Bronze vs Brass, What is the difference?

Bronze Vs Brass

Bronze and Brass are alloys of metal and are commonly used in the manufacturing industries today. Both metals are referred to as red metals as a result of their distinct reddish color. Bronze and Brass contain a varying number of other elements and as a result, they exist with varying properties. Being an alloy of copper, brass typically consists of copper and zinc while bronze is typically made of copper and tin.

These two metals possess similar properties, but there is a need to differentiate both for proper use. As a result, this post focuses on drawing comparisons using their characteristics, properties, and benefit.

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    First, let’s know what is Bronze and Brass

    To enable us to draw comparisons between brass and bronze, it important to have a clear view of what brass and bronze are. We have tailored this section to present a clear view of what both metals are.

    What is bronze?

    Bronze Vs Brass-Bronze-1

    Bronze is a metal alloy that is made up of copper and tin primarily. This metal dates back to 3500 BC with the Sumerians and this age was referred to as the Bronze age. It is regarded as a copper alloy and is defined based on its working properties as well as specific alloying elements.

    Consequently, bronze properties and characteristics can be improved using different elemental compositions. Such metals include manganese, nickel, silicon, lead, antimony, zinc, and many more. Due to this, designers are presented with a wide array of bronze grades to choose from. Bronze is typically reddish-brown/gold and it’s brittle but less so compared to cast iron.

    What is brass?

    Bronze Vs Brass-Brass

    Brass was discovered by users around 500 BC with much overlap with bronze. Brass is a metal alloy that primarily copper and zinc. Its elemental composition of metals including tin, iron, aluminum, lead, silicon, and manganese. These elemental composition helps to achieve varying electrical and mechanical properties in brass. Taking zinc content as an example, it helps brass to enhance the ductility and strength of the base copper material. Evidence has proven that the higher the zinc concentration of brass, the more pliable and stronger its alloy.

    Brass can exist in a color range including bright gold, silver, and many more depending on the ratio of zinc to copper. It can be said to be more ductile compare to zinc with similarly low friction when machined with other metals. Besides, brass is often known for its decorative application because of its gold resemblance.

    Let’s Compare 17 Differences Between Bronze and Brass

    This section focuses on drawing comparisons between bronze and brass using different individual characteristics.

    Bronze vs Brass: Element Composition

    Bronze Vs Brass-Bronze-2

    Bronze and Brass can be differentiated by drawing a comparison using their elemental composition. In comparison, bronze as copper alloy contains copper (Cu) and tin (sn) while its main components depending on its alloy form:

    • Aluminum
    • Lead (Pb)
    • Antimony
    • Nickel (Ni)
    • Phosphorus (P)
    • Silicon (Si)
    • Sulfur (S)
    • Cobalt
    • Chromium
    • Zinc

    On the other hand, brass as a metal is simply an alloy of copper and zinc. In nature, its  primary elemental composition includes Copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn) while it may have the following components depending on the form of alloy:

    • Tin (Sn)
    • Sulfur (S)
    • Silicon (Si)
    • Phosphorus (P)
    • Nickel (Ni)
    • Lead (Pb)
    • Iron (Fe)
    • Antimony (Sb)
    • Aluminum (Al)

    Bronze vs Brass: Corrosion Resistance

    Another way to draw a comparison between brass and bronze is to use their level of corrosion resistance. Bronze oxidizes in the air as a result of its copper (Cu) content to result in a distinct mottled patina. This helps to prevent bronze from corroding easily especially when bronze is found in an environment such as saltwater. However, if bronze comes in contact with chlorine compounds, a process called “bronze disease” begins. This disease makes bronze more susceptible to corrosion which slowly degrades the copper alloy over time. Due to bronze’s resistance to saltwater corrosion, it is often used for boat fittings and marine parts.

    On the other hand, brass exists to be corrosion resistant, especially in galvanic seawater. However, when brass undergoes corrosion, it lost its zinc content leaving only copper in a process called dezincification.  During this process, there is a cosmetic change in which brass color turns from yellow to pink. This process can however be prevented by coating the bronze layer.

