What Is Brass?

brass Credit: Malcolm Piers/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Brass is an alloy that is a mixture of the metals zinc and copper. Using brass makes sense for many manufacturers since it is durable and easily transformed into objects.

Brass has been used since ancient times. The Assyrians and Romans used the alloy. In the modern world, the durability and malleability of the metal alloy make it an attractive option for many applications. In the past, brass was forged to the point that it was shiny enough to be used as mirrors.

The composition of zinc and copper to form brass yields a bright, yellow substance. Changing the composition of zinc and copper produces brass of various strengths and colors. Brass that is primarily copper is made from electrically refined copper. Brass that is primarily zinc is made from a copper alloy.

Because the cost of copper is high, brass is made with heavy amounts of zinc and is a good substitute for a lot of copper applications. Identifying brass made primarily of zinc is easy. The objects have red tones instead of yellow.

Plumbers and electricians use brass as a substitute to save on the cost of pipes and fittings. Brass is also used in musical instruments, bullet casings and pipe fittings. The French horn is a perfect example that demonstrates the durability and malleability of brass.