The most unusual uses of steel

Did you know that there are over 3,500 different grades of steel? According to the World Steel Association, each of them has unique physical, chemical, and environmental properties. It is not surprising that steel is one of the most popular and recycled materials on our planet. There are some uses of steel, however, that can be a real surprise even for industry specialists.

The chemistry of the unbreakable

There are four main types of steel: carbon steel (mild steels contain up to 0.3% carbon, medium carbon steels 0.3-0.6% carbon, and high carbon steels more than 0.6% carbon); alloy steels (with added elements such as nickel, titanium, aluminium etc. to manipulate steel’s properties); stainless steel, which contains 10-20% chromium; and tool steels containing tungsten, molybdenum, cobalt, or vanadium.

Stainless steel, with its chrome addition, is tough, long lasting, and easy to clean – this is what makes it the metal of choice in the food industry.

Steel can be also strengthened by galvanisation. Galvanised steel, with its protective layer of zinc oxide, is a great choice both for indoor and outdoor use. Galvanised steel is made to withstand the most extreme weather conditions, and lasts for a very long time.

Read more about galvanized steel.

Weathered steel, corten, on the other hand, amazes with its recognizable orange hue – and is one of the most durable metals on the market.

Through its various forms and alloys, steel offers properties that meet the needs of many businesses. From construction to transport, from energy to packaging, this strong and relatively cheap metal is used in almost every industry. However, steel can surprise even the specialists.  Here are some very unusual applications of steel.

Steel shoes

Printed in 3D from stainless steel, these unusual shoes are the project of famous fashion designer Naim Josefi. The shoes have been 3D-printed using layers and layers of metal powder. The effect? An incredibly original, architecture-inspired pair of shoes every fashionista would be proud of. What is more, these shoes are 100% recyclable and definitely last more than one season!

Photos: Naim Josefi’s website

Repairing broken bones

Because stainless steel is antiseptic, it is used in many areas of medicine – including mending together broken bones or joints. Stainless steel screws and pins have helped thousands of people recover from serious injuries.

Metal orbit dress

Lady Gaga’s metal orbit costume which she wore on Saturday Night Live was designed by Nasir Mazhar. Metal orbits encircled her body, creating an unusual cosmic gown – very Lady Gaga’s style! She also wore a futuristic metal orbit hat on US chat show Ellen.

“Women of Steel” collection from Stockholm Fashion Week

Naim Josefi has not rested on his laurels in experimenting with steel. Last year, he presented his original concept “Women of Steel” – dresses made with high-quality strip steel. They reflect light beautifully, and create futuristic, yet sophisticated outfits. In an interview, Josefi said about working with steel: “It is an extreme challenge. I am a constant innovator and to succeed with innovation within fashion is a fantastic satisfaction – it’s like an accelerating feeling in my whole body.” The project was challenging for the designer: “The difficulties were in cutting the perfect sizes because the steel I used is very thin- 0.022 mm (1/4 of a human hair) and I needed more than 100,000 pieces. This is my most ambitious high-tech project so far. The dress is made of more than 18,000 pieces of steel sequins in different shades. Every sequin of steel is stitched by hand on a silk fabric.”

The Oscar stars loved it – the steel design of Naim Josefi was the red-carpet choice of Bahar Pars, lead actress of the Oscar-nominated film “A Man Called Ove”.


Back in the old days, mirrors were made of silver. With the progress of technology, a thin silver coating on a piece of glass were discovered to be just as good as polished metal. Stainless steel is still used in this process, and older cars often have mirrors made entirely of steel.

Are you looking for more steel inspiration? Follow us on Pinterest and discover much more!