One question we often see come up in conversations is asking the difference between bronze and brass and how to identify the difference. Both brass and bronze can be often found with piping and plumbing fixtures. Those looking to separate them from the more valuable copper pipes (reddish) in color, toss the “yellow” metals together and call it brass. The mistake is that sometimes the yellow metals can also consist of bronze and not just brass.
Identifying the difference can be valuable when bronze is generally priced $0.08-$0.25 per pound higher than brass.
What Is Brass?
Brass is a common non-ferrous metal that is often found in plumbing systems. It is generally used for pipe joints, brass faucets for plumbing systems, and brass fixtures, like those found on a sink. Brass is a non-ferrous metal which means it’s non-magnetic. It is also an alloy metal which means it consists of more than one metal; in this case, it is made up of copper and zinc.
Copper is an element on the periodic table and is a red-colored metal. Zinc is also an element on the periodic table and is silver in color. When these two metals are combined they create brass. The zinc mixed with the copper makes it stronger and more durable and also creates the yellowish color you see with brass. Brass is made up of 60-80% copper and 20-40% zinc.
Common Brass Materials:
What Is Bronze?
Bronze is not as common as brass, due to the higher value to produce and purchase it. It is also a non-ferrous and alloy metal. Bronze is a heavier metal than brass and can be found in plumbing fixtures as well, but also in larger items like statues and decor. Another common item where bronze is used is water meters. Due to the higher content of copper compared to zinc, bronze is generally a red color. Bronze is made up of 80-90% copper and 10-20% zinc.
Common Bronze Materials:
What’s The Difference Between Brass & Bronze?
When you learn that brass and bronze are both made up of copper and zinc, it could be confusing to figure out the difference between them. Bronze is worth more money for scrap metal value and also has a reddish color because it has a higher copper content.
Copper is worth more money compared to zinc, so, therefore, the percentage of the copper determines the price. Brass is more of a yellow color because it has a higher zinc content compared to the copper inside, therefore is worth less money in scrap metal.
Suggested Reading: Difference of Metal & Alloy
How To Identify The Difference
Identifying the difference is something that can be difficult if you don’t have exact measurement resources like some scrap yards may have. As a scrapper, the knowledge of knowing the difference between brass and bronze is something that often comes with time and experience. If you are a plumber and work with various materials often, it’s easier to identify what pieces of scrap are bronze or brass. As a scrapper, it depends on how often you are coming across these materials and how you sort them.
Suggested Reading: Most Common Scrap Metals
Unless you have an XRF analyzer, it’s almost impossible to know the exact breakdown of copper and zinc inside bronze and brass scrap. One way you can begin to easily sort the two is by taking a file and filing down a part of the piece of metal. If there is a yellowish color, once you file off the surface, you most likely have brass, which is more common. If you file the material and it’s a reddish color similar to copper, you have bronze. Also bronze is much more dense than brass, so a small piece will be much heavier.
What To Do At Your Scrap Yard?
Once you have figured out the difference and have put forth your best effort to separate the materials, it’s important to ask your scrap yard how they buy these materials. Some scrap yards will have a XRF analyzer to separate the materials or some may just know what bronze looks like because of their experience. There may also be some scrap yards that actually mix the material and give a flat price for them.
Suggested Reading: Finding The Best Scrap Yard
It’s important to find a scrap yard in your area on the iScrap App and ask them about how they buy brass and bronze. If you feel that the scrap yard is not buying your material correctly, feel free to ask some of the scrappers on our forum and you may also want to look for another scrap yard to sell to.
When you are looking to recycle your brass and bronze scrap metal, be sure to know the difference of the two materials. Also it can be helpful to know where the materials came from or what they were used for to help identify the difference between them.