Roman called it Aurichalum. and used it to produce special coins and ornate golden colored helmets. For the Greeks it was oreichalcos an exotic white golden metal they could not make for their lack of zinc. For ancient Egyptians brass was of little use out side of its golden coloration.
Towards the end of the Renaissance period, Brass became sought after for its ease of manufacture, and its resistance to corrosion. This lead to a boom in its popularity that would see its use as the favored metal for intricate instruments like clocks and navigational aids and thus cementing its use right through the industrial revolution.
In 1748 William Champion would invent the English Process for distilling Zinc which made it much easier to control the ration of zinc to copper while manufacturing brass alloys. Prior to the invention of the English Process, copper and zinc ores where heated together allowing the zinc vapor infuse the copper ore in a process call cremation.