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Pinchbeck is a specific type of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, formulated to resemble gold as closely as possible as a much cheaper alternative. Two common formulations of pinchbeck were 89% copper and 11% zinc, or 93% copper and 7% zinc.

Pinchbeck was named after its original inventor, the London clockmaker Christopher Pinchbeck (1670-1732).

In the 18th and 19th centuries, pinchbeck was used to mass produce large quantities of cheap jewelry, and eventually the word "pinchbeck" came to be used as a short hand for cheap, imitation jewelry in particular, and anything fake or fraudulent in general.

Pinch"beck (?), n. [Said to be from the name of the inventor; cf. It. prencisbecco.]

An alloy of copper and zinc, resembling gold; a yellow metal, composed of about three ounces of zinc to a pound of copper. It is much used as an imitation of gold in the manufacture of cheap jewelry.

 

© Webster 1913.


Pinch"beck, a.

Made of pinchbeck; sham; cheap; spurious; unreal.

"A pinchbeck throne."

J. A. Symonds.

 

© Webster 1913.

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