Malleability refers to a metal’s capacity to deform when pressure is applied. To be more specific, it refers to a particular metal’s ability to be hammered, pressed, or rolled into thin sheets without breaking. Gold is considered to be the most malleable of all metals. Other malleable metals, arranged from high to low, are as follows: silver, lead, copper (and its variants brass and bronze), aluminum, tin, platinum, zinc, iron, and nickel.
How is malleability determined?
A metal’s malleability is determined by measuring how much pressure it can withstand without breaking. The difference in malleability among metals is because of the variances in their atomic structures. When pressure is applied to a metal, their atoms tend to roll over each other and settle into their new positions without breaking their bond. Depending on the amount of pressure applied, these new positions can be permanent or temporary. That’s why you can see bronze sheets return to their flat position when folded lightly, and become permanently folded when too much pressure is applied.
Temperature often has a direct effect on the behavior of a metal’s atomic structure, that’s why in most metals, heat makes them softer and more malleable. Alloying, or mixing complementary metals together, is another way to enhance a metal’s malleability.