Although it has historically been the preferred method of testing method, destructive testing has also been largely the only way to gain accurate results.

With the technological advances, non-destructive testing methods are proving to be accurate, efficient and includes the current common metal identification methods.

History of Metal Testing

Destructive metal testing has been around for nearly as long as humans have been able to mix different types of metals.

When broken down, you can examine the makeup and compare it to that of other known substances to determine the composition of a particular item. However, a portion of the item used is destroyed in the process.

Even for industries like construction and manufacturing where there are large amounts of metal scrap left over, this method is a waste of resources and budget because the sample must be destroyed and cannot be sold or recycled.

Because it was an obvious way of testing metal, the history of destructive metal testing is largely unknown. It was simply common sense that if you want to find out what something is made from, you need to break it down to find out.

By comparison, non-destructive methods had a very interesting beginning.

Legend has it that the ancient Greek King Hiero II (also known as the Greek Sicilian Tyrant of Syracuse) tasked Archimedes with discovering whether his crown was pure gold or if the blacksmith cheated him and mixing the gold with another substance. This led to Archimedes’ “Eureka” moment buy using the principle of displacement to prove that the crown wasn’t pure gold.

Over the years, new processes have been developed to examine items without destroying them including Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES).

Non-destructive Testing

With a wide range of methods, there is a way to test nearly any kind of metal in an unobtrusive and non-destructive way. Optical Emission Spectroscopy is a method of Positive material identification, or PMI, testing that provides a way of analyzing metal without destroying the item being tested.

Pros of Non-Destructive

The biggest benefit of non-destructive testing is that you still have the item intact and undamaged at the end of testing.
Science increasingly makes it easier to conduct these kinds of tests with reliable results.
Advantageous when items that are few or one of a kind, non-destructive testing is really the only option to preserve the object.

Cons of Non-destructive Testing

Not everyone can reliably perform non-destructive testing.  For the most reliable results, high tech tools must be used and requires a professionally trained expert to operate and conduct the testing.

Though many of the methods are increasingly financially accessible, non-destructive testing typically costs more than destructive methods when looking at expense alone. However, the accuracy and reliability of the results are roughly the same and it saves you from having to throw away a sample once you are through testing.

Destructive Testing

As the more reliable method over the millennia, it has been used more often. The experts are well versed and their results easy to verify.

Technology has also made it so that the molecular level is easier to see and analyze. You don’t always need high tech tools to conduct these tests either.

Pros of Destructive Testing

Destructive testing has been around longer.
It allows you to look at the items on a molecular level to determine the exact makeup of an object.
There are a number of methods that produce different types of stress on the metal for comparison to known reactions of the different types of metal.

Destructive methods are typically used to determine the physical properties of a particular product that is going to be mass produced. This ensures that you know how durable an item is before it reaches the market.

Cons of Destructive Testing

The biggest disadvantage of using a destructive method is that it will destroy at least a part of the item you want to check. Much like Hiero II, many companies want another method of testing that won’t result in damage or completely ruining an item.

Ultimately, this method is really only good companies with large quantities and can afford to intentionally waste resources just to verify the composition.


With many different options for testing the makeup of a material, you want to consult with an expert on the best way to determine the composition of metal before moving forward with a project.

Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) is one of the most reliable non-destructive methods available, giving you a way to feel confident in the analysis without harming the product.

From 1 to 20,000 or more pieces, we have metal testing that will fit your need.


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