Is it Magnetic? A guide to magnetic materials

Materials that are magnetic are always metal, however, not all metals are magnetic. In this guide, you’re going to learn what magnetism is, which metals are magnetic and which magnets are the strongest kind of magnets you can buy. 

What is magnetism? 

In simple terms, magnetism is the force that you can feel from magnets when they attract or repel each other. This seemingly magical force baffled scientists for centuries until it was discovered that magnetism is caused by the motion of electrical charges of electrons. Everything around us, except energy, is made from atoms and each atom has electrons and particles that carry electrical charges. These are like spinning tops and their movement generates electrical currents that cause each electron to act and behave like a tiny magnet. The accumulation of millions of these “tiny magnets” amplifies the force which is why magnets attract and repel from one another. 


Is Aluminium Magnetic? ❌

Short answer, no – Aluminium is not magnetic. It does, however, interact with magnetism as it’s referred to as a paramagnetic material. Paramagnetic materials, (such as aluminium, platinum, copper, lithium etc) interact with magnetism which can be observed when dropping a strong magnet down a copper or aluminium pipe. The interaction between the magnet and the paramagnetic material slows the magnet down, creating resistance against gravity. 


Is Copper Magnetic? ❌

Copper is not magnetic. In fact, it’s actually diamagnetic which means it repels from magnets rather than attracts to them. Some copper coins are magnetic, not because of their copper contents, but because they have deposits of ferromagnetic materials such as iron and nickel in them. 


Is Gold Magnetic? ❌

Gold is not magnetic. If you hold a strong magnet next to pure gold, you will not see any magnetic attraction between the two elements. Despite this, researchers from Tokohu University discovered that gold can be magnetised by applying heat. Don’t expect to pull this off though, the team of scientists had very precise equipment to achieve this. 


Is Iron Magnetic? ✔️

Iron is a ferromagnetic material which means it will attract strong magnets. This means that any metals that contain iron will be ferromagnetic, however, how magnetic they are is entirely dependent on the content levels of iron. 


Is Steel Magnetic? ✔️

Steel is made by adding iron to carbon which hardens the metal. Iron is a ferrous metal which means it is magnetic. Steel is different to stainless steel and most stainless steels are not magnetic. 


Is Stainless Steel Magnetic? and ✔️

There are many types of stainless steel, some are magnetic and others aren’t. The types of stainless steel that aren’t magnetic are austenitic stainless steels like 200 or 300 series (e.g 304, 316). 

The types of stainless steel that magnetic are: 

  • Ferritic Stainless Steels (grades 409, 430 and 439) 
  • Duplex Stainless Steel (e.g grade 2205) 
  • Martensitic Stainless Steel (e.g. grades 410, 420 and 440) 
  • Carbon Steel / Tool Steel / Alloy Steel 


Is Nickel Magnetic? ✔️

The element Nickel is one of few ferromagnetic materials and will strongly magnetise towards magnets. In fact, Nickel is widely used to coat Neodymium magnets due to its resistance to corrosion. 


Is Cobalt Magnetic? ✔️

Cobalt is a ferromagnetic metal which means it is magnetic and strongly magnetises against magnets. Cobalt is actually alloyed with aluminium and nickel to make very powerful magnets. 


Is Silver Magnetic?

Silver is not a ferrous metal which means it is not magnetic. If a magnet attracts your silver jewellery, it is likely fake silver plated and has a ferromagnetic core made up of other cheaper metals.


What is the strongest magnet? 

There are different kinds of magnets, all of which have different properties. But which is the strongest type of magnet? Ferrite magnets are the ones most people are familiar with because most fridge magnets are made from this material. Other magnets include samarium cobalt, alnico, and ceramic magnets, however, neodymium magnets are the most powerful magnets currently available.