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Brass is any alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and
copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying
properties. In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper
and tin. Despite this distinction, some types of brasses are called
bronzes. Brass is a substitutional alloy. It is used for decoration
for its bright gold-like appearance; for applications where low
friction is required such as locks, gears, bearings, doorknobs,
ammunition, and valves; for plumbing and electrical applications;
and extensively in musical instruments such as horns and bells for
its acoustic properties. It is also used in zippers. Because it is
softer than most other metals in general use, brass is often used
in situations where it is important that sparks not be struck, as
in fittings and tools around explosive gases. Brass has a muted
yellow color, somewhat similar to gold. It is relatively resistant
to tarnishing, and is often used as decoration and for coins. In
antiquity, polished brass was often used as a mirror. Brass has
likely been known to humans since prehistoric times, even before
zinc itself was discovered.
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