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|There is more information available on this subject at Brass on the English Wikipedia.|
Brass has likely been known to Humans since prehistoric times, even before zinc itself was discovered. It was produced by melting copper together with calamine, a zinc ore.
Brass was still being used as a shell casing for firearms in 2552. Ash-G099 put spent brass casing on the graves of William-043 and Dante-G188. It was also used for lamps. One of these lamps was found on Vice Admiral Ysionris Jeromi's Koa Wood desk in 2551.
In Halo, as well as present day military, senior commissioned officers are often referred to as "the Brass". The nickname was probably bestowed because their insignias are/were once made of brass.