Brass is not a chemical element but an alloy of copper and zinc that has a yellow colouration. If the brass is quite yellow in colour, this will be because it has a high amount of zinc in it. Brass with less zinc will retain more features of copper and will be redder as a result.
Brass is sometimes confused with bronze – another copper-alloy – but instead of copper alloyed with zinc, bronze is a mixture of copper and tin.
The Bronze Age followed the Copper Age, but although bronze and brass are both copper-alloys, the Brass Age never happened, because brass is typically quite hard to make without the correct tools. This is due to zinc’s melting point of 420 ºC, which made it difficult to form zinc-alloyed metal pre-18th century. Originally, brass was made from mixing ground zinc ore (calamine) into a crucible with copper. In the crucible, vapour from the zinc would permeate the copper, resulting in brass.
In the Ancient World, brass was used differently by different civilisations. The Romans, in particular, loved brass for its beautiful white-gold colour and often used it in the production of helmets. The Roman alloy of brass tended to be around 20% zinc, 80% copper, which is the same combination that is still in high demand today.
Brass and Copper polishing works are available