Mithral

Mithral is a very rare silvery, glistening metal that is lighter than steel but just as hard.

Mithril was a precious silvery metal, very lightweight but capable of providing extreme strength in alloys, which was mined by the Dwarves in the mines of Khazad-dûm. The name mithril came from two words in Sindarin—mith, meaning "grey", and ril meaning "glitter". Mithril was also called "true-silver" by Men, while the Dwarves had their own, secret name for it.

When worked like steel, it becomes a wonderful material from which to create armor, and is occasionally used for other items as well. Most mithral armors are one category lighter than normal for purposes of movement and other limitations. Heavy armors are treated as medium, and medium armors are treated as light, but light armors are still treated as light. This decrease does not apply to proficiency in wearing the armor. A character wearing mithral full plate must be proficient in wearing heavy armor to avoid adding the armor's check penalty to all his attack rolls and skill checks that involve moving. Spell failure chances for armors and shields made from mithral are decreased by 10%, maximum Dexterity bonuses are increased by 2, and armor check penalties are decreased by 3 (to a minimum of 0).

Mithril in its pure form was apparently rather soft and malleable. It could be used for various alloys to produce extremely lightweight, hard and durable armour but it was also a component of ithildin. The Elves loved it for its beauty and presumably used it for jewelry and attire rather than weapons or armour.

Mithril was extremely rare by the end of the Third Age, as it was found only in Khazad-dûm. Once the Balrog known as Durin's Bane destroyed the kingdom of the Dwarves at Khazad-dûm, Middle-earth's only source of new mithril ore was cut off. Before Moria was abandoned by the Dwarves mithril was worth ten times its own weight in gold. After the Dwarves abandoned Moria and production of new mithril ore stopped entirely, it became priceless. The only way to obtain a mithril-object at the end of the Third Age was to either use heirloom mithril weapons and armour that were produced before the fall of Moria, or to melt down these existing weapons to forge new ones. The Ñoldor of Eregion made an alloy out of it called ithildin ("star moon"), which was used to decorate gateways and portals. It is visible only by starlight or moonlight. The West Gate of Moria bore inlaid ithildin designs and runes.

While Moria is the only known source of mithril, there are inconclusive indications that it may also have been found in Númenor and in Aman in smaller quantities.

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