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Article: Bronze


History and Origins of Bronze

  • Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper with about 12-12.5% tin and other metals like aluminium, manganese, nickel, or zinc.
  • The Bronze Age, when bronze was widely used, is conventionally dated to the mid-4th millennium BC.
  • Bronze tools, weapons, armor, and building materials were harder and more durable than stone and copper predecessors.
  • The earliest known bronze artifacts come from the Iranian plateau in the 5th millennium BC.
  • Tin bronze became superior to arsenic bronze due to easier alloying control and non-toxicity.
  • The Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age due to disruptions in the tin trade around 1200-1100 BC.
  • Iron became cheaper and of better quality, leading to the advancement of ironworking techniques.
  • Steel, which is stronger and harder than bronze, emerged as blacksmiths learned how to make it.
  • Bronze continued to be used during the Iron Age and remains in use today.
  • The Iron Age marked a shift from bronze to iron as the primary metal for tools and weapons.

Composition and Properties of Bronze

  • Modern bronze is typically composed of 88% copper and 12% tin.
  • Alpha bronze alloys with 4-5% tin are used for coins, springs, turbines, and blades.
  • Historical bronzes vary in composition due to the use of available scrap metal.
  • Classic bronze with about 10% tin was used for casting, while mild bronze with 6% tin was hammered into sheets.
  • Commercial bronze (90% copper, 10% zinc) and architectural bronze (57% copper, 3% lead, 40% zinc) are considered brass alloys.
  • Bronze has a lower melting point than steel or iron and is more easily produced.
  • It is about 10% denser than steel, although alloys with aluminum or silicon may be slightly less dense.
  • Bronze is a better conductor of heat and electricity than most steels.
  • Copper-based alloys, including bronze, have versatile physical, mechanical, and chemical properties.
  • Bronze alloys have various uses, such as high electrical conductivity, low-friction properties, resonant qualities, and resistance to corrosion.

Other Bronze Alloys

  • Other bronze alloys include aluminium bronze, phosphor bronze, manganese bronze, bell metal, arsenical bronze, speculum metal, bismuth bronze, and cymbal alloys.
  • Aluminium bronze contains aluminium as a primary alloying element.
  • Phosphor bronze contains phosphorus, which improves strength and corrosion resistance.
  • Manganese bronze contains manganese for increased strength and corrosion resistance.
  • Bell metal is a bronze alloy with a high tin content, known for its resonant qualities.

Uses of Bronze

  • Bronze was used for coins, boat and ship fittings, ship propellers, and submerged bearings.
  • It is commonly used today for springs, bearings, bushings, automobile transmission pilot bearings, and similar fittings.
  • Phosphor bronze is used for precision-grade bearings and springs, as well as guitar and piano strings.
  • Bronze is used to make durable tools such as hammers, mallets, wrenches, and bronze wool for woodworking applications.
  • Bearings are often made of bronze for its friction properties, and it can be impregnated with oil to make material for bearings.
  • Bronze was used for architectural purposes, such as sheathing the Seagram Building in New York City.
  • Bronze is widely used for casting bronze sculptures and creating intricate statues in various cultures.
  • Bronze lamps were popular during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, known for their durability and intricate designs.
  • Bronze was used in historical objects like caldrons, firedogs, mantel clocks, vases, fountains, doors, and mirrors.
  • Bronze is the preferred metal for bells, cymbals, and windings of strings in musical instruments.
  • Bronze is used for coins, medals, and plaquettes, as well as in biblical references for various items.

Historical Examples and References

  • Bronze artifacts have been found in ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Harappan civilization.
  • Bronze sculptures were highly regarded in Ancient Greek art, and bronze statues were used in Indian Hindu art.
  • Bronze was used in historical objects like medieval caldrons, French Rococo firedogs, Neoclassical mantel clocks, and Chinese vases.
  • The largest bronze fountain known to be cast in the world was made for the Andrew W. Mellon Memorial in Washington, DC.
  • Bronze mirrors have been found in various parts of the world, including Egypt, China, and Europe.
  • Bronze is the traditional material for bells and has been used for coins and medals throughout history.
  • Bronze was used in the construction of various items in the biblical Tabernacle and was referenced in battles and skilled craftsmanship.

Bronze Data Sources

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