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The Differences Between Copper, Brass, and Bronze Red Metals

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What are red metals?

As its namesake dictates, red metals are known for their aesthetically pleasing red hue, beneficial physical features, and anti-bacterial qualities. Copper, brass, and bronze red metals are related, but each has different properties that differentiate the metals in the types of applications that they can be used. It is of profound importance that the differences between the red metals are understood prior to choosing a particular alloy.

Copper Metal

Copper is one of the few metals directly usable in its natural state, and it was one of the first metals mined by early humans. The most common red metal, copper, is the base metal for the other two, which are alloys of copper.

Copper Properties

Copper’s electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties are helpful for many applications. Its resistance to bacteria is ideal for medical applications or surfaces such as kitchen and bathroom counters and backsplashes, sinks, and tubs. On top of that, copper has a built-in corrosion resistance, which means it can withstand the outdoors and other wet applications, such as roofing or plumbing. Copper advantages include:
  • Excellent thermal and electrical conductivity
  • Wear and corrosion resistance
  • Enhanced strength when flexed, drawn, or formed
  • Anti-microbial and corrosion-resistant benefits

Copper Grades

The most common type of copper, alloy 110, is 99.9% pure. Copper 110 bar displays enhanced electrical conductivity, making it the product of choice for electrical components such as terminals, bus bars, conductors, and connectors. Additional copper alloy grades include:
  • 101
  • 110
  • 122
  • 145

Copper Applications

Copper is easy to bend and form, with excellent dimensional control and good crack resistance. It also can be extensively machined, soldered, and brazed, making it ideal for a wide range of applications in the automotive, industrial, architectural, and building industries. Direct copper applications include:
  • Pressure vessels
  • Heat exchangers
  • Cotter pins
  • Rivets
  • Radiators
  • Gaskets
  • Roofing
  • Gutters

Brass Metal

Brass products are alloys, or mixtures of copper and zinc and small amounts of other metals. Brass provides good durability, high corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, non-sparking qualities, and excellent aesthetics, all at a lower cost than comparable copper or bronze materials.

Brass Properties

As a copper-alloy, brass demonstrates many of the characteristics of copper. However, the alloy does exhibit a few distinct properties compared to pure copper and other copper alloys. These include:
  • Malleability
  • Formability
  • High melting point
  • Non-ferromagnetic

Brass Grades

Brass is available in a wide range of unique alloy grades. Each brass alloy has been developed to provide its distinctive beneficial qualities. Brass alloy grades include:
  • 260
  • 272
  • 330
  • 353
  • 360
  • 385
  • 464
  • C48200-48500

Brass Applications

Since brass is easy to machine and otherwise fabricate, as needed, it is an ideal material for a wide range of manufacturing, construction, electrical, and plumbing applications. Direct brass applications include:
  • Gears
  • Bearings
  • Valves
  • Ammunition casings
  • Fasteners
  • Architecture
  • Marine hardware

Bronze Metal

Bronze is an alloy of copper mixed with about 12% tin, which adds to its strength and corrosion resistance. For thousands of years, bronze has been used for coins, statues, doors, tools, weapons, candlesticks, armor, musical instruments, and many other objects. Like copper, it has natural corrosion resistance. Bronze is more of a dull gold than a red metal, and it usually has rings on the surface caused by the manufacturing process.

Bronze Properties

Silicon bronze, the most widely used form of bronze used in modern times, is a low-lead brass alloy composed of 96% copper with a small percentage of silicon, which provides natural lubricity. It is known for its easy pouring ability and attractive surface finish. Silicon bronze is highly corrosion resistant and roughly as strong as steel. 
Bearing bronze has a high lead content of 6% to 8%. Like silicon bronze, bearing bronze offers low friction and high corrosion resistance, excellent wear resistance, and high hardness. As the name suggests, bearing bronze sheet is most often used for bearings, bushings, and similar applications.
Bronze advantages include:
  • Enhanced corrosion resistance
  • Excellent thermal conductivity
  • High ductility

Bronze Grades

Bronze is available in several alloy grades, including:
  • 932
  • 954

Bronze Applications

Silicon bronze and bearing bronze can be found in various industrial applications. These materials are strong, corrosion-resistant, and non-magnetic. Silicon bronze is relatively easy to machine, while working bearing bronze requires more fabrication expertise. Applications include:
  • Bearings
  • Bushings
  • Pumps
  • Boilers
  • Pump components
  • No-lead castings
  • Plumbing
  • Valve stems

Contact IMS for Copper, Brass & Bronze Red Metals Today

Industrial Metal Supply stocks a wide range of styles and sizes of red metals, including multiple size options of copper, brass, and bronze in the form of round or rectangular bar, sheet, plate, or foil. We also stock a line of decorative brass railing from Lavi Industries. Contact us to learn more about our top-tier metal options.

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