chapter  16
Copper and its alloys
Pages 15

In my early history lessons we were told that the Stone Age was followed some 3500 years ago by the Bronze Age, but it seems very likely that, even earlier, metallic copper was used in Egypt some 1500 years before bronze – a copper – tin alloy. Since copper is more easily corroded than bronze, only limited evidence of this early use of copper remains. Nevertheless, we can regard copper as the most ancient metal of any engineering signifi cance. Brass – a copper – zinc alloy – was, in classical times, made by smelting together ores of copper and zinc. The extraction of metallic zinc was not possible at that time, in fact not until the sixteenth century. The Romans made their brass by smelting copper along with the zinc ore calamine (zinc carbonate). The Romans used brass for coinage and ornaments, and bronze for fi ttings on important buildings, e.g. bronze pillars, tiles and doors. In ancient times, the world ’ s output of copper – mainly for bronze manufacture – was ultimately outstripped by that of iron and, during the twentieth century, also by aluminium.