    Bronze vs Brass: Electrical conductivity

    These two metals are alloys of copper. Copper is the standard in which most metals are rated for electrical conductivity. One of the interesting facts we revealed as regards the two metals is that brass and bronze rank low in relative electrical conductivity.

    One might have to think that both bronze and brass are composed of mainly copper, then they should be nearly conductive as copper. However, this is not the case because of other elemental composition. They both contain a small percentage of other elements such as aluminum, tin, zinc, nickel, cobalt, and more degrades the electrical conductivity performance of bronze and brass. In comparison using copper as a standard, brass has a higher electrical conductivity of 28% while bronze is the least (15%) conductive.

    Bronze vs Brass: Thermal Conductivity

    The thermal conductivity of a material is a measure to know if such material can be used for thermal applications. This helps to know the amount of energy that can be transferred through such material and the rate at which it can be transferred. When bronze is compared with brass, we discovered that the thermal conductivity of brass is much higher than bronze which makes it more ideal for manufacturing radiators. However, bronze can be used in thermal applications, but its counterpart – brass will be considered over bronze when thermal applications are required.

    Bronze vs Brass: Melting point

    Bronze has a higher melting point (315 – 1080 °C) than brass (809 – 1030 °C) and they are both easily cast. The melting point of brass and bronze is very important and crucial for the selection of either bronze or brass for a project. This is because there can be a component failure at the melting point.

    When the material reaches its melting point level, there is a transition from a solid state to a liquid state. At this state, this material can be easily cast into different shapes. In using either brass or bronze for shape casing, the desired mechanical properties must be considered. A more decorative project will most likely benefit from brass while a more resilient project will most likely benefit from bronze.

    Bronze vs Brass: Hardness

    The hardness of a material is a measure of its response to local surface stress and how the material reacts to dent, scratch, and many more. In this measure, the Brinell hardness scale exists to be one of many hardness measures available. It uses its hardness indenter machine to grade a material’s response to a standardized force. On this scale, bronze scores between 40 and 420 while a brass score between 55 and 73.

    This result shows that bronze is averagely harder than brass. A harder material can be said to be more brittle and bronze obeys this rule of being much more prone to fracture compared to brass. If resistance to wear and strength are of great concern in a project, bronze may be a perfect choice. However, if workability becomes a necessity, brass is by far considered over bronze.

    Bronze vs Brass: Weight

    When it comes to comparing the weight of bronze and brass, water can be chosen as the baseline for specific gravity – given the value of 1. The specific gravity of bronze and brass is then compared as a fraction of heavier or lighter density. From our comparisons, we discovered that bronze is the heaviest with a density of 7400 – 8900 kg/cu.m. On the other end, the weight of brass is lower based on its elemental composition and it ranges from 8400 up to 8730 kg/cu.m.

    Bronze vs Brass: Durability

    The durability of a material is the ability of that material to remain functional without the use of excessive repair or maintenance whenever the material is faced with normal operation challenges over its half-life. Bronze is a hard and sturdy metal but it’s not easily flexed. Bronze can also withstand water and as a result, it is immune to corrosion caused by water. On the other hand, brass is robust and not as durable as bronze. It is also immune to corrosion and cracking which makes it averagely durable.

    Bronze vs Brass: Machinability

    A comparative score gives to metals to assess how they react to machining stress such as stamping, milling, turning, and more is referred to as machinability. It is of great importance to the machinability score of a material of choice because it determines the type of machining that can be done on such materials.

    A materials machinability percentage is done in comparison to a reference material where the material is given a rating of 100%. A material that is more difficult to machine has a percentage below 100 which is the case of brass and bronze. Most copper alloys are too ductile to machine but some are developed specifically for machining such as brass alloy C360.

    Bronze vs Brass: Formability

    In terms of formability, brass is more formable than bronze. Brass is said to be hard but it is softer than bronze which is an alloy of copper and tin. This comparative softness of brass makes it easier to shape, cut, and file.

    Bronze vs Brass: Weldability

    It is important to note that both bronze and brass are weldable. However, there is an exception for the brass alloy containing lead, and the smaller the zinc content of brass the easier it is to be welded. Brass that contains 20% zinc is rated to have good weldability while brass with 20% and above are said to have fair weldability. Besides, cast brass metals are only marginally weldable.

