Decorative bolt made in solid brass designed by HerBron.
A decorative brass paperweight, left, along with zinc and copper samples.

Brass is any alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties. In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin. Despite this distinction, some types of brasses are called bronzes. Brass is a substitutional alloy. It is used for decoration for its bright gold-like appearance; for applications where low friction is required such as locks, gears, bearings, doorknobs, ammunition, and valves; for plumbing and electrical applications; and extensively in musical instruments such as horns and bells for its acoustic properties. It is also used in zippers.

Brass has a muted yellow color, somewhat similar to gold. It is relatively resistant to tarnishing, and is often used as decoration and for coins. In antiquity, polished brass was often used as a mirror.

Brass has likely been known to humans since prehistoric times, even before zinc itself was discovered. It was produced by melting copper together with calamine, a zinc ore. In the German village of Breinigerberg, an ancient Roman settlement was discovered where a calamine ore mine existed. During the melting process, the zinc is extracted from the calamine and mixes with the copper. Pure zinc, on the other hand, has too low a boiling point to have been produced by ancient metalworking techniques. The many references to 'brass' appearing throughout the King James Bible are thought to signify another bronze alloy, or copper, rather than the strict modern definition of 'brass'.

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