Spelter, while sometimes used merely as a synonym for zinc, is often used to identify a zinc alloy. In this sense it might be an alloy of equal parts copper and zinc, i.e. a brass, used for hard soldering and brazing, or as an alloy, containing lead, that is used instead of bronze. In this usage it was common for many 19th-century cheap, cast articles such as candlesticks and clock cases and early 20th-century Art Nouveau ornaments and Art Deco figures.
Early twentieth-century Art Nouveau and Art Deco figures and lamps were often made of spelter. The metal has been used since about the 1860s to make statues, tablewares, and lamps that resemble bronze. Spelter is soft and breaks easily. To test for spelter, scratch the base of the piece. Bronze is solid; spelter will show a silvery scratch.
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- Skeat, Walter William (1893), An etymological dictionary of the English language (2nd ed.), Clarendon Press, pp. 438–439.
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