    On the other hand, unleaded bronze alloys demonstrate fair weldability and under the stressed condition, they become susceptible to cracking. However, leaded phosphor bronze can be carefully welded using SMAW.

    Bronze vs Brass: Yield Strength

    The yield strength of a metal is regarded as the highest stress at which the metal begins to deform permanently. In a comparison between bronze and brass, brass possesses a higher yield strength than copper. To support the claim, bronze has the highest yield strength at 69.0 – 800 MPa (10000 – 116000 psi) while brass exhibit 34.5 up to 683 MPa (5000 – 99100 psi).

    Bronze vs Brass: Tensile Strength

    Many manufacturers in the manufacturing industries take the strength of the material as a major factor especially when the choice of material is to be done. Bronze and brass are sought after as a result of the increased tensile strength they both demonstrate when they are cold worked or in the case of brass when more zinc is added.

    In comparison, bronze has a tensile strength of 50 Ksi (350 MPa) when annealed and tensile strength of 92 Ksi (635 Mpa) when cold-rolled tempered. On the other hand, brass has a tensile strength of 53 Ksi (365 MPa) when annealed and 88 Ksi (607 MPa) when cold-rolled tempered.

    Bronze vs Brass: Shear Strength

    It is referred to as the strength against the type of yield or structural failure especially when the metal fails in shear. The shear load means a force that produces a sliding failure of a material or component along a plane that is parallel to the force direction. When measured, it is evident that brass has the highest shear strength ranging from 35000 psi to 48000 psi while bronze has the lowest shear strength ranging from 35000 psi to 47000 psi.

    Bronze vs Brass: Color

    One of the simplest ways to distinguish between bronze and brass is the use of color. Bronze in terms of color is reddish-brown. This property may change slightly when other elements are added to the bronze mixture. Irrespective of its change, it’s still easy to differentiate bronze from brass. On the other hand, brass usually features a muted yellow shade and it’s very similar to dull gold. This property makes it an ideal material for furniture and fixtures.

    Bronze vs Brass: Price

    The piece of bronze and copper may vary depending on different factors such as copper contents. The content of copper in both alloys determines their price in the market. However, bronze in comparison with brass is usually more expensive. This can be attributed to its copper content and to the process required to manufacture bronze.

    Bronze vs Brass: Applications

    Bronze

    Bronze Vs Brass-Bronze-3

    Bronze exists in varieties of forms or alloys and irrespective of its alloy, it offers a vast array of applications. For many years, bronze was used for coins and are suitable for use in ship and boat fittings before the wide employment of stainless. Till today, bronze is used in ship propellers and submerged bearings. Bronze has very low friction against dissimilar metals and as a result, it is used today for bearings, springs, bushings automobile transmission pilot bearings, bearings for small electric motors, and many more.

    Bronze is used to make mallets, hammers, wrenches, and other durable tools as they generate no spark when struck against a hard surface. They are also used in making bronze wool for woodworking applications. Bronze also has a great application in sculptures, musical instruments as well as electrical contacts. Specific bronze alloys offer varying properties as follows:

    863 - Manganese Bronze

    This bronze alloy is known for its corrosive resistance and high strength. It features longevity as a result of durability, making it an ideal option for heavy-duty applications. Such applications include agricultural and construction equipment. 863 Manganese Bronze is applicable in the making of the following:  

    • Bridge pins
    • Bronze for gears
    • Cams
    • Gibs
    • Hydraulic cylinder components
    • Large stem valves
    • Load bearings
    • Screw-down nuts
    907 Tin Bronze

    The 907 Tin Bronze features quality corrosion resistance especially in applications involving seawater exposure. It performs excellently in wear and fatigue applications and it is moderately machinable. The alloy is applicable in making the following:

    • Bearings
    • Bronze for gears
    • Bushings
    • Marine fittings
    • Piston rings
    • Pump components
    917 Tin Bronze

    This alloy is known for its increased load carrying capacity especially for heavy loads that undergo slow and irregular movement. 917 tin bronze is highly corrosion resistant and requires adequate lubrication. It is commonly used for application such as:

    • Bearings with slow speed and high load
    • Turntables for bridges
    • Gears
    • Wheels in worm drives
    • Movable bridge components
    954 Aluminum Bronze

