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The Red Metals: Copper, Brass and Bronze

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What’s the difference?

People often ask us about the difference between various metals, especially between copper, brass and bronze.

Copper is an element; brass and bronze are alloys. This means that copper is just made of copper, whereas brass is a mixture of copper, zinc and possibly other elements, and bronze is a mixture of copper, usually tin and some other elements too.

You can usually tell the three metals apart simply by the colour: we’ve all probably seen copper pipes, brass musical instrument in an orchestra, and bronze medals awarded at the Olympics.

Copper is brown, the colour of autumn leaves; brass is lighter in colour, because of the zinc in it, making it similar to gold, and it usually has a bright sheen to it; and bronze is generally a darker brown, without much of a sheen.

So, what is each of these red metals used for?

Copper is used in many products, because of its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity. It is also resistant to corrosion. It is great to work …