Monday, September 21, 2015

The Differences in Bronze: Statuary vs. Architectural vs. Commercial

Although usually composed of copper and tin, bronze encompasses many different copper alloys. Other elements, such as phosphorus, manganese, aluminum, or silicon, can be used as additives or replacements to the metal, creating various proportion and elemental compositions.

What’s known as "true" bronze is a combination of approximately 90% copper and 10% tin. However, the implementation of the other additives has created other types of the metal for different uses and purposes.

There are three major classes or types of "bronzes" used in sculpture and construction. They are: “statuary bronze,” “architectural bronze” and “commercial bronze.”

Statuary Bronze

Statuary Bronze, which is used predominantly in outdoor sculpture, is approximately 97 percent copper, two percent tin and one percent zinc. This composition is the closest to "true" bronze, as it only deviates from the composition by 1 percent.

Statuary bronze has limitless forms because it has incredible weldability and can be cast in any shape necessary. Most commonly, you can find statuary bronze in the forms of human figures, landscapes, battle scenes, animals, weapons and decorative elements such as plaques. The great civilizations of the old world worked in bronze for art, from the time of the introduction of the alloy for edged weapons. The Greeks were the first to scale the figures up to life size. Few examples exist in good condition; one is the seawater-preserved bronze now called "The Victorious Youth," The sculpture was found in the summer of 1964 in the sea off the coast of Italy, snagged in the nets of an Italian fishing trawler. It is believed to have been made between 300 and 100 BCE,

Which required painstaking efforts to bring the sculpture it to its present state for museum display. Far more Roman bronze statues have survived.

A more recent example is “The Little Mermaid” in Copenhagen, Denmark commissioned in 1909. Although it has been damaged and defaced over the years, the bronze has held up due to Bronzes’ strength and ductility.

Architectural Bronze

Architectural bronze, which is actually more of a "leaded brass," is generally composed of approximately 57 percent copper, 40 percent zinc and three percent lead. You can find architectural bronze in the frames and hardware of doors and windows, as well as standard household items like mailboxes, railings, chutes and furniture. A wide variety of copper alloys are available for use in construction. The variations in color stem primarily from differences in chemical composition.  In general, most copper alloys eventually weather to the gray-green patina. There are, however, significant variations in their natural colors and in the rate at which they form a patina.

A beautiful example of Bronze used in architectural design is depicted in the image to the right: 

Commercial Bronze

Commercial Bronze is composed of approximately 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc. Commercial bronze is stronger than regular copper and has equivalent ductility. Not to mistake the title Commercial Bronze with C22000 “Commercial Bronze” – this group of Bronzes is commercially used in just about every industry.  These bronzes make up the Wearplates, Scews, castings, valves, and whole host of other applications.  The most common application for this group is “Bearings & Bushings”.  While it is easily machined, the bronze alloy is hard, strong and resistant to wear.

Below is an image of a Bronze Valve that is used for Commercial applications. Typical services include; hot and cold water, HVAC, steam, compressed air, gas and other general utility services.


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