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Glossary of Copper Terms


Admiralty brass

70/30 brass with 1% tin added for extra corrosion resistance.


Copper alloys such as copper-beryllium and copper chromium are hardened by heat treatment of solution treatment followed by quenching, then ageing at low temperatures to develop improved mechanical properties.


A copper alloy is a partial or complete solid solution of copper with one or more alloying elements such as zinc, tin, nickel, aluminium or silicon.

Alpha brass

Brass containing up to 36% of zinc is usually the single alpha phase with good cold working properties.

Alpha-beta brass

Brass containing over 36% of zinc or with other additions usually has two phases present, alpha and beta.

Aluminium brass

High copper brass with aluminium added for improved corrosion resistance. This is often used for condenser tubes.

Aluminium bronze

Copper-aluminium alloy with up to 13% of aluminium, usually also with other additions such as iron, manganese, nickel and/or silicon.

Annealing (full)

Heating copper/copper alloys to 500-550oC in order to produce complete softening.

Anode copper

Cast slabs of copper from the fire refining processes used as starters for electrolytic refining.


Copper sulphide ore.

Arsenical copper

Copper with arsenic additions used primarily for the manufacture of boiler fireboxes. Now obsolete.

Arsenical brass

Brass with improved corrosion resistance containing arsenic, and frequently aluminium.


American Society for Metals.


American Society for Testing and Materials, responsible for standards for metals.


Copper carbonate ore.


LME term used when the price for cash copper commands a premium over the price for copper in three months time. Caused by temporary shortages in spot supplies.

Beryllium copper

The highest strength of any copper alloy, achieved by heat treatment (ageing) and cold working.

Beta brass

A brass with very high zinc content may be mostly of beta structure. This is brittle and used only as a brazing filler alloy.

Blister copper

The copper produced after sulphur is removed; it is made by blowing air through the mixture; this produces gaseous sulphur dioxide which forms blister-like bubbles on the surface.

Blue vitriol

Copper sulphate.

Bordeaux mixture

Copper sulphate-lime mixture used as an adherent fungicide, especially for grapevines.


Copper sulphide ore.


Copper-zinc alloy, also used to describe a memorial plate in a church, coinage or bearing block. Originally the term also covered copper-tin alloys now called bronzes. Also used to describe a tin-zinc spelter made for the manufacture of organ pipes.

Brass lump

Miners term for massive iron pyrites (fools’ gold).

Brinell Hardness

Standard hardness test using a specified load on a ball indenter (HB).


Copper-tin alloy, term also loosely used for some other copper alloys.

Burgundy mixture

Solution of copper sulphate and sodium carbonate developed in 1885 for the prevention of mildew and other diseases on grapevines.


Copper bar or section used for carrying heavy currents. Busbars are generally rigid when compared to cables.

Cadmium copper

Copper with an addition of cadmium for good strength and wear resistance without significant loss of conductivity.

Cathode copper

Pure copper, the product of electrolytic refining supplied for melting for the manufacture of products.

Cartridge brass

70/30 brass with good cold working properties.


European Standards Organisation. ‘EN’ standards are being adopted by all European countries.

Chalcocite, copper glance

Cuprous sulphide ore.


Copper sulphide ore.


Copper silicate ore.

Cold working

Deforming a metal at a temperature below that of recrystallisation so that the metal hardens.

Continuous casting

Production method for castings where the molten metal is continuously poured into an open mould while the solidified metal is slowly withdrawn and coiled or cut to length by flying saw. May be a vertical, sidecasting or upcasting process.

Common brass

63/37 brass, standard cheap brass for cold working. It is now usually a 64/36 alloy to give improved corrosion resistance.


LME term applied when the price quoted for copper due for delivery in three months’ time is higher than that for cash copper on that day. This is the normal market situation, financing the interest charge.

Copper bottom

To sheath the bottom of ships with copper to prevent attack by the Toredo worm and prevent the attachment of biofouling including molluscs that slow the ship, first applied to British ships in 1761. Now used as a term of assurance of quality.

Copper head

A venomous snake, common in the United States of America


Covers copper alloys with less than 50% of nickel.

Copper nose

Slang term for inflamed nose, acne rosaaca, a bacterial infection treatable by antibiotics.

Copper plate

A polished plate of copper on which a design is engraved for printing.

Copper wall

Term used in sugar making to describe a double row of copper pans served by a common fire.


Copper sulphide ore.


Copper oxide ore.


An alternative term for copper-nickel alloy.

Deep drawing

Forming hollow components by using a punch and die to give significant plastic deformation.

