Thursday, September 17, 2015

Getting to Know Copper, Brass and Bronze

Collectively known as "The Red Metals," copper, brass, and bronze are quite different from one another and can be difficult to tell apart if you don't work with them every day. Therefore, here are some facts about these three metals that can help you tell the difference:


A fantastic conductor of electricity and heat, copper is most commonly used in electrical wiring and plumbing. The metal has a brownish red finish and is very flexible and adaptable. It can be heated and stretched and readily tolerates being soldered. Copper is not at all magnetic and has antibacterial properties that have historically been used to purify water. This metal is pure and is not an alloy.


Brass is an alloy made from adding zinc and other elements to copper. The elements added to brass give it its color, so it can be any hue from red to yellow. Because it often looks like gold, brass is a popular choice for plumbing fixtures, door knockers, and other accents. It is slightly magnetic, but it takes a very powerful magnet to attract it. Brass is not as durable as copper and can corrode or crack.


Like brass, bronze is an alloy that starts with copper. Instead of adding zinc, metallurgists add tin, arsenic, phosphorus, aluminum, manganese, or silicon to create bronze. These additions make bronze stronger than copper. It can't be flexed, but it does withstand corrosion extremely well, which is why it is used in ships and musical instruments. Like brass it is somewhat like gold in color, but bronze contains small rings that brass does not.

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