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What is Billon

Billon is a silver-colored alloy containing a precious metal, usually silver or mercury, along with a base metal like copper [1, 2]. Its name is derived from the French word ‘bille’ that means ‘log’ [2]. It was a popular metal alloy used during the ancient times and throughout the Middle Ages in Greece and Rome [2, 3].

Billon Antoninianus


Silver/Mercury Less than 50% [1, 2]
Copper More than 50% [2]
Billon Alloy


It is commonly used for producing medals, coins, and token coins [2].

Billon Coins

Interesting Facts

  • Some cities on the Lesbos Island in Greece used coins containing 40% silver and 60% copper during the 6th and 5th centuries BC [2].
  • Scottish bawbee coins were made from billon and were used during the reign of James V [2].
  • The Romans used antoninianus, a billon coin introduced by Emperor Caracalla in 215 AD, was made of bronze and a minimum amount of silver [2].
  • A Japanese billon named shakudo (containing 4-10 percent gold and 96-90 percent copper) can be used to produce indigo or black patina [4].


  1. Billon –
  2. Billon (alloy) –
  3. Choosing Which Metal To Use: Part 3 –

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