Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Differences Between Brass and Copper


Copper material metal raw

Brass and copper have a great deal of overlap when it comes to their qualities and applications,

but there are also some key differences. By understanding what makes these two metals different,

rather than focusing on what they have in common, it’s easier to determine which is the best fit for

your purposes.

What Is Brass?

Brass is a metal alloy, which means it is created by combining elemental metals. (Here’s how brass is made.) By definition, all brass is made with copper—the most basic form of brass combines copper and zinc. By adjusting the proportion of copper to zinc, the resulting brass has different characteristics. More zinc results in a stronger alloy, and other elements can also be added to change the qualities of the end-product.

Some of the most common elements used to create brass are tin, iron, aluminum, manganese, and lead. Adding any combination of one or more of these metals will give brass products different colors and characteristics. This is how items made of brass can take so many forms—brass can be made in a number of colors, strengths, and qualities so it’s suitable for countless applications.

What Is Copper?

Unlike brass, copper is an elemental metal that is mined from the earth like silver and gold. It is rarely used in its pure form, though—instead, other elements are added to copper to create copper alloys. Just like with brass, different elements are added to copper to either enhance or alter its natural qualities. 

Copper has a number of unique qualities that make it the metal of choice for many applications. Because copper is antimicrobial, some common items made of copper include medical devices, faucets, doorknobs, and other fixtures. Copper is used in electronics because of its electrical and thermal conductivity. Copper is commonly used in architecture thanks to its patina, while it is a top choice for jewelry and art because of its malleability.

What Is the Difference Between Brass and Copper?

It’s not easy to create a comprehensive list of the differences between brass and copper because there are so many alloys available and each has its own distinct qualities. Complicating things further is the fact that brass contains copper, giving it many of the same characteristics. A better basis of comparison is to look at the qualities of the specific alloys you’re considering. 

Still, we can make some general comparisons between the two materials:

  • Brass is stronger and stiffer than pure copper, but the flip side of this is that it’s also more brittle and vulnerable to cracking under stress.

  • Copper is ferromagnetic, while brass is not. This means brass is easier to recycle than copper.

  • Brass is much less conductive than copper, making it unsuitable for use in electrical applications.

  • Brass is usually more resistant to corrosion than copper.

  • Is brass or copper stronger? It depends on how you define strength! Copper is able to bend without breaking, while brass is harder, but less ductile.

The best way to determine which of these metals is best for your application is to seek the advice of an expert who is familiar with the different alloys on the market and the qualities of each. When you work with Atlas Bronze, our team will take the time to get to know the needs of your application, then present you with the best copper and brass products for your specifications. 

Learn More About Copper and Brass

Are you deciding on a metal for your application? Our knowledgeable sales team is here to help you understand the difference between brass and copper. Contact us at 1-800-478-0887 to speak with one of our experts and get started.