Of Raw Materials

210. Although the cost of any article may be reduced in its

ultimate analysis to the quantity of labour by which it was

produced; yet it is usual, in a certain state of the manufacture

of most substances, to call them by the term raw material. Thus

iron, when reduced from the ore and rendered malleable, is in a

state fitted for application to a multitude of useful purposes,

and is the raw material out of which most of
ur tools are made.

In this stage of its manufacture, but a moderate quantity of

labour has been expended on the substance; and it becomes an

interesting subject to trace the various proportions in which raw

material, in this sense of the term, and labour unite to

constitute the value of many of the productions of the arts.

211. Gold leaf consists of a portion of the metal beaten out

to so great a degree of thinness, as to allow a greenish-blue

light to be transmitted through its pores. About 400 square

inches of this are sold, in the form of a small book containing

25 leaves of gold, for 1s. 6d. In this case, the raw material, or

gold, is worth rather less than two-thirds of the manufactured

article. In the case of silver leaf, the labour considerably

exceeds the value of the material. A book of fifty leaves, which

would cover above 1000 square inches, is sold for 1s. 3d.

212. We may trace the relative influence of the two causes

above referred to, in the prices of fine gold chains made at

Venice. The sizes of these chains are known by numbers, the

smallest having been (in 1828) No. 1, and the numbers 2, 3, 4,

etc., progressively increasing in size. The following table shews

the numbers and the prices of those made at that time.(1*) The

first column gives the number by which the chain is known; the

second expresses the weight in grains of one inch in length of

each chain; the third column the number of links in the same

length; and the last expresses the price, in francs worth

tenpence each, of a Venetian braccio, or about two English feet

of each chain.

Venetian gold chains

Price of a Venetian

Braccio, equal to

Weight of Number of links two feet 1/8 inch

No. one inch, in grains in one inch English

0.44 98 to 100 60 francs

1.56 92 40

1 1/2.77 88 26

2.99 84 20

3 1.46 72 20

4 1.61 64 21

5 2.09 64 23

6 2.61 60 24

7 3.36 56 27

8 3.65 56 29

9 3.72 56 32

10 5.35 50 34

24 9.71 32 60

Amongst these chains, that numbered 0 and that numbered 24

are exactly of the same price, although the quantity of gold in

the latter is twenty-two times as much as in the former. The

difficulty of making the smallest chain is so great, that the

women who make it cannot work above two hours at a time. As we

advance from the smaller chain, the proportionate value of the

work to the worth of the material becomes less and less, until at

the numbers 2 and 3, these two elements of cost balance each

other: after which, the difficulty of the work decreases, and the

value of the material increases.

213. The quantity of labour expended on these chains is,

however, incomparably less than that which is applied in some of

the manufactures of iron. In the case of the smallest Venetian

chain the value of the labour is not above thirty times that of

the gold. The pendulum spring of a watch, which governs the

vibrations of the balance, costs at the retail price two pence,

and weighs fifteen one-hundredths of a grain, whilst the retail

price of a pound of the best iron, the raw material out of which

fifty thousand such springs are made, is exactly the same sum of

two pence.

214. The comparative price of labour and of raw material

entering into the manufactures of France, has been ascertained

with so much care, in a memoir of M. A. M. Heron de Villefosse,

Recherches statistiques, sur les Metaux de France.(2*) that we

shall give an abstract of his results reduced to English

measures. The facts respecting the metals relate to the year


In France the quantity of raw material which can be purchased

for L1, when manufactured into

Silk goods is worth L2.37

Broad cloth and woollens 2.15

Hemp and cables 3.94

Linen comprising thread laces 5.00

Cotton goods 2.44

The price of pig-lead was L1 1s. per cwt; and lead of the value

of L1 sterling, became worth, when manufactured into

Sheets or pipes of moderate dimensions L 1. 25

White lead 2.60

Ordinary printing characters 4.90

The smallest type 28.30

The price of copper was L5 2s. per cwt. Copper worth L1 became

when manufactured into

Copper sheeting L1.26

Household utensils 4.77

Common brass pins tinned 2.34

Rolled into plates covered with 1/20 silver 3.56

Woven into metallic cloth, each square inch of which contains

10,000 meshes 52.23

The price of tin was L4 12s. per cwt. Tin worth L1 when

manufactured into

Leaves for silvering glass became L1.73

Household utensils 1.85

Quicksilver cost L10 16s. per cwt. Quicksilver worth L1 when

manufactured into

Vermilion of average quality became L1.81

Metallic arsenic cost L1 4s. per cwt. Arsenic worth L1 when

manufactured into

White oxide of arsenic became L1.83

Sulphuret (orpiment) 4.26

The price of cast-iron was 8s. per cwt. Cast-iron worth L1

when manufactured into

Household utensils became L2.00

Machinery 4.00

Ornamental. as buckles. etc 45.00

Bracelets. figures, buttons. etc. 147.00

8ar-iron cost L1 6s. per cwt. Bar-iron worth L1 when

manufactured into

Agricultural instruments became L3.57

Barrels, musket 9. 10

Barrels of double-barrel guns. twisted and damasked 238.08

Blades of penknives 657.14

razor. cast steel 53.57 sabre, for cavalry. infantry, and

artillery. etc. from 9.25 to 16.07

of table knives 35.70

Buckles of polished steel, used as jewellery 896.66

Clothiers' pins 8.03

Door-latches and bolts from 4.85 to 8.50

Files, common 2.55 flat, cast steel 20.44

Horseshoes 2.55

Iron, small slit, for nails 1. 10

Metallic cloth, iron wire, No. 80 96.71

Needles of various sizes from 17.33 to 70.85

Reeds for weaving 3-4ths calico 21.87

Saws (frame) of steel 5. 12

for wood 14.28

Scissors, finest kind 446.94

Steel, cast 4.28

cast, in sheets 6.25

cemented 2.41

natural 1.42

Sword handles, polished steel 972.82

Tinned iron from 2.04 to 2.34

Wire, iron from 2. 14 to 10.71

215. The following is stated by M. de Villefosse to be the

price of bar-iron at the forges of various countries, in January,


per ton

L s. d.

France 26 10 0

Belgium and Germany 16 14 0

Sweden and Russia, at Stockholm and St Petersburg 13 13 0

England, at Cardiff 10 1 0

The price of the article in 1832 was 5 0 0

M. De Villefosse states, that in France bar-iron, made as it

usually is with charcoal, costs three times the price of the

cast-iron out of which it is made; whilst in England, where it is

usually made with coke, the cost is only twice the price of


216. The present price (1832) of lead in England is L13 per

ton, and the worth of L1 of it manufactured into

Milled sheet lead becomes Ll.08

The present price of cake copper is L84 per ton, and the

worth of L1 of it manufactured into

Sheet copper becomes L1.11


1. A still finer chain is now manufactured (1832).

2. Memoires de l'Institut. 1826