Bronze, brass, and copper all share the characteristic of having a slight red tint, giving them the label often referred to as the ‘red metals’. While these three metals share some similar attributes—for example, bronze, brass, and copper are not magnetic—they surprisingly have many differences and, at times, can be challenging to tell apart due to their appearance.
We will explore what each of the red metals is, their melting points, general applications, and scenarios where one would be better to use than the others.
Are you wondering what some of the most popular metals are? Check out our blog post to learn about the most popular types of metal and their uses.
What is Bronze?
First, we will cover bronze. This is an alloy made mostly of copper; however, it can contain other additives that we will cover in a second. While we mentioned in the beginning that bronze, as with the other metals on this list, is not magnetic, if it were to contain any nickel or iron, it would become slightly magnetic. Since a majority of bronze does not contain iron, or if it does, it has a negligible amount, it does not rust.
There is “true bronze”, which is made of mostly copper and a small amount of tin, and there are three other major classes used for construction. First, there is architectural bronze, which has 57% copper, 40% zinc, and 3% lead. Then there are commercial bronze —90% copper and 10% zinc— and statuary bronze, which comprises 97% copper, 2% tin, and 1% zinc.
Since copper-based alloys generally have a lower melting point than iron or steel, for the most part, bronze has a melting point of about 1,850°F. However, this is subject to change depending on what class of bronze that you use.
In its raw state, a sight most people rarely see, it starts as a salmon-tinted metal. Since this alloy usually undergoes corrosion, bronze’s color normally ranges from a light green to darker brown. Furthermore, its corrosion varies in duration depending on factors such as:
- The weather conditions it endures: For example, it’s exposure to climate conditions such as sun or the rain.
- Protective treatments that were applied
- Regular maintenance.
Practical Uses for Bronze
Since bronze has excellent resistance to factors such as weak acids—if it has a protective coating—in addition to marine, rural, and industrial atmospheres, it can be beneficial.
One of its several uses is in areas such as fittings for ships, such as submerged bearings and ship propellers, along with various. Other uses, for example, with architectural bronze, boils down to being used in trims, frames, furniture hardware, mailboxes, and more. Statuary bronze is also generally used in outdoor sculptures since anyone can easily cast it in any shape.
What is Brass?
First introduced in around 500 BC, brass is an alloy made of added copper and zinc. As with bronze, brass lacks iron, which means that it does not rust as well.
Depending on the zinc level within the alloy, the color of brass can range anywhere from red to gold tints. Along with the color change, the added zinc reinforces brass with improved strength and ductility.
Compared to bronze, brass has a lower average melting point of 1,682.6°F.Another type of brass alloy is tin brass, which contains copper, zinc, and some tin. Under this group falls other types of brasses such as naval, free machining, and admiralty.
What Is Brass Used For?
Due to its sometimes golden tint, brass is often used for decorative purposes. Furthermore, since it is a durable alloy, many companies use it to manufacture various musical instruments, electronic components like relays, and plumbing.
Now that we know more about bronze and brass, let us dive into which of the two is superior.
Which Is Stronger, Bronze Or Brass?
While bronze has a higher melting point than brass, there is another measurement system that you can use to determine which is stronger, the Brinell hardness scale. It is one of the many scales available to grade a material or alloy’s hardness. Bronze has a hardness of between 40 and 420. On the other hand, brass’ numbers are between 55 and 73.
These numbers show that bronze is harder than brass; however, harder materials are more prone to fracturing. This result makes brass stronger than bronze, but if you need an alloy resistant to wear, bronze would be the best metal to use.
Is Bronze Or Brass More Expensive?
Generally, copper is more expensive than zinc, and since bronze has more copper than zinc, bronze is more expensive than brass. Certain bronze alloys can be four times the price of particular brass alloys.
Other Types of Bronze Alloys
While bronze is an alloy itself, there are other types of bronze alloys that you should know about. These include:
This alloy usually is made from 0.5% to 1.0% tin. It also contains phosphorus, which ranges from 0.01% to 0.35%.
