Wrought iron lies somewhere between pure iron and steel, falling a bit closer to pure iron, which it was once termed. It has a low carbon content, while pure iron requires a carbon content below 0.008% by weight. Steel, on the other hand, typically has a high carbon content. Some grades of steel, such as stainless steel found in household cutlery, for example, have a very high carbon content. This is quite different from the likes of stainless steel. In addition to a low carbon content, it also has impurities, fibrous inclusions called slag. This is what gives wrought iron its grainy, almost wood like appearance.
Wrought iron is extremely malleable and ductile, which means it can be worked, or wrought, easily. It is also very strong and extremely durable. There are still plenty of examples of Victorian iron workings in most of the major cities to be seen. They have endured for over 100 years and will most likely endure for much longer too. This is the material that the ideal iron garden gate is made of.
Unfortunately, most of today's wrought iron items only lend their name to a the appearance, and the actual material used is mild steel. This is also a relatively low carbon substance, as steel goes, which makes it comparatively malleable and ductile. It also has strength and durability, and will enjoy a long life if looked after properly. Mild steel is particularly good at being wrought into decorative shapes of twirls, twists and majestic sweeping scrolls. After all, it is the effect that most people seek, and the actual material used is usually not important.
Wrought iron is a material we almost associate with Victorian times, a time when beautiful and intricate wrought iron designs were displayed on interior railway station roofs and other large public places. Wrought iron suggests quality and taste, wildly flowing lines that follow a strict pattern of beauty and almost hypnotic satisfaction. Wrought iron garden gates are for those who have a vivid imagination, and who truly appreciate designs that add a kind of abandoned flourish.
It has to be said, though, that most wrought iron products available today are actually made from mild steel. True wrought iron is actually a low carbon iron alloy. It also has a degree of slag inclusion, which gives it its grainy appearance that can resemble wood grain when stressed. It's an extremely malleable and ductile form of iron that was commonly used prior to the development of steel making. Today, wrought iron products retain the "wrought" part, meaning worked, as it has come to mean delicate and intricately worked scrolls, sweeps and flourishes that can add a degree of class and quality to something as ordinary and mundane as a garden gate.
Wrought iron garden gates are available in a variety of standard styles. There are several flat top designs that lack the expected sweeping designs. They tend to be more angular and functional, and less exciting in design, though of course they do offer a rugged and durable design that will last through the years. There are several arched top designs available in garden gates. These can have intricate scrolled designs, or they can be more plain with circular motifs. The bow top design is a variation on the arched top. It has flat parts on either side with a bow, or arch, in the middle.