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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive, but sometimes with other elements such as phosphorus, manganese, aluminium, or silicon. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, giving its name to the Bronze Age. The word Bronze is believed to be cognate with the Italian: bronzo and German: brunst, perhaps ultimately taken from the Persian word birinj ("bronze") or possibly from the Latin name of the city of Brindisi (aes Brundusinum -Pliny).[1]



Chinese pu vessel with interlaced dragon design, Spring and Autumn Period (722 BC-481 BC)

The discovery of bronze enabled people to create better metal objects than was previously possible. Tools, weapons, armor, and various building materials, like decorative tiles, made of bronze were harder and more durable than their stone and copper ("Chalcolithic") predecessors. Initially bronze was made out of copper and arsenic to form arsenic bronze. It was only later that tin was used, becoming the sole type of bronze in the late 3rd millennium BC. Tin bronze was superior over arsenic bronze in that the alloying process itself could more easily be controlled (as tin was available as a metal) and the alloy was stronger and easier to cast. Also, unlike arsenic, tin is not toxic.

The earliest tin-alloy bronzes date to the late 4th millennium BC in Susa (Iran) and some ancient sites in Luristan (Iran) and Mesopotamia (Iraq).

Copper and tin ores are rarely found together (exceptions include one ancient site in Thailand and one in Iran), so serious bronze work has always involved trade. In Europe, the major source for tin was Great Britain's deposits of ore in Cornwall, which were traded as far as Phoenicia in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Though bronze is generally harder than wrought iron, with Vickers hardnesses of 60-258[2] vs 30-80[3], the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age; this happened because iron was easier to find. Bronze was still used during the Iron Age, but, for many purposes, the weaker wrought iron was found to be sufficiently strong. Archaeologists suspect that a serious disruption of the tin trade precipitated the transition. The population migrations around 1200 – 1100 BC reduced the shipping of tin around the Mediterranean (and from Great Britain), limiting supplies and raising prices.[4] As ironworking improved, iron became cheaper; and as cultures advanced from wrought iron to forged iron, they learned how to make steel, which is stronger than bronze and holds a sharper edge longer.[5]


Assorted ancient bronze castings

Bronze is considerably less brittle than iron. Typically bronze only oxidizes superficially; once a copper oxide (eventually becoming copper carbonate) layer is formed, the underlying metal is protected from further corrosion. However, if copper chlorides are formed, a corrosion-mode called "bronze disease" will eventually completely destroy it.[6] Copper-based alloys have lower melting points than steel or iron, and are more readily produced from their constituent metals. They are generally about 10 percent heavier than steel, although alloys using aluminium or silicon may be slightly less dense. Bronzes are softer and weaker than steel - bronze springs, for example, are less stiff (and so store less energy) for the same bulk. Bronze resists corrosion (especially seawater corrosion) and metal fatigue more than steel and is also a better conductor of heat and electricity than most steels. The cost of copper-base alloys is generally higher than that of steels but lower than that of nickel-base alloys.

Copper and its alloys have a huge variety of uses that reflect their versatile physical, mechanical, and chemical properties. Some common examples are the high electrical conductivity of pure copper, the excellent deep drawing qualities of cartridge case brass, the low-friction properties of bearing bronze, the resonant qualities of bell bronze, and the resistance to corrosion by sea water of several bronze alloys.


Ewer from 7th century Iran. Cast, chased, and inlaid bronze. New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

Bronze was especially suitable for use in boat and ship fittings prior to the wide employment of stainless steel owing to its combination of toughness and resistance to salt water corrosion. Bronze is still commonly used in ship propellers and submerged bearings.

In the twentieth century, silicon was introduced as the primary alloying element, creating an alloy with wide application in industry and the major form used in contemporary statuary. Aluminium is also used for the structural metal aluminium bronze.

