At AboutMechanics, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
The term “ironmonger” is used both in the traditional sense to refer to someone who works with metals, especially iron, and in a more modern sense to refer to a retailer who stocks hardware. Because most iron products are manufactured on an industrial level today, it is rare to find a traditional ironmonger who forges and sells such goods, and the term is more commonly used in reference to the proprietor of a hardware store.
The suffix “monger” is derived from a Latin word meaning “dealer or trader,” and it can be seen in similar word constructions, such as “fishmonger” for someone who sells fish. Many of the words which include this suffix sound archaic, and their usage is in decline. In fact, the suffix has acquired pejorative overtones, as in “fear monger” for someone who deals in and trades on fear.
Humans have been working with iron for thousands of years. This metal has a variety of uses, including weapons, construction hardware, and cooking utensils. Historically, iron goods were fabricated by hand by skilled metalworkers who could design pieces for custom use, or manufacture generic products for sale. The ironmonger could potentially hold a very high social status in a community, because iron goods were so critical.
Over time, the production of metal goods began to shift to more industrial applications. As a result, the working ironmonger began to be a more rare figure, with people purchasing domestic goods made from iron from retailers and factories which produced them. As a result, people started using the term “ironmonger” to talk about someone who only sold iron goods, rather than someone who made and sold them.
Ironmongers can stock things like hardware and cooking supplies, and some work as tinkers as well, selling and repairing metal goods. These salespeople typically work with many metals, not just iron, and their work today has expanded to include other materials such as plastics. A hardware merchant usually stocks a range of products for consumers, and has the capability to order pieces as needed for specific uses.
In the late 20th century, a resurgence in interest in traditional metalwork began to emerge, and as a result, ironmongery experienced a renaissance. While there are far fewer working ironmongers than there used to be, these professionals can do things like hand fabricating metal components for new construction or matching existing samples of metalwork for the purpose of restoration. These professionals also work in the film and television industry, fabricating props and components of sets.