Copper is an essential element and a soft metal known for its malleability and conductivity and Its corrosion resistance. Brass is made from a combination of copper alloy and zinc (but can also have more metals stashed in its makeup). It also boasts brilliant resistance to corrosion and is highly durable.
While both copper and brass come with a golden glow, there are actually many differences between brass and copper. Both bring their own set of strengths and uses in modern society - from plumbing to electrical wiring, as decorative features, and even in healing jewelry. We take a closer look at what sets these two metals apart and how you can tell the difference.
Key Characteristics of Copper and Brass
Color and Appearance: Differentiating Copper and Brass
Copper can be set apart from brass as it has a reddish-orange color, whereas yellow brass has a closer resemblance to gold at first glance. The reddish-brown color of copper is one of its best visual attributes, especially when polished to a stunning shine.
Density and Weight: Contrasting Copper and Brass
Copper tends to be heavier than brass as it is a denser material. As brass is an alloy of copper mixed with zinc, it's not as dense or heavy. You can also use the finger tap to decipher between copper and brass. As copper is a softer metal, it will have a warmer, rounder sound when tapped, whereas brass will sound higher as it is harder.
Electrical and Thermal Conductivity: Variances Between Copper and Brass
When it comes to brass vs. copper and conductivity - copper will always win. Copper is famed for its electrical conductivity, and this is why its often used for electrical wiring. This is also true of thermal conductivity - again, copper takes the gold medal. Brass is also a good conductor of electricity and is celebrated for being highly corrosion-resistant, but copper is the stronger conductor, which is why it's so commonly used in industrial applications.
Composition of Copper and Brass Alloys
Pure Copper: A Brief Overview of Its Composition
Pure copper is a single metal made of a single type of atom - copper itself. This pure metal showcases excellent resistance and first-class conductivity and has an attractive, eye-catching gold-reddish color scheme. Real copper is mined extensively and used in a wide variety of applications as its one of our most important metals. From decorative items to copper pipes and copper wiring and copper jewelry, the simple yet effective composition of copper make it a winner.
Composition of Brass Alloys: Copper and Zinc Ratio
Brass brings together copper and zinc, and while the ratio can vary, you can expect around 70% of copper content mixed with 30% zinc. This gives brass its yellow color, which makes it an attractive metal to use in decorative objects, and the density, coloring, and composition also make it a great metal for musical instruments.
Impacts of Alloying Elements on the Properties of Copper and Brass
When you add varieties of metals together, you change their properties. So, when zinc is added to the original metal of copper, you get brass. While this means that you bring together some of the best qualities of copper and zinc, you also lose some of that original potency. In this case, brass will still be a good conductor as it carries that over from its copper origin, but it won't be as good at conducting as pure copper. However, it may be a more durable metal, and thanks to the level of flexibility that copper brings, it can be easier to shape for different metal uses.
Applications of Copper and Brass
Common Uses of Copper in Various Industries
Copper is one of the best metals out there and is used in both the industrial and commercial space. It is one of the most common metals found in electrical equipment thanks to its high conductivity. It is also used in construction and in the kitchen as it distributes temperature well and doesn't surrender easily to corrosion. This last point also means that copper is also a good choice in marine environments and plumbing too.
Versatility of Brass in Industrial and Decorative Applications
Brass is also used in industrial settings, and this is mainly because of its strength and durability. Brass doesn't show wear and tear easily, and this is why it's used for a wide range of fittings and valve components. It also has excellent conductivity, so it can be good for wiring and plumbing at slightly lower capacity needs as it's not on the same level as copper. Brass is also one of the most popular metals for making musical instruments, as it is malleable without compromising its level of durability. It also shows resistance to corrosion while creating a great environment for nurturing amazing sound.
Comparing the Suitability of Copper and Brass for Different Applications
Copper and brass both bring their own skills to the party. Copper wins out when it comes to needing a type of metal for electrical conductivity and thermal conductivity too. If you are looking for a material for wiring, plumbing, and cooking - copper wire, copper pipes, and copper cookware offer excellent properties. Brass may be a good choice when you need a conductor with moderate strength but high durability or when you are looking for a beautiful finish on decorative components.
Advantages of Brass Over Copper
Improved Strength and Durability in Brass
While copper takes the cake when it comes to conductivity there are some advantages when it comes to brass Vs copper. On the metal hardness chart, brass comes above copper as it also brings the strength of zinc too. Brass is a much more robust metal than copper and this is why it's used in fittings where long term strength and durability are needed.
Enhanced Corrosion Resistance of Brass
Both brass and copper are resistant to corrosion but brass is considered to be superior especially when it comes to aqueous corrosion resistance. This is why brass is used for steam fittings, marine applications, and common applications outdoors as it can withstand exposure to moisture and harsh conditions. It will also hold its bright gold appearance or at least a yellow-brown coloring whereas copper can be more susceptible to changing color and oxidation when exposed to moisture and other elements if it doesn't have a protective coating. If you have been wondering why copper turns your skin green, this is why.
Brass's Superior Machinability and Formability
Easy to cut, simple to shape and malleable enough to mold into whatever shape you want without losing its ability to yield strength, there's a reason that brass is one of the preferred metals when it comes to machinability and formability. Brass can be changed into any shape and allows for architectural components, detailing and design which makes it ideal for artistic and decorative finishings.
Magnetic Properties of Copper and Brass
Understanding the Magnetism of Copper
Copper is not considered to be magnetic in its pure form which is why copper bracelets and copper jewelry designed to help with pain and inflammation have magnets in them. Copper does interact with magnets though as the magnetic field causes the electrons on copper to rearrange themselves and even to rotate.
Exploring the Magnetism of Brass Alloys
Brass is also non magnetic as it is a copper-based alloy with added zinc content and neither of these are magnetic. You can get nickel plated brass which will have some magnetism as it is ferromagnetic and maintains magnetism even without a magnetic field.
Addressing the Question: Is Copper and Brass Magnetic?
No, copper and brass are not considered to have magnetic properties as their atomic structure doesn't create magnetic fields.
Copper and brass share similar vibes and properties but despite copper being an active part of brass, there are also defined differences too. Copper has the distinct properties of offering superior conductivity, being corrosion resistant, and is heavier with a gorgeous reddish - brown appearance. It also has natural antibacterial properties. Brass on the other hand is known for its malleability, its hardness and brass strength, and for sharing a similar appearance to gold. Both these metals have their place in the world and both should be revered as the amazing metals they are.
How can you tell if something is 100% copper?
Pure copper or real copper has a certain density and a certain coloring of reddish brown or reddish gold. You can also use ohmeter to test both ends of the copper piece and to see if it matches the reading of electrical resistance.
Do magnets stick to copper?
No magnets will not stick to copper because copper is not magnetic. That's not to say that copper has no relationship with magnetism or magnetic fields but in its own chemical makeup, it is not magnetic.
What does pure copper look like?
Pure copper has a certain coloring that is reddish brown or reddish gold. If it has a yellowish color then it may be more likely to be brass. By learning how to clean copper jewelry, you can keep that shiny bright appearance.
Is copper or brass more expensive?
Copper is more expensive than brass. Copper is a naturally occurring metal element whereas brass is a hybrid of both copper and zinc.