Lead was probably one of the first metals to be produced by man, being known since 3500 B.C., in agreement with archaeological discoveries done in Egypt. The oldest lead piece is in the British Museum and dates from 3800 A.D..

The manner in which prehistoric people extracted lead from its minerals is not well-known. However, there are vestiges of very rudimentary furnaces, done of stone, where these people heated up the lead minerals with bonfires (that burned wood and coal) to extract the element.

There is also evidence that the Chinese already produced metallic lead about 3000 B.C., and that Phoenicians had explorations close to deposits in Spain, in 2000 A.C.. In the 5th century B.C. the Romans made an extensive exploration of lead deposits in the whole Iberian Peninsula.

In the period 700 A.D. to 1000 A.D. the German mines of lead and silver, in the Rhine valley and in the Hartz mountains, were very important, just as those of Saxony, Silesia and Bohemia in the 13th century.

In the 17th century, the lead foundries flourished in Great-Britain, specially those located in Wales and Derbyshire.