Alloys of copper and zinc are used in a wide range of jewelry, art casting and mechanical applications. Examples include household fixtures, pumps, fasteners, engine parts, statues and musical instruments.
Brass – 95% copper and 55% zinc (usually with iron or lead added) is a common alloy for making household fixtures, valves and piping. It is a hard metal and can be forged into heavy-duty items that are resistant to corrosion, oxidation and tarnishing.
Bronze – An alloy of copper and tin that is stronger and harder than either copper or tin alone. It is often alloyed with other metals to increase strength, electrical conductivity or tensile properties.
Native copper – Metallic copper found as deposits filling cracks in sandstones and conglomerates, usually as thin films but can occasionally be massive. It is also a common alloy for making lost wax cast reproductions of globular objects from past centuries such as chisels, knives and swords.
Gilding copper – Copper-nickel-zinc alloy with nickel added to give it an almost silver appearance, used for jewellery and decorative purposes. It has moderate strength and good atmospheric and aqueous corrosion resistance.
Non-sparking tools – Copper-beryllium copper or aluminium bronze, used for making hammers, chisels and other tools for use in flammable hazard areas such as coal mines.
The addition of elements such as phosphorus or silicon can cause a significant decrease in the thermal conductivity of copper. This is a significant concern when using copper for high voltage electrical conductors. The resulting reduction in copper’s ability to conduct electricity can result in higher energy costs and shorter life spans of devices.