The Red Metals: Copper, Brass and Bronze

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 with because, whilst it is very strong, it is also relatively flexible – it is fairly easily bent or stretched. This obviously makes it ideal for many products whose manufacturing process requires this combination of attributes.

Brass, on the other hand, is most commonly used for decorative purposes, because it looks like gold. It is also of course used in musical instrument because it is easy to work and it is durable, though not as durable as copper.

Bronze is much harder than copper, and so less flexible, and is therefore used to create things like sculptures, musical instruments and medals.

We hope that you found this blog useful. If you have any questions at all about any issue raised here – or indeed anything to do with copper, its alloys and their uses – please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you!


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