Difference Between Brass and Bronze

bronze statue

Most people have heard of “bronze” at least once—in a museum, in a church, or in an Olympic ceremony. It’s a metal used to make a variety of things, including sculptures, bells, and medals. Brass?—Not a lot. Only those in the manufacturing and construction industry are well aware of it.

Truth is even though brass is as useful, if not more, as bronze, it isn’t as popular. One apparent reason for this is because its history is not as remarkable as bronze’s. Unlike brass, bronze was discovered at a time when there are no other metals that could rival it yet.

It didn’t take long, though, before brass could make a name for itself. And at one point in history its existence begged the question “Are brass and bronze the same?”or “Can brass substitute bronze?”

While brass and bronze are both alloys of copper, their properties are not the same. Neither metal can substitute the other at least in highly specialized applications.They must be treated as different metals with different values.


To better understand the difference between brass and bronze, let’s take a close look at their composition. After all, an alloy’s properties can change dramatically when at least one of its contents is altered. In fact, adding even just a miniscule amount of a different element to the composition could produce an entirely different kind of alloy.

As previously mentioned, brass and bronze are both alloys of copper. This means that copper is their base metal content and they differ in their secondary metal content. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, while bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.

Unlike bronze, which was discovered when copper and tin-rich rocks were combined to build campfire rings, the discovery of brass was almost totally unintentional. For some time it wasn’t regarded as a copper alloy because zinc vapor hadn’t been recognized as a metal yet. It wasn’t even called brass until zinc qualified as a metal.


Due to their difference in composition, brass and bronze also possess different properties. Anyone working with these metals must take note of this fact because they are generally not interchangeable.Here’s to help you more easily distinguish between brass and bronze.

  • Color

    – Bronze has a reddish-brown or reddish-gold color, which turns into dark brown or green as it oxidizes. Brass, on the other hand, has a bright gold, copper, or even silver color, depending on the type and amount of other metals added to the mixture.

  • Workability

    – Brass is more malleable than bronze. Meaning, it’s less likely to break when hammered or rolled into thin plates than bronze. In fact, bronze is almost as brittle as cast iron and melts longer than brass. Depending on their composition and the output quality desired, however, both bronze and brass may need to be worked hot.Whether you are extruding brass or bronze bars or drawing them into wires, they need to be heated for easier metalworking.

  • Conductivity

    – When it comes to heat and electrical conductivity, there’s not much difference between the two alloys. They are both effective conductors, and that’s why they’re suitable for machines that run on electricity.

  • Corrosion Resistance

    – Both brass and bronze are resistant to corrosion because they are mostly made of copper. However, they react differently to oxidation. Bronze develops a protective layer called patina when exposed to the air, while brass simply tarnishes and loses its luster. Some types of brass are especially resistant to galvanic seawater corrosion, making them ideal for sea vessel covering and pipes for desalination systems.

  • Acoustic Property

    – The sound created by bronze is much duller and deeper than that created by brass, which explains why it isn’t compatible for high-pitched musical instruments. It’s just right for cymbals and bells, though, because its resonance does not disappear fast. Brass, on the other hand, is capable of creating the smooth, wide-ranging tone expected from musical instruments like trumpet and horn.

Where to Purchase Brass and Bronze

Despite being widely used in the construction, communication, and transportation industries, copper alloys are not as easy to come by as more abundant metals like iron and aluminum. There are only very few bronze and brass suppliers in North America that can provide authentic, high-quality products.

It’s easy to tell if a supplier can deliver the right grade of metal for your project. First, find out how long they’ve been in the business. The older the company, the wider its network of sources is, so it’s also highly that they produce superior products. Rotax Metals, which was established many decades ago, is the perfect example. Having their own foundry is also a meritas it means they have full control of the manufacturing and quality assurance process.


What Is Brass Made of and What Are Its Properties?

telescope with brass components

When you think of brass, the first thing you would probably imagine is a musical instrument, particularly a trumpet or a saxophone. While many musical instruments are indeed made of brass, they are not the only items made of such material. There are countless others, some of which are everyday objects, such as doorknobs, drawer pulls, and handrails.

