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Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and is yellowish in colour. It used to be made by melting copper in contact with the zinc carbonate, calamine (ZnCO3), under charcoal in a crucible.
Since the Middle Ages, brass has been a popular choice for household wares. Highly durable and resistant to tarnishing, brass is ideal for furniture handles, knobs, hinges, inlay and fasteners; also used to construct headboards and footboards. Small holes are the result of over polishing with polishes containing anhydrous chemicals and these holes will lower the value of the item.
Early brasses contained 70-90% copper and 10-30% zinc. The colour of brass changes with increasing zinc content from a rich copper-red through to pale yellow to white as the zinc increases. Gilding metal containing 10-15% zinc is suitable for cold working. It is used for ornamental work and jewellery. Red brass contains 30% zinc and 70% copper and has good working properties. The common form of brass is 60% copper, 40% zinc and is known as yellow brass or Muntz metal. In Europe from about 1750 it was made by melting the two metals together (Direct process).