On the surface, brass, bronze, and copper have a lot of similarities. They offer a warm, cosmetically pleasing appearance, which has made them a popular choice for household hardware and fixtures. But what makes them different below the surface? If you need components or fasteners, what are the different advantages these metals have to offer?
Brass, bronze, and copper have one primary feature in common, and that’s the presence of copper. Copper itself is available in various grades, but in unalloyed form, copper offers excellent conductivity of both heat and electricity. It also posses natural germicidal tendencies and will resist corrosion.
It is ductile and can be easily worked to create all manner of shapes and forms. Cosmetically, copper has remained a popular choice for numerous applications, from high-end cookware and freestanding sinks and tubs, to sculptures and decorative elements. It’s known for giving rose gold jewelry hues that range from amber to pink.
Copper components and fasteners are most frequently used in plumbing applications. It is also used for conductivity purposes and remains the most widely used material for electrical wiring.
Brass is created when copper is alloyed with zinc. Some other elements may be present as well. Variations in the alloying process have a direct impact on the properties of the finished material, but overall, the addition of zinc makes brass stronger than pure copper. Therefore, the more zinc present in bronze, the stronger it will be, however some cold-working potential will be lost. Depending upon how it’s alloyed, brass is workable and strong.
Musical instruments and decorative hardware are among the most common uses for brass. This is a result of its combined durability and workability. In some cases, tin many be alloyed with brass to prevent the leaching of zinc, which may occur under various environmental conditions.
Brass fasteners are not usually used as heavy industrial components, but they are popular for enhancing a range of consumer goods, including various furnishing, decorative light fixtures, drawer pulls, hinges, and more.
Like brass, bronze also contains copper and may be alloyed with a variety of materials. Bronze is commonly enhanced with the addition of tin, phosphorus, aluminum, silicon, and more. While these additions impart their own unique properties, they all enhance strength, making bronze harder and more durable than pure copper.
Phosphor bronze is one of the strongest varieties of this material. That’s why it’s frequently used to create fasteners and hardware, such as phosphor bronze flat washers. The addition of both phosphorus and tin provides an advantageous combination of corrosion resistance, low coefficient of friction, and enhanced tensile strength.
Aluminum bronze and silicone bronze are each used to create various types of industrial parts and hardware, but if you are looking for smaller fasteners, phosphor bronze is more widely used to create such products.
Now that you have some idea of the differences between brass, bronze, and copper, you can choose fasteners and hardware that have more to offer than just a pleasing look.