It is also widely used for cast bronze sculpture. Many common bronze alloys have the unusual and very desirable property of expanding slightly just before they set, thus filling in the finest details of a mould. Bronze parts are tough and typically used for bearings, clips, electrical connectors and springs.

Spring bronze weatherstripping comes in rolls of thin sheets and is nailed or stapled to wood windows and doors. There are two types, flat and v-strip. It has been used for hundreds of years because it has low friction, seals well and is long lasting. It is used in building restoration and custom construction.

Bronze also has very little metal-on-metal friction, which made it invaluable for the building of cannon where iron cannonballs would otherwise stick in the barrel.[citation needed] It is still widely used today for springs, bearings, bushings, automobile transmission pilot bearings, and similar fittings, and is particularly common in the bearings of small electric motors. Phosphor bronze is particularly suited to precision-grade bearings and springs. It is also used in guitar and piano strings.

Bronze is typically 88% copper and 12% tin.[7] Alpha bronze consists of the alpha solid solution of tin in copper. Alpha bronze alloys of 4–5% tin are used to make coins, springs, turbines and blades.

Commercial bronze (90% copper and 10% zinc) and Architectural bronze (57% Copper, 3% Lead, 40% Zinc) are actually brass alloys because they contain zinc as the main alloying ingredient. They are commonly used in architectural applications. [8][9]

Unlike steel, bronze struck against a hard surface will not generate sparks, so it (along with beryllium copper) is used to make hammers, mallets, wrenches and other durable tools to be used in explosive atmospheres or in the presence of flammable vapours.

Bronze statues

Indian Hindu artisans from the period of the Chola empire in Tamil Nadu, used bronze to create intricate statues via the lost wax casting method with ornate detailing depicting the Gods of Hinduism mostly, but also the lifestyle of the period. The art form survives to this day, with many silpis, craftsmen, working in the areas of Swamimalai and Chennai.

In antiquity other cultures also produced works of high art using bronze. For example: in Africa the bronze heads of the Kingdom of Benin, in Europe; Grecian bronzes typically of figures from Greek mythology, in east Asia; Chinese bronzes of the Shang and Zhou dynasty — more often ceremonial vessels but including some figurine examples.

Bronze continues into modern times as one of the materials of choice for monumental statuery.

Musical instruments

Bronze is the most popular metal for top-quality bells, particularly bell metal, which is about 23% tin.

Nearly all professional cymbals are made from a bronze alloy. The alloy used in drum kit cymbal bronze is unique in the desired balance of durability and timbre.

According to a legend (on the Zildjian cymbals website), in 1623, an Armenian man in Turkey named Avedis Zildjian, an alchemist, was attempting to form base metals into gold. Upon dropping an ingot on the ground, he was amazed at how well it rang. He was given the title Zildjian ("son of cymbal maker") by the Turkish Sultan. Today, the Avedis Zildjian Corporation is the largest maker of cymbals in the world.[10]

Modern cymbals consist of several types of bronze, the most common being B20 bronze, which is roughly 20% tin, 80% copper, with traces of silver. Zildjian and Sabian use this alloy for their professional lines. A Swiss company, Paiste, uses a softer B8 bronze which is made from 8% tin and 92% copper in nearly all of their cymbals. Zildjian and Sabian use this metal too, in their budget priced cymbals.

As the tin content in a bell or cymbal rises, the timbre drops.[11] As well as B8 and B20, Meinl Percussion uses B10 (10% tin) and B12 (12% tin) alloys for cymbals, which have timbres roughly between B8 and B20.[12]

Bronze is also used for the windings of steel strings of various stringed instruments such as the double bass, piano, harpsichord, and the guitar, replacing former gut and nylon strings. Bronze strings are commonly reserved on pianoforte for the lower pitch tones, as they possess a superior sustain quality to that of high-tensile steel[13]

Bronzes of various metallurgical properties are widely used in struck idiophones around the world, notably in South East Asia, and most famously for the Javanese gamelan and other glockenspiel-like musical instruments. The earliest bronze archeological finds in Indonesia date from 1-2 BCE, including flat plates probably suspended and struck by a wooden or bone mallet.[13][14]

Some companies are now making saxophones from phosphor bronze (3.5 to 10% tin and up to 1% phosphor content).

