An alloy of copper and tin, the optimum proportion being about 9 parts copper to 1 of tin. It had many advantages over pure copper: it had a lower melting point, was harder and, above all, was easier to cast without flaws. Its main disadvantage was the comparative scarcity of tin.
It was eventually replaced by the commoner iron for tools and weapons, but continued alongside the latter for many decorative purposes right down to the Roman and Saxon periods.
Because of its economic value the metal is often found in hoards, which have helped enormously in the study of the developing artefacts of the period.
Shaping was achieved in three ways, casting in a one or two piece mould, casting by the cire perdue method, and hammering out, the latter used for sheet metal artefacts.