You’ve no doubt heard the saying that two heads are better than one. When it comes to metal chemistry, that axiom rings very true as well. By mixing two metallic materials, people can create an alloy, a material that is truly better than the individual components that make it up.
One of the most common alloys used today is brass, which is made by mixing copper and zinc, and is used for a variety of things, including brass square tubes for architectural details. While its uses may seem mundane, this alloy actually has a very interesting history. Below, you’ll some amusing factoids about this versatile metal:
Mixing copper with tin creates another alloy: bronze. However, tin and zinc ores are often found together and they even share the same color. Hence, our ancestors may very well have created brass accidentally--they thought they were adding tin to copper when they were actually adding zinc!
A Belated Discovery
While Germany became a brass metalworking hub right around 300 AD, it wasn’t until 1746 that German scientist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf identified the chemical properties of zinc, the major additive of brass alloys.
Not All Yellow
Given its lustrous yellow color, brass is often likened to gold. However, this alloy doesn’t just come in yellow hues. By changing the amount of zinc you add to the mix, you can create different shades of color. For instance, adding just 15% zinc to the mixture will create brass that is reddish in color.
A Musical Metal
If you think brass is entirely utilitarian in usage, you better guess again. As it happens, brass is also often used in brass instruments. In fact, one the Black Dyke brand has been using brass instruments for about 160 years.
Hopefully, these tidbits of information have given you a renewed appreciation of this oft-overlooked but truly versatile alloy.