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What is an Alloy?

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Definition of Alloy with Examples

An alloy is a mixture of two or more chemical elements at least one of which is a metal.

Alloys are usually made by melting the metals and then mixing them together.  They're then left to cool and solidify.

Examples of the most common alloys are;

  • Brass - 35% zinc, 65% copper
  • Stainless steel - 18% chromium, 80.6% iron, 1% nickel, 0.4% carbon
  • Steel - 99% iron, 1% carbon
  • Bronze - 87.5% copper, 12.5% tin
  • Sterling silver - 92.5% pure silver, 7.5% other metals but usually copper


An alloy is produced by modifying the properties of a metal by mixing it with another.

The reason for creating an alloy is because pure metal in many forms is often too soft to be fit for purpose.  Creating an alloy adds strength and may also introduce other beneficial properties.

An alloy could be used to make a metal less prone to rust, corrosion or tarnish. It may also make it a more efficient conductor of heat.

Alloys are always harder and stronger than a metal in its purest form.

The vast majority of sterling silver is alloyed with copper.  This is because in its purest form silver is too to be practical.  Although using copper as an alloy makes the silver slightly harder, it's also the reason why silver tarnishes.

Pure silver doesn't tarnish.  The tarnish that appears on the surface of this metal comes from the copper.

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