Front Page Titles (by Subject) Alloys of Metals. - Money and the Mechanism of Exchange
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Alloys of Metals. - William Stanley Jevons, Money and the Mechanism of Exchange 
Money and the Mechanism of Exchange (New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1876).
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Alloys of Metals.
At one time or another an immense number of different alloys or mixtures of metals have been coined. It would be strictly correct to say, indeed, that metals have seldom been issued except in the state of alloy. Even gold and silver, as usually coined, are either alloyed with each other or with copper. The latter metal, too, has generally been employed in union with other metals. The Roman as consisted, not of pure copper, but of the mixed metal aes, an alloy of copper and tin, partially resembling the bronze which has quite recently been introduced for small money in France, England, and other countries. Brass was largely coined by some of the Roman emperors. In many cases, no doubt, the early metallurgists in smelting an ore obtained a natural alloy of all the metals contained therein, and being unable to separate them were obliged to use the mixture. Thus we may explain the curious metal containing from sixty to seventy parts of copper, twenty to twenty-five of zinc, five to eleven of silver, with small quantities of gold, lead, and tin, which was employed to make the stycas, or small money, of the early, kings of Northumbria.
Monarchs or states in difficulty have often coined the metal which they could most easily obtain. The Irish money issued by James II. was said to have been coined from a mixture of old guns, broken bells, waste copper, brass, and pewter, old kitchen furniture, and in fact any refuse metal which his officers could lay their hands upon. He attempted to make pewter crowns circulate for the value of silver ones.
It is clear that the metals far surpass all other substances in suitability for the purpose of circulation, and it is almost equally clear that certain metals surpass all the other metals in this respect. Of gold and silver especially we may say, with Turgot, that, by the nature of things, they are constituted the universal money independently of all convention and law. Even if the art of coining had never been invented, gold and silver would probably have formed the currency of the world; but we have now to consider how, by shaping weighed pieces of these metals into coins, we can make use of their valuable properties to the greatest advantage.
The primitive mode of circulating the metals, indeed, was simply that of buying and selling them against other commodities, the weights or portions being made rudely estimated. Some of the earliest specimens of money consist of the aes rude, or rough, shapeless lumps of native copper employed as money by the ancient Etruscans. In the Museum of the Archiginnasio at Bologna may be seen the skeleton of an Etruscan, half embedded in earth, with the piece of rough copper yet within the grasp of the bony hand, placed there to meet the demands of Charon. Pliny, moreover, tells us that, before the time of Servius Tullius, copper was circulated in the rude state. Afterwards copper, brass, or iron were, it is probable, employed in the form of small bars or spikes, and the name of the Greek unit of value, drachma, is supposed to have been derived from the fact that six of these metal spikes could be grasped in the hand, each piece being called an obolus. Such is supposed to have been the first system of money which was passed purely by tale, or number of pieces.
Gold is most readily obtained from alluvial deposits, and then has the form of grains or dust. Hence this is the primitive form of gold money. The ancient Peruvians enclosed the gold dust for the sake of security in quills, and thus passed it about more conveniently. At the gold diggings of California, Australia, or New Zealand, gold dust is to the present day sold directly against other goods by the aid of scales. The art of melting gold and silver, and fashioning them by the hammer into various shapes was early invented. Even in the present day the poor Hindoo, who has saved up a few rupees, employs a silversmith to melt them up and beat them into a simple bracelet, which he wears in the double character of an ornament and a hoard of wealth.
Similarly, the ancient Goths and Celts were accustomed to fashion gold into thick wires, which they rolled up into spiral rings and probably wore upon their fingers until the metal was wanted for trading purposes. There can be little doubt that this ring money, of which abundant specimens have been found in various parts of Europe and Asia, formed the first approximation to a coinage. In some cases the rings may have been intentionally made of equal weight; for Cæsar speaks of the Britons as having iron rings, adjusted to a certain weight, to serve as money. In other cases the rings, or amulets, were bought and sold by aid of the balance; and in certain Egyptian paintings men are represented as in the act of weighing rings. It is probable that the necessity for frequent weighings was avoided by making up sealed bags containing a certain weight of rings, and such perhaps are the bags of silver given by Naaman to Gehazi in the Second Book of Kings (v. 23). Ring money is said to be still current in Nubia.
Gold and silver have been fashioned into various other forms to serve as money. Thus the Siamese money consists of very small ingots or bars bent double in a peculiar manner. In Pondicherry and elsewhere gold is circulated in the form of small grains or buttons.