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What Type of Metal Is a Paper Clip?

Paperclips are all around us.
paperclip image by AGphotographer from Fotolia.com

You see paperclips every day in the office and around the house. You're so accustomed to their presence that you may have never stopped to ask, "What metal are they made of?" The most common paperclips are usually made of one of three materials, and only two of those materials are metal: steel and metal alloys. Plastic is the other most common paperclip material.


Galvanized steel wire is the most common paperclip material. This material doesn't rust, and the thickness of the wire promotes sturdy shapes. A paperclip machine forms the wire into the three-bend paperclip design known as the Gem shape. Some steel paperclips are coated in plastic for colorful design purposes.

Metal Alloys

Metal alloys, such as copper, brass and bronze, are softer than steel but are still capable of being ideal paperclips. Most likely, a metal alloy paperclip will be coated in plastic.


Plastic is melted down and formed into the common oval-within-oval paperclip shape. Although colorful, plastic is not as sturdy as metal, and entirely plastic paperclips aren't as common in the workplace as metal paperclips. As noted, some metal paperclips are coated with plastic.

Fun Fact

The world's largest paperclip is said to weigh about 4,000 lb. because it is made of solid steel.


The three-bend paperclip design wasn't patented during its introduction into society in the 19th century. It took many years before it was patented along with the machine that creates the design.


The galvanized steel used to make paperclips does not rust like other types of steel. Using galvanized steel paperclips keeps papers clear of rust.

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