Brass is quite a common metal but very few people are truly familiar with it, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Apart from having a plain appearance, brass also comes in numerous varieties. Furthermore, the color of brass can be engineered to suit a wide range of design applications, which is why it is almost always mistaken for other shiny metals.

What is brass made of?

Brass is the resulting alloy when you combine about 67% copper and 33% zinc. This standard composition can be altered to produce different types of brass. Minute amounts of other metals, such as lead, phosphorus, aluminum, manganese, and silicon can be added to the mixture to further improve the properties of brass. For instance, adding up to 2% lead could give brass better machinability.

Not all combinations, however, produce useful versions of brass. Some make brittle and soft kinds, while others too difficult to cold work. Another problem that may arise is dezincification, which is characterized by the gradual increase in porosity of brass due to an excessive amount of zinc.

Useful Properties of Brass

If you are familiar with copper and zinc, it will be easy for you to understand the nature of brass. We know that copper is extremely durable, able to last for thousands of years due to its ability to form patina, a green layer of material that protects its surface from weathering. Zinc, on the other hand, is known for its high corrosion resistance and density, which makes it incredibly impermeable. Now, let’s take a look at brass and its useful properties.

  • Corrosion Resistance

    – Like copper, brass is also resistant to corrosion. It’s no wonder manufacturers prefer brass channel and tube products to other metal supplies. With the right composition, brass can even hold out in seawater, which is ten times harsher than tap water. Unfortunately, brass tarnishes quickly, which is why brass furniture and accessories must be regularly polished to stay shiny.

  • Workable

    – Standard versions of brass are prized for their malleability. Meaning, they can be molded into different shapes and thicknesses without applying heat. Compared with bronze, brass is easier to cold work, weld, and braze. Adding a little bit more zinc helps improve this metal’s machinability.

  • High Conductivity

    – Like copper, brass also has a considerable heat and electrical conductivity, around 40% that of copper. It doesn’t quickly burn under high voltage like silver and other conductive metals. This is why brass is the preferred material for machine parts that function as conductors.

  • Germicidal Properties

    – Brass is also anti-bacterial, a property that is characteristic of most non-ferrous metals. Their molecules produce ions that target a certain protein in single-celled microorganisms, resulting in their demise. The entire process takes about two to four hours depending on the type of metal involved. This is the reason why copper alloys, such as brass, are ideal for filtration systems.

  • Aesthetic Appeal

    – There’s no denying the majestic appearance of standard brass. Its glittery yellow tone rivals that of authentic gold. Those who are looking for a cheaper alternative to gold in their crafts must consider brass.

Major Classifications of Brass

    There are currently over 60 types of brasses available commercially. They are classified according to the ratio of their copper and zinc content. As mentioned, by changing the ratio of what brass is made of, you can produce brasses of varying properties. To better identify each brass type and measure their performance, they are methodically classified into three forms.

  • Alpha Brasses

    – More commonly known as soft brasses, these are brasses with 65% copper and 35% zinc. This much copper is what makes these brasses malleable and easy to work cold. They also look more gold-like than the other forms of brasses.

  • Alpha-Beta Brasses

    – Brasses with 55-65% copper and 35-45% zinc are classified as semi-hard or alpha-beta brasses. They are slightly harder than alpha brasses, which is why they are usually worked hot. This slight change in composition gives these brasses a brighter, less golden hue. Additionally, alpha-beta brasses are also less resistant to corrosion than alpha brasses.

  • Beta Brasses

    – The hardest types of brasses belong to the beta group. Theses brasses have 50-55% copper and 45-50% zinc. Due to their hardness, they are quite impossible to work unless they are heated. The high amount of zinc also poses the risk of dezincification.

When purchasing brass for your projects, always be precise about the composition to make sure you’ll get the exact quality you need. The last thing you want is to use soft brass for structural applications. You must always consult with a metal expert before choosing a specific grade of brass. You may also get your supplies from top brass suppliers like Rotax Metals, especially because they supply North America with superior copper products.

