Copper alloys and compositions in 1848

Commemorative copper alloy plaque/pavement cover, Albion Yard, former site of copper and other metal smiths, near King's Cross, London.

Commemorative copper alloy plaque/pavement cover, Albion Yard, former site of copper and other metal smiths, near King’s Cross, London.

The Mining Almanack of 1849, compiled by Henry English is a fount of information and trivia helpful to those interested in historical metallurgy as well as those curious about the operation and output of mines.

Here is a list of alloys and compositions which contained copper. Of the 21 alloys listed 14 contain copper.

Perhaps our histories of the copper industry are too simplistic when we only look at copper ore and metal ‘output’. The sheer variety of materials and products copper transformed is mind blowing. There follows a post which lists alloys used in other types of products such as candelabras and bells for mantle clocks. 

Alloys and Compositions, p. 451

Chinese white copper – 40.4 parts copper, 31.6 nickel, 25.4 zinc, and 2.6 iron. [Today better known as Cupronickel.]

German silver – 1 part nickel, 1 zinc, and 2 copper; when intended for rolling into plates, 25 nickel, 20 zinc, and 60 copper, to which may be added 3 of lead.

Manheim gold – 3 parts copper, 1 zinc, and a small quantity of tin.

Alloy of the Standard Measures used by Government – 576 parts copper, 59 tin, and 48 brass.

Bath metal – 32 parts brass, 9 parts zinc.

Speculum metal – 6 parts copper, 2 parts tin, and 1 of arsenic; or, 7 of copper, 3 of zinc, and 4 of tin.

Hard solder – 2 parts copper and 1 part zinc.

Blanched copper – 8 parts copper, 12 part arsenic.

Britannia metal – 4 parts of brass and 4 of tin; when fused, add 4 of bismuth and 4 of antimony. This composition is added at discretion to melted tin.

Mock platinum – 8 parts of brass and 5 of zinc.

Silver coin of Britain – 11 110 pure silver and 9 910 copper.

Gold coin of Britain – 11 parts pure gold and 1 copper. Previous to 1826, silver formed part of the alloy of gold coin; hence the different colour of our gold money.

Ring gold – 6 dwts.* 12 grains pure copper, 3 dwts. 16 grains fine silver and 1 oz. 3 dwts. pure gold.

Mock gold – Fuse together 16 parts of copper, 7 of platinum, and 1 of zinc. When steel is alloyed with 1500 part of platinum, or with 1/500 part of silver, it is rendered much harder, more malleable, and better adapted for every kind of cutting instrument.

NOTE – In making alloys, care must be taken to have the more infusible metals melted first, and afterwards add the others.

*Troy weights: dwts = a pennyweight = 24 grains. 20 pennyweight = 1 Troy ounce.


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