    The 954 Aluminum Bronze is an extremely strong bronze alloy that offers superior corrosion resistance.  Being the most popular aluminum bronze alloy, it features exceptionally elevated temperature strength, weldability, high ductility, high yield, and high tensile strength. It is generally used for applications including:

    • Worms and worm gears (low speed/high strength)
    • Spur gears
    • Bushings
    • Bearings
    • Pickling (baskets/hooks)
    • Valve components
    955 Aluminum Bronze

    The 955 Aluminum Bronze is one of the toughest non-ferrous alloys in existence. This alloy features superior compressive and yield strength coupled with high hardness and elongation. It is corrosion resistant to seawater with impressive thermal resistance. 955 Aluminum Bronze is weldable with good machinability. It commonly found in applications such as:

    • Agitators
    • Aircraft engine (seats, valve guides)
    • Bronze for gears
    • Bushings
    • Landing gear components
    • Pickling (baskets/hooks)
    • Worms

    Brass

    Brass – an alloy of copper offers a wide range of applications in the manufacturing industries. Its common application can be found in decoration because it shares a gold resemblance. As a result of its durability and workability, brass is a highly ideal source material for manufacturing musical instruments. It is applicable in manufacturing plumbing pipes and tubing as a result of its high corrosion resistance. Brass is widely used in electronic appliances because it offers excellent electrical conductivity.

    No doubt, brass is seen in mechanical applications including the production of shell casting for an M-16 rifle, gears, bearings, and many more. Varying applications of specific alloys of brass include:

    Red Brass

    This is an alloy of brass and it is made up of about 95% copper and 5% zinc. Red Brass is a soft alloy of brass and can be easily formed or hammered into desired shapes. It is most suited for craft-related projects as a result of its unusual deep bronze color. Red brass has a vast variety of application such as:

    • Architectural fascial
    • Badges
    • Jewelry
    • Grillwork
    • Marine hardware
    • Door Handles
    • Ornamental trim
    Engraving Brass

    The Engraving brass is known as C35600 or C37000 with its lead composition ranging between 1% and 2%. As its suffix implies, so its application, in essence, for the creation of engraved plaques and nameplates. The engraving brass has applications as follows:

    • Builder Hardware
    • Gear Meters
    • Clock Components
    • Appliance Rim
    Free Cutting Brass

    This type of brass alloy is designated C-360 and it’s composed of copper, zinc, and lead. It is commonly found in applications such as:

    • Bolts, Nuts, Threaded Parts
    • Terminals
    • Pipe or water fittings
    • Taps
    • Valve Bodied
    • Injectors
    • Balance weight
    High Tensile Brass

    High tensile brass is a manganese-containing brass alloy. This form of brass alloy exhibits a high level of strength and it applicable in products that go through a great deal of stress. Example of application of high tensile brass include:

    • Locomotive Axle Box
    • Marine Engines
    • Swash Plates
    • Battery Clamps
    • Valve Guides
    • Bushes Bearings
    • Heavy Load Wheels

    Summary Table

    Properties Bronze Brass
    Units Metric Metric
    Shear Strength 35000 psi to 47000 psi (35000 psi – 48000 psi)
    Tensile Yield Strength 69.0 - 800 MPa (10000 - 116000 psi) 34.5 - 683 MPa (5000 - 99100 psi)
    Ultimate Strength 55.2 - 1010 MPa (8000 - 147000 psi) 124 - 1030 MPa (18000 - 150000 psi)
    Thermal Conductivity 229 - 1440 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°F 180 - 1620 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°F
    Melting Point 315 - 1080 °C 809 - 1030 °C
    Hardness 40 – 420 55 – 73
    Machinability Fair Good
    Durability Better Good
    Color Reddish-brown Golden yellow, reddish-gold, or silver.
    Weight 7400 - 8900 kg/cu.m 8400 up to 8730 kg/cu.m
    Weldability Good Fair
    Corrosion Resistance Good Good

    How to differentiate between Bronze and Brass?