Phosphor bronzes are known for their toughness, high fatigue resistance, low coefficient of friction, and strength. The tin content helps to increase the tensile strength and corrosion resistance, while the phosphorus content increases the stiffness and wear resistance. Typical end uses for phosphor bronze include springs, bellows, washers, and electrical products.
Silicon bronze typically contains 6% silicon and 20% zinc. It has high strength and corrosion resistance, and it’s commonly used in valve stems.
Aluminum bronze contains around 6 to 12 percent iron content. It usually has a maximum nickel content of 6 percent. It’s very strong and resistant to wear and corrosion. Aluminum bronze is often used in the manufacturing of sleeve bearings, marine hardware, and valves and pumps that handle corrosive fluids.
Nickel brass contains nickel, copper, and brass. The nickel gives the material a silver appearance, and it has moderate strength and a fair corrosion level. Nickel brass is often sued to make musical instruments, optical equipment, food and beverage equipment, and other items.
Last but not least, there’s copper-nickel. Copper-nickel contains anywhere from 3 to 30 percent nickel. It has a high thermal stability level, and it’s highly resistant to corrosion.
Is Brass or Bronze Better For Jewelry?
From the previous point, we learned that brass is not as brittle as bronze and has a gold-like appearance, which would make brass better for jewelry in multiple fields. Since one of its primary purposes is decorative. For appearance’s sake, if you prefer darker-tinted jewelry, bronze is a better option to go with.
Can Brass and Bronze Be Used Together?
Since each of the two alloys are not as likely to cause electron transfers when exposed to the other, bronze and brass can safely be used together.
Now that the two alloys are out of the way, we are going to explore copper and its uses.
Are you wondering what the difference is between ferrous and non-ferrous metal? Click here to find out!
What is Copper?
Copper is an orange-tinted red native metal used by many in prehistoric times to construct tools and decorations.
All of the red metals share rust-resistant attributes due to them having none or a negligible amount of iron. This result, in short, means that copper does not rust. However, it also means that copper is not magnetic.
Out of the group of red metals, copper has the highest melting point of 1,984°F.
Combining copper with other metals can result in 400 copper alloys to suit various applications, environments, and manufacturing processes.
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Main Uses For Copper
The following features make copper a superior alloy in several fields:
- It “contact kills” yeasts, bacteria, and viruses quickly, which in short means that it has superior resistance to microorganisms.
- It has great electrical and thermal conductivity.
- Copper resists wear, corrosion, impact, and other forms of damage.
- It does not lose any strength when formed or flexed.
These benefits entice companies to use copper as the common metal used in wiring, industrial machinery that transfers heat, pipes, and food-grade equipment. You will also find that many coins contain some copper.
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Bronze vs Brass vs Copper: A Comparison
If you’re looking for a quick overview of bronze vs brass vs copper, check out this chart:
|Composition||Bronze is a metal alloy that primarily consists of copper, with tin usually being the main additive. Sometimes, other elements are used, such as aluminum, manganese, phosphorus, or silicon.||An alloy composed of copper and zinc||Natural copper is made of two stable isotopes: copper-65 and copper-63|
|Color||Muted yellow, like gold but duller||Reddish-brown||Reddish-brown|
|Properties||Melts at 950 degrees centigrade, but it depends on the amount of tin present resistant to corrosion and metal fatigue||More malleable than zinc and copper low melting point and flows when melted||Ductile, malleable, and an extremely good conductor of heat and electricity|
|History||First known to exist around 3500 BC||First known to exist around 500 BC||First used by man around 3,000 BC|
|Uses||Used in ship fittings, boats, submerged bearings, and propellers||Used in zippers, musical instruments, plumbing, electronics||Used in power generation, building construction, transmission, and electric product manufacturing|
Conclusion: Time to Get Some Metal!
As you can see, there are some pretty big differences between bronze, brass, and copper. Now, all you need to do is choose the right metal for your needs.
If you need metal of your own, we offer metal wholesale yards selling various materials from steel to aluminum. Learn more about what we offer.