See also

Fragment of the grave of Cyprian Kamil Norwid in the Bards' crypt in Wawel Cathedral, Kraków, Poland by sculptor Czesław Dźwigaj


  1. ^ Bronze at the Online Etymological Dictionary
  2. ^
  3. ^ Smithells Metals Reference Book, 8th Edition, ch. 22
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ancient Blacksmiths, the Iron Age, Damascus Steels, and Modern Metallurgy
  6. ^
  7. ^ Knapp, Brian. (1996) Copper, Silver and Gold. Reed Library, Australia.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Background of Zildjian
  11. ^ Von Falkenhausen, Lothar (1993). Suspended Music: Chime-Bells in the Culture of Bronze Age China. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 106. 
  13. ^ a b McCreight, Tim. Metals technic: a collection of techniques for metalsmiths. Brynmorgen Press, 1992. ISBN 0961598433
  14. ^ LaPlantz, David. Jewelry - Metalwork 1991 Survey: Visions - Concepts - Communication: S. LaPlantz: 1991. ISBN 0942002059

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BRONZE, an alloy formed wholly or chiefly of copper and tin in variable proportions. The word has been etymologically connected with the same root as appears in "brown," but according to M. P. E. Berthelot (La Chimie au moyen age) it is a place-name derived from aes Brundusianum (cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxxiii. ch. ix. § 45, "specula optima apud majores fuerunt Brundusiana, stanno et aere mixtis"). A Greek MS. of about the 11th century in the library of St Mark's, Venice, contains the form l3povT17acov, and gives the composition of the alloy as 1 lb of copper with 2 oz. of tin. The product obtained by adding tin to copper is more fusible than copper and thus better suited for casting; it is also harder and less malleable. A soft bronze or gun-metal is formed with 16 parts of copper to 1 of tin, and a harder gun-metal,, such as was used for bronze ordnance, when the proportion of tin is about doubled. The steel bronze of Colonel Franz Uchatius (1811-1881) consisted of copper alloyed with 8% of tin, the tenacity and hardness being increased by cold-rolling. Bronze containing about 7 parts of copper to 1 of tin is hard, brittle and sonorous, and can be tempered to take a fine edge. Bell-metal varies considerably in composition, from about 3 to 5 parts of copper to 1 of tin. In speculum metal there are 2 to 21 parts of copper to 1 of tin. Statuary bronze may contain from 80 to 90% of copper, the residue being tin, or tin with zinc and lead in various proportions. The bronze used for the British and French copper coinage consists of 95% copper, 4% tin and 1% zinc. Many copper-tin alloys employed for machinery-bearings contain a small proportion of zinc, which gives increased hardness. "Anti-friction metals," also used in bearings, are copper-tin alloys in which the amount of copper is small and there is antimony in addition. Of this class an example is "Babbitt's metal," invented by Isaac Babbitt (1799-1862); it originally consisted of 24 parts of tin, 8 parts of antimony and 4 parts of copper, but in later compositions for the same purpose the proportion of tin is often considerably higher. Bronze is improved in quality and strength when fluxed with phosphorus. Alloys prepared in this way, and known as phosphor bronze, may contain only about 1% of phosphorus in the ingot, reduced to a mere trace after casting, but their value is nevertheless enhanced for purposes in which a hard strong metal is required, as for pump plungers, valves, the bushes of bearings, &c. Bronze again is improved by the presence of manganese in small quantity, and various grades of manganese bronze, in some of which there is little or no tin but a considerable percentage of zinc, are extensively used in mechanical engineering. Alloys of copper with aluminium, though often nearly or completely destitute of tin, are known as aluminium bronze, and are valuable for their strength and the resistance they offer to corrosion. By the addition of a small quantity of silicon the tensile strength of copper is much increased; a sample of such silicon bronze, used for telegraph wires, on analysis was found to consist of 99.94% of copper, 0.03% of tin, and traces of iron and silicon.

