Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content, in comparison to steel, and has fibrous inclusions, known as slag. This is what gives it a "grain" resembling wood, which is visible when it is etched or bent to the point of failure. Wrought iron is tough, malleable, ductile and easily welded. Historically, it was known as "commercially pure iron", however it no longer qualifies because current standards for commercially pure iron require a carbon content of less than 0.008 wt%.
Before the development of effective methods of steelmaking and the availability of large quantities of steel, wrought iron was the most common form of malleable iron. A modest amount of wrought iron was used as a raw material for manufacturing of steel, which was mainly to produce swords, cutlery and other blades. Demand for wrought iron reached its peak in the 1860s with the adaptation of ironclad warships and railways, but then declined as mild steel became more available.
Before they came to be made of mild steel, items produced from wrought iron included rivets, nails, wire, chains, railway couplings, water and steam pipes, nuts, bolts, horseshoes, handrails, straps for timber roof trusses, and ornamental ironwork.
Wrought iron is no longer produced on a commercial scale. Many products described as wrought iron, such as guard rails, garden furniture and gates, are made of mild steel. They retain that description because they are wrought (worked) by hand. True wrought iron is required for the authentic conservation of historic structures.