Deoxidised copper

Copper that has had deoxidiser added to reduce oxygen. Phosphorus is commonly added but other elements such as boron or magnesium may be used.


Selective corrosion of the beta phase of duplex brass that leaves a copper residue under a ‘meringue’ of zinc oxide.


German National Standards Organisation


Director General Ships standards - obsolete, replaced by NES series, which in turn has been replaced by DSTAN (UK Defence Standardisation).


Phosphorus deoxidised copper (previously known as ‘Dona’ copper).


Deoxidised copper, low phosphorus.


Directorate of Technical Development, military specifications.


The process of pulling a metal through a die to reduce the cross section, usually performed cold.


Ease with which material can be formed, for example by drawing, bending or rolling. The property is usually measured as elongation in a tensile test or by a bend or deep-drawability test.

Duplex brass

See alpha-beta brass.


Electrolytic tough pitch copper, standard high conductivity copper.


A hot working process in which a heated billet is forced to deform by being pushed through a die to produce a long product of uniform cross-section.

Extrusion ratio

The ratio of the cross-sectional area of a billet to that of the extruded product.

Fire-refined copper

Copper refined by melting and processing in an open hearth or rotary furnace.

Galvanic compatibility

When exposed to seawater or any electrolyte, metals show a voltage dependent on the electrochemical series. Metals with near-similar voltages are compatible. Metals with differing voltages are likely to cause galvanic corrosion. It is always the anode which corrodes.


The unwanted rock in copper ore.

German silver

Obsolete term for nickel silver.

Gilding metal

Brass with high copper, usually 90/10 but sometimes 80/20.


Copper-tin-zinc casting alloy.

Heat treatable alloy

An alloy capable of being strengthened by heat treatment, usually involving solution treatment followed by ageing (precipitation) treatment.

High conductivity copper

Standard form of copper with a purity giving a conductivity of 100% IACS or more.

High tensile brass

Brass with additions, typically iron, nickel, manganese and/or aluminium to give better strength and, usually, better corrosion resistance.


A proprietary process for treating metals at very high pressures to compact them to produce good properties.

Hot working

Plastic deformation of a metal at a temperature high enough to promote recrystallisation, thus preventing cold working.


International annealed copper standard, a value for conductivity agreed in 1913 with copper being given the value of 100%, equivalent to 58MS/m or a mass resistivity of 0.15176 Ωg/m2. Advances in refining mean that high conductivity copper is now frequently of 103% conductivity.


International Copper Association.


International Copper Research Association, now superseded by ICA.


International Standards Organisation.

Leaded brass

Usually a duplex brass with an addition of lead to give excellent machinability.


London Metal Exchange.


Copper carbonate ore.

Manganese bronze

Obsolete term for high tensile brass.


American military specifications.


A nickel-copper alloy, usually 70/30, originally produced directly from a copper-nickel ore in Sudbury, Ontario.

Muntz metal

A 60/40 brass with good castability and hot working properties.

Native copper

Pure copper that occurs in nature without being bound up within an ore.

Naval brass

60/40 brass with 1% tin added for extra corrosion resistance.

Near net shape forming

Forming a product near to final shape so that it needs little further finishing.


Naval Engineering Standards.

Nickel silver

Copper-nickel-zinc alloy.

Oxygen-free copper

Copper melted and cast under controlled atmosphere to give low residual oxygen content.

Oxygen-free electronic copper

Oxygen free copper containing low residual volatile elements.


A protective film that develops on copper on exposure to the atmosphere. In most non-polluted environments it is basic copper carbonate but in industrial and urban areas it is mainly basic copper sulphate.

Paris Green

Copper-arsenic compound.

Phosphor bronze

A copper-tin phosphorous alloy, hard and strong.


Part of the old fire refining process that involves reducing the oxidised charge by submerging green wood in the liquid copper.

Red Brass

American term for copper-tin-zinc alloy (gunmetal).

Rivet brass

American term for common brass.

Rockwell Hardness

Standard American hardness test with several ranges of loads and indenters, HRB, HRC.


Society of Automotive Engineers (USA)

Tough pitch copper

Obsolete term for copper containing oxygen at about 0.03-0.07% which gave a level ‘set’ to the top of a wirebar when statically cast horizontally .


A strikingly green corrosion product that forms on copper in some circumstances, a complex basic copper acetate. Unlike a patina, it is water-soluble.

Vickers Hardness

Standard hardness test using a load on a diamond pyramid indenter (HV, VPN or VHN).

Wrought product

Component made by hot or cold deformation of a cast product, removing the original cast structure.

Yellow brass

American term for 67/33 brass.

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