Why Is Brass Useful?—History, Properties, and Uses

brass doorknob
In a not so distant past, our ancestors used to think of metals as a gift from the gods. Metals were, after all, the toughest materials around during those times. They were used to make weapons, armors, cookware, and just about anything that makes life easier. Even today, metals are still a highly regarded material. As the lifeblood of industrialization, their significance is expected to continue for centuries until a new, more efficient alternative is discovered, which is still quite unthinkable.

One of the metals that has stood the test of time is copper. Humans discovered it over 10,000 years ago and yet here we are still exploring its multiple properties. Thanks to copper, we can enjoy safe electricity, take a bath with warm water, travel around in our own vehicles, and more. It’s contributed to society so much that the world might not be able to survive without it.

Copper has many offerings to this world, and one of those is the alloy brass. It’s a metal produced by combining copper with zinc. Although not as popular as bronze (also an alloy of copper, which is produced by combining copper with tin), brass is quite a notable metal, and it is equally useful to boot. Brass’s strange history may have to do with its infamy.

Discovery of Brass

Brass has been widely used even during the latter part of the Bronze Age. It just wasn’t recognized as an alloy of copper similar to bronze because the zinc vapor used to produce it wasn’t identified as a metal. It’s even mentioned many times in the Bible but the term “necosheth” was used, which means “bronze of copper”. It didn’t take long though before brass became renowned, following zinc’s recognition as a metal.

Eventually, during the latter part of the first millennium BC, brass had finally started to ascend to popularity. In some of the manuscripts written by the 4th century BC writer Theopompus, brass was identified as oreichalkos, which could be produced by mixing “droplets of false silver” (referring to zinc) and copper. The production further improved during the collapse of the Roman Empire in the Medieval Period, mainly because of the disruption in the trade of tin for bronze from Western Europe.

Brass Properties and Uses

As the technology used in metallurgy evolved, exploring the properties of brass became easier. It also became possible to create different versions of brass to meet various needs. Now, brass suppliers are more common than ever, thanks to the non-stop production since the industrial revolution. Here are some of the major properties and uses of brass.

  • Malleability

    – One of the qualities of most metals that you won’t find in any other material is malleability or the ability to be flattened into thin sheets without breaking. Of the two metals that make up brass, copper is the more malleable one. Zinc, on the other hand, contributes hardness to the alloy, keeping brass tough even when it’s thin. Thanks to this property, brass metal plates used for machine casing and surface covering.

  • Tensile Strength

    – Most metals have a natural ability to resist tension, so much so that they are often used as reinforcement for structures that involve pulling forces. Due to their malleability, they are not very good at resisting compressive forces. This property makes brass alloys the ideal material for nuts, bolts, and threaded parts.

  • Machinability

    – Brass is also known for its high machinability. It can easily be cut and reshaped without compromising its density and strength. It’s no wonder a lot of machines that require parts with detailed extrusions rely on brass.

  • Acoustics

    – If there’s one thing brass is truly popular for, it’s its great acoustic property. This is why it is a preferred material for musical instruments, so much so that an entire family of musical instruments was named after it. Brass instruments, such as the trombone, tuba, trumpet, cornet, baritone horn, euphonium, and tenor horn create great sound that can hardly be mimicked by the same instruments made from other materials.

  • Antibacterial Property

    – Brass is also known for its ability to trigger an oligodynamic effect thanks to its main metal content, which is copper. It’s one of the few metals that release ions capable of breaking down certain proteins in microorganisms, killing them in the process. This is why brass is the metal of choice for applications such as water filtration and food processing. It is also the most ideal metal for frequently touched home fixtures such as doorknobs, railings, and even countertops.

  • Natural Elegance

    – Seeing brass for the first time can give you the same impression when you first saw gold. That’s because brass appears very similar to gold, except it’s much cheaper. This is why brass is often used for decorations that require gold’s sheen and shade. It is the perfect alternative.

Where to Buy Brass

Surprisingly, despite being not as popular as other metals like aluminum and iron, brass is pretty much accessible. Top North American brass suppliers like Rotax Metals have all the brass supplies you need from angle bars and plates to tubes and pipes. Only get your supplies from a reputable supplier to ensure quality and variety. It also helps to inquire about how or where they source their supplier. Most reputable suppliers have their own foundry.


1 2 3 29

Product categories