Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc of historical and enduring importance because of its hardness and workability.
The melting point of brass varies depending on the ratio of the alloy components and is from 900 to 940 °C (1,650 to 1,720 °F)
By varying the proportions of copper and zinc, the properties of the brass can be changed, allowing hard and soft brasses.
Brasses with a higher copper content can be easily cold worked, welded, rolled, drawn, bent, or brazed.
To enhance the machinability of brass, lead is often added in concentrations of around 2%.
Brass has good heat and electrical conductivity and is spark resistant. It also has relatively good resistance to corrosion and attractive appearance.
Brass is used for decoration for its bright gold-like appearance.
Its malleability and acoustic properties have made it the metal of choice for brass musical instruments such as the trombone, tuba, trumpet, euphonium, horns, cymbals, gongs and orchestral (tubular) bells.
It is also used for locks, gears, bearings, doorknobs, ammunition casings, valves, zippers, plumbing and electrical applications.
Brass is often used in situations in which it is important that sparks not be struck, such as in fittings and tools used near flammable or explosive materials.
The earliest brass, called calamine brass, dates to Neolithic times; it was probably made by reduction of mixtures of zinc ores and copper ores.
In ancient documents, such as the Bible, the term brass is often used to denote bronze, the alloy of copper with tin.
The ancient Romans used brass primarily in vessels, dress armour, jewelry, and brooches or clasps.
Brass production declined after Rome withdrew from northern Europe but resumed by the 7th–8th centuries AD. More malleable than bronze, brass was used to make ewers and basins, lamps, bowls, jugs, and numerous other household items.
From the 13th to the 17th century in Europe, monumental brasses were used to commemorate the dead. Engraved brass plates, depicting the deceased, were set into the surface of the tomb and often were embellished with inscriptions, heraldic devices, and other designs appropriate to the individual’s life and circumstances.
In the 16th century, before the silver and gold of the Americas supplanted brass as a decorative metal, it found other uses in the manufacture of utilitarian household wares and chandeliers, candlesticks, sundials, and clocks. In addition, brass became a major material for the manufacture of fine instruments for astronomy, surveying, navigation, and other scientific pursuits.
Today, almost 90% of all brass alloys are recycled. Brass scrap is collected and transported to the foundry where it is melted and recast into billets. Billets are later heated up and extruded into the right form and size.
A brass band is a musical ensemble generally consisting entirely of brass instruments, most often with a percussion section.
Brass rubbing was originally a largely British enthusiasm for reproducing onto paper monumental brasses – commemorative brass plaques found in churches, usually originally on the floor, from between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. The concept of recording textures of things is more generally called making a rubbing.