"The Romans' name for lead was 'plumbum' and the artificers who worked in this metal were called 'plumbarii'; some Roman plumbers were women, so perhaps the term 'plumber's mate' had an even more appropriate meaning than it has today.
A property which makes lead easy to work is its low melting point (327 degrees C.). Molten lead can be cast into shapes from Buddhas to bullets, and its ease of casting is one of the reasons why lead has for centuries been associated with the manufacture of printers' type metal; for example, this book has been printed using an alloy containing 74 per cent lead, 16 per cent antimony, and 10 per cent tin.
The combination of weakness and ease of melting made the ancients regard lead as the least noble of metals, and it will be remembered that in The Merchant of Venice the casket chosen by Bassanio was of 'base' lead."
Metals in the Service of Man W. Alexander and A. Street