    Color Identification

    • For proper identification, clean the two metals with salt and vinegar paste. This is because older pieces of bronze and brass normally develop dark or green coating known as patina. This patina makes it hard to differentiate both metals using color. For thorough cleaning, mix 1 teaspoon (17 g) of salt with flour (8 g) and stir in enough white vinegar to make a thick paste. Then scrub the paste onto the unidentified metal with a sponge and rinse the paste off with hot water.
    • Check the metal if it is reddish-brown. Once the metal has been cleaned out of which its true color has shown, check if the color is a reddish-brown hue. Bronze is made of copper and tin, so it doesn’t exhibit the yellow coloration of brass. A simple tip to recognize the color is to hold a few different pieces of metal so the color is easier to see. If it is evident that the metal exhibits reddish-brown coloration, it is bronze.
    • Check the metal if it is a yellow-colored metal
    • At first glance, brass exhibit yellow coloration like gold because of its copper and zinc elemental composition. The brass-yellow coloration looks duller and less vibrant than the gold that looks more yellow. If the metal material is yellowish colored and wasn’t very tarnished, then it said to be brass.
    • To verify your discovery, check the metal for rings. Bronze is usually cast with the use of spinning or centrifugal force.  This process creates on the bronze a surface faint ring. If you feel that the metal piece is made of bronze, then feel or look for rings. This is easily spotted if the piece is a cylinder or metal pipe.

    Bronze vs brass F.A.Q

    The question of which is better is ambiguous. We can only say that both metals are better in a specific application. Both may be applicable for a particular application but either of the two may be preferred. This is because of its elevated characteristic over the other. For example, if thermal conductivity is considered for a material selection, brass is preferred over bronze. On the other hand, if durability is considered, then bronze is preferred.

    Bronze is more expensive compared to brass. This is because zinc is cheaper than copper and therefore, the greater the zinc content, the less its cost. Some specific alloys of bronze are four times more expensive than specific alloys of brass. As a result, bronze is portrayed to have a greater value compared to brass

    Bronze is the heaviest when we compared its weight with that of brass. To do this, water is chosen as the baseline for specific gravity - given the value of 1. The specific gravity of each metal is then compared as a fraction of heavier or lighter density. Our comparisons came out that bronze is the heaviest with a density of 7400 - 8900 kg/cu while brass is lower based on its elemental composition and It ranges from 8400 up to 8730 kg/cu.m.

    Bronze is an alloy of copper with other components such as tin and phosphorous. As a result, it yields a greater hardness compared to bronze. On the other hand, brass is hailed for its malleability. It is made up of copper and varying quantities of zinc. A higher percentage of zinc-lead makes brass stronger and more ductile.

    Bronze and brass contain little or no iron and as a result they not subject to rust. They are both rustproof but they can oxidize when exposed to oxygen. This is referred to as corrosion.

    The use of copper alloys for metal injection molding can help achieve faster cycle times compared to steel materials. This is attributed to their high thermal conductivity and in comparison, brass exhibit the highest thermal conductivity, and as such it may be preferred over bronze for metal injection molding.

    Both bronze and brass have a wide application in 3D printing. Bronze may be preferred because of its higher resistance to tarnish than brass alloys. Also, bronze has a harder surface that doesn’t easily get oxidized when it is exposed to air.

    Both metals are machinable but in cases where machinability is preferred, the brass metal takes precedence over other metals.

    Bronze and brass have an impressive application in making cooking utensils. However, bronze is an alloy of copper and lead. Any amount of lead is harmful for human consumption as it can lead to a nervous breakdown. As a result, brass is preferred.

    One way or the other both metals are used as bushing materials. However, as there are varieties of bronze and brass, in all industrial applications where the plain bearing is used, the specified material is bronze. This is because friction between steel and bronze is much lesser compared to friction between steel and brass.   

    Both metals are used for manufacturing valves, but the main advantage of brass valves over bronze valves is the lower level of lead composition. This makes brass safe for drinking water. It gives brass valves a wider application than bronze valves.

    Summary: Bronze vs Brass, which one is best for your project?

    Bronze and brass are copper alloys that retain many qualities of copper but they have unique differences. It is a common thing to confuse bronze and brass when it comes to metal choice, our article has presented a comparison of the properties, applications, and strength. As of now, you should be able to obtain the best option based on our comparison and we are glad that your project will be a successful one.

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