Orichalcum (the Latin word for "bronze") is an orange-golden arcane alloy, which can only be manufactured with the means of Alchemy. The very existence of Orichalcum is a metallurgical nightmare, as it cannot exist without the presence of magic. It is believed by some magical authorities in studying ancient legends that the inhabitants of Atlantis discovered orichalcum.
Orichalcum is very valuable—a single gram was once worth 88,000 nuyen, although increased supply and deflation of the nuyen has brought this value down to 50,000 nuyen—and both the raw materials and the production process are time-consuming and expensive. Orichalcum is needed in particular for the production of many magical foci and telesma.
One unit (10 grams) each of radical copper, radical gold, radical mercury, and radical silver are combined through a 28-day circulation. The enchanter must tend the process throughout, making multiple adjustments every day. A successful process yields one to eight units (10 grams each) of orichalcum, while failure still consumes the ingredients but produces alchemical slag of no value.
Although there have been many rumors for years of "natural orichalcum" deposits (particularly in the region of Snowdonia), orichalcum did not exist in nature until the passing of Halley's Comet. During 2061, several veins of orichalcum suddenly started appearing in select locations around the world (including Antarctica and the Moon), causing a chaotic and massive "Orichalcum Rush" by both independent prospectors and major corporations. These natural orichalcum veins dried up and disappeared after 2062, although several prospectors remain hopeful that they will return upon another increase in the mana cycle.
Natural orichalcum in general is less refined and less potent than manufactured orichalcum due to impurities in the orichalcum ore. Some elements of natural orichalcum, however, have been found to provide unusual and unique magical properties to certain telesma.