Red brass vs. yellow brass

Written by louise harding
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Red brass vs. yellow brass
Red and yellow brass both contain copper, but in varying ratios. (brass handle image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com)

Brass is comprised of copper and different ratios of zinc. Yellow brass is sometimes called gold brass, but it's not the same thing. Red brass is referred to as rose brass or cast bronze, but whether or not red brass is actually one of those depends on the amount of copper in the metal blend. Yellow brass is what is often most thought of as brass, whereas red brass is often confused upon visual inspection with copper.

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Red Brass

Red brass has a reddish hue due to the high concentration of copper in its composition. Because of its higher copper level this type of brass is more valuable and often recycled. A red brass of lesser quality is called semi-red brass. This red brass is less expensive to manufacture than true red brass and contains less copper and more mixtures of other metals, such as tin or lead, as well as zinc. Red brass is used in many construction and industry mechanical parts such as valves, sprinklers, and components used in various pumps. Red brass is also used in the making of musical instruments such as trombones.

Yellow Brass

Yellow brass is used in products requiring a decorative element, such as household faucets, screws, and bolts used for doors and cabinets and keys. Yellow brass is also used in the making of musical instruments such as trombones and saxophones. Yellow brass is shinier and brighter in colour than red brass and lends itself well to household items such as bowls, shelves and even costume jewellery.

Similarities

Red and yellow brass both contain copper and zinc. Both red and yellow brass are used in constructing musical instruments. Slide tubes, horn bells, and other instrument components are made of red or yellow brass. The brass type used in the instrument alters the sound produced. Many types of tubing, such as plumbing and appliance parts, are made from red or yellow brass. Electrical and crafting wires are a common product where both types of brass are used because both types are flexible, yet strong. Red and yellow brass are both utilised in decorative objects.

Differences

The main difference between red and yellow brass is the copper content. If you are unsure which type of brass is which, use a rasp or file to lightly sand an inconspicuous place on your copper item. Orange residue denotes red brass and shavings of a pale yellow hue demonstrate that the object is yellow brass. Red brass can be recycled as is, but yellow brass must be purified to remove the less valuable metals alloyed with the copper that were used to make the yellow brass. Typically red brass consists of at least 85 per cent copper. Yellow brass typically has 60 per cent or less copper make-up.

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