still defines many of our striking modern doors. In fact, if you go for a walk in New Orleans today, you’ll still be able to find some wonderful early examples of wrought iron French doors!

wooden door and hinge

Today’s Wrought Iron

These days, most of what’s called wrought iron is mild steel, an alloy of iron and carbon. That’s not to say it’s lower quality! Iron exterior doors made of mild steel are simply more affordable to produce. At the same time, mild steel can be shaped in the same way, is just as strong, and can be coated (galvanized) to protect it from rust.

Purchase Your Own Piece of History

The history of the wrought iron door has never ended. Every single door we make continues this rich tradition of style, beauty, and craftsmanship, all while modernizing the materials and strength for today’s security needs.

Let your home be part of this journey and own a piece of history today. Browse our range of wrought iron doors and discover how this classic look can enhance your home forever!

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