Mithril is a special Dwarvish precious metal of incomparable quality that cannot be mined by Prospectors like other metals. It is mined by the Dwarves in secret, and sometimes stolen from them by enemies; kill one of these thieves and you may recover a flake.
Flakes of mithril can be used in many ways. They can be
- added to gold for crafting delicate items, like jewellery
- mixed with high quality gold, steel, leather, or wood to make items requiring strength, such as armour and weapons
- woven into clothing items by a Tailor
- used by a Scholar to illuminate rare manuscripts
Mithril is combined by the Sindarin words "mith" ("grey" or "mist") and "ril" ("glitter") and is described as "silver-steel", a silver-glittering metal strong as titanium while light as aluminium (or even lighter), and with characteristics of elemental. Its lustre never grew dim and of it Elves could make ithildin ("starmoon"), a delicate alloy which became visible only in star- and moon-light.
In the Third Age, mithril was found only in Khazad-dûm and those days "its worth was ten times that of gold" (according to Gandalf). However, after a Balrog drove away the dwarves from Moria mithril became very rare and priceless.
One of the most renowned items made my mithril is the "small coat of mail" found during the quest of Erebor:
- "(Gandalf:) 'Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him. I wonder what has become of it? Gathering dust still in Michel Delving Mathom-house, I suppose.'
- "'What?' cried Gimli, startled out of his silence. 'A corslet of Moria-silver? That was a kingly gift!'
- "'Yes,' said Gandalf. 'I never told him, but its worth was greater than the value of the whole Shire and everything in it.'
- "Frodo said nothing, but he put his hand under his tunic and touched the rings of his mail-shirt. (...)"