Q:

How do you test the difference between bronze and brass?

A:

Bronze and brass are metal alloys, or a mixture of two different metals. The main difference between bronze and brass, therefore, is found in the mixture of metals used to form them. Brass is formed by combining copper with zinc, while bronze is formed by combining copper mostly with tin and sometimes with other elements, such as manganese, phosphorus, silicon or aluminum.

Subjecting alloys to a chemical test is the surest way to distinguish one from the other. However, bronze and brass can also be differentiated through their physical properties. Bronze has a pinkish hue in its raw state; however, it is rarely seen in this state. It is typically described as having a reddish brown color. Brass, on the other hand, has a muted yellow color that is somewhat similar to gold but duller.

Bronze is hard and brittle and typically melts at 950 centigrade. It is resistant to corrosion, particularly salt water corrosion, and metal fatigue. Bronze is also a better conductor of heat and electricity than most metals. Brass is very malleable, easily stamped and deep drawn. It is not as hard as steel, but it has good strength and fair electrical conductivity. Brass can also be resistant to corrosion when combined with iron, manganese, aluminum and silicon.

Because of its physical properties, bronze is often used in cast bronze sculptures, boat and hip fittings, propellers, door and window frames, rails, bearings, clips, electrical connectors and bells. Brass, on the other hand, is widely used for decorative items, gears, locks, doorknobs, ammunition, electronics and fittings that are used to negate sparks.

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