The bronze (Gr. XaXKOs, Lat. aes) of classical antiquity consisted chiefly of copper, alloyed with one or more of the metals, zinc, tin, lead and silver, in proportions that varied as times changed, or according to the purposes for which the alloy was required. Among bronze remains the copper is found to vary from 67 to 95%. From the analysis of coins it appears that for their bronze coins the Greeks adhered to an alloy of copper and tin till 400 B.C., after which time they used also lead with increasing frequency. Silver is rare in their bronze coins. The Romans also used lead as an alloy in their bronze coins, but gradually reduced the quantity, and under Caligula, Nero, Vespasian and Domitian, coined pure copper coins; afterwards they reverted to the mixture of lead. So far the words XaAKOs and aes may be translated as bronze. Originally, no doubt, XaXKOs was the name for pure copper. It is so employed by Homer, who calls it ipvOpos (red), afico/i (glittering), OaEvv6 (shining), terms which apply only to copper. But instead of its following from this that the process of alloying copper with other metals was not practised in the time of the poet, or was unknown to him, the contrary would seem to be the case from the passage (Iliad xviii. 474) where he describes Hephaestus as throwing into his furnace copper, tin, silver and gold to make the shield of Achilles, so that it is not always possible to know whether when he uses the word XaXKOs he means copper pure or alloyed. Still more difficult is it to make this distinction when we read of the mythical Dactyls of Ida in Crete or the Telchines or Cyclopes being acquainted with the smelting of It is not, however, likely that later Greek writers, who knew bronze in its true sense, and called it XaXK6 , would have employed this word without qualification for objects which they had seen unless they had meant it to be taken as bronze. When Pausanias (iii. i 7.6) speaks of a statue, one of the oldest figures he had seen of this material, made of separate pieces fastened together with nails, we understand him to mean literally bronze, the more readily since there exist very early figures and utensils of bronze so made.

For the use of bronze in art, see Metal-Work.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also bronze



From French bronze


Bronze f. (genitive Bronze, plural Bronzen)

  1. bronze

Simple English

Bronze is a metal alloy. Bronze is mostly copper, with some tin added (usually between 5% and 20% tin).


= History

= Bronze was the first alloy that was used by humans. The first nation that used Bronze was Egypt about 3500 years B.C. This gave the name for the Bronze Age.

Bronze is stronger than copper or tin alone. Bronze lasts longer than copper. Pure copper is soon hurt by air and water. When copper is hurt by air or water, the copper turns green and falls apart.

When people learned how to make and work iron, the Bronze Age ended, and the Iron Age started. Iron can be made harder than bronze, but is susceptible to corrosion (see rust). Iron also wears away faster than bronze, when different pieces are moving against each other. Iron is very common, and easy to make. For this reason, iron costs less than bronze. This is the reason why iron is now used where bronze used to be used.

Use Today

Bronze is still used to make many parts of machines. We choose to make a part out of bronze when it is important that the part last for a long time around water and air, or that the part not wear away. The main things that are made out of it are pump parts, bearings , bells, electrical components, gears, valves, and other things.

Bronze parts are usually cast in a foundry. After they are cast, bronze parts can also be worked in a lathe or milling machine, or drilled. Bronze is not normally worked with a hammer like iron.


When an alloy is called Bronze, it usually means the alloy of copper and tin. When two words are used to name an alloy, and one of the words is Bronze, this means that the alloy is made mostly from copper. The other word tells us what other metal was combined with copper to make this alloy.

Other bronzes are:

  • Aluminum Bronze
  • Leaded Bronze
  • Silicon Bronze
  • Phosphor Bronze

Bronze should not be confused with Brass which is a different alloy of copper and Zinc.


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