How to Tell the Difference Between Bronze, Brass and Copper

shiny bronze doorknob

Bronze, brass, and copper can be difficult to tell apart if you don't know what factors to look for. However, if you understand the different materials, it can actually be simple to tell the difference between them when items are placed in front of you.

Explore the information below to discover what each material is, spot their differences, and recognize some items made out of each. Knowing the difference between brass, bronze, and copper won't just expand your trivia knowledge; it could save you from damaging your precious items and important hardware with improper care.


Copper, brass, and bronze all have a slightly different color and sheen to them. Copper has a brown, somewhat rustic finish. Brass has a lighter finish with a bright sheen, comparable to the look of gold. Bronze has a much darker finish and does not have much of a sheen.

brass doorknob on red door


Copper is true in itself. It is pure and is not made of any alloys. Brass is a mixture of copper and zinc. By varying the levels of copper used, you can create different types of brass material. Bronze is a mixture of copper and tin. Copper is the main used component in bronze, and when this mixture is altered, it can create different types of bronze.


When looking and testing materials to determine which, you may be able to use a heavy-duty magnet. Because copper and bronze are not magnetic with even the strongest magnets, you can narrow down your options. Keep in mind that while brass is magnetic, it is very slight. If you take a very heavy-duty magnet and hold it close to a brass object, chances are the object will attract the magnet. If your magnet is strong enough, you'll at least be able to tell if your item is brass or not.


Copper is a durable but flexible material. In its purest form, copper is hard to crack or break, but you can bend and stretch it to change its shape. Bronze is tough and durable as well, but it is not easily flexed. It does withstand water, which in turn makes it resistant to corrosion. Although brass is strong, it is not as durable as copper or bronze. Brass is susceptible to corrosion and cracking, and it is not flexible at all.

a row of copper sink faucets


Copper is used for many things. Most commonly, you'll see copper in the makeup of wiring and plumbing materials because it is a great conductor. Copper has been used for years in different construction types because of its durability, flexibility, and conduction capability. Brass is used in many household accessories, such as locks, doorknobs, gears, etc. You will also see the brass present and some electrical and plumbing materials as well. Bronze is used in many ship and boat parts and gears. As stated before, this is because bronze will withstand water, so it can stand up to just about anything.