How to Tell If It Is Copper or Brass

If you’re considering a trip to the scrapyard, it’s important that you know how to separate your metals. Metal recycling centers near you will determine your scrap’s value based on the least valuable metal in your container. So when you keep your metals separate, you’ll secure the best payment possible. 

Unfortunately, separating metals can be a tricky proposition, especially when you are dealing with metals that look alike, such as copper and brass. In order to help you maximize your return, the experts at Gardner Metal Recycling have put together a closer look at telling copper from brass. 

Copper vs. Brass

It should come as no surprise that copper and brass are difficult to tell apart; after all, without copper, there would be no brass. While copper is a naturally occurring element, brass is an alloy, composed of a combination of copper and zinc. The percentage of copper in a given sample of brass will vary but in general more copper means more value. 

On the whole, both metals have very similar characteristics and are prized for their durability, malleability, and general appearance. Ironically, though brass is less valuable as scrap metal, consumers appreciate its gold-like appearance and it tends to maintain a cleaner overall veneer. Both metals are resistant to rust but unless properly sealed, copper can be prone to corrosion, as famously displayed by the green hue of the Statue of Liberty. 

As far as their general value, both copper and brass are a good bet at any scrap yard, with their current prices hovering in the range of $3 per pound. That said, depending on the copper makeup in a piece of brass, copper scrap can out-earn brass by a dollar or more, and even the highest brass values will average roughly 50 cents less per pound.  

Telling the Two Apart

While copper and brass may be indistinguishable at first glance, telling the two apart is really quite simple, and it often comes down to a color test. The previously mentioned golden sheen of some brass may make for easy identification in some cases, but even when contrast is lacking, if your metal tends towards red it is likely copper—or at the very least, higher-value “red” bronze—and if it appears yellow it is most likely brass. If you can’t tell immediately, perhaps due to an item’s age or weathering, a nail file will go a long way towards identifying your scrap. Simply give the metal a quick scratch with the file and see if it shows as red or yellow.

Additionally, context will go a long way towards answering the question of “is it copper or brass?” While the similar makeup of these two metals will lead to some crossover in usage—both are found in construction, demolition, electrical transmission, and plumbing—some cases are unique to specific metals. For example, expect to find brass in the following: 

  • Musical instruments 
  • Doorknobs 
  • Bed frames
  • Ammunition shells
  • Radiators
  • Light fixtures

Copper, on the other hand, is more likely to be seen in:

  • Medical equipment
  • Jewelry 
  • Machinery
  • Sculpture 

Get Help From the Austin Recycling Experts at Gardner Metal Recycling 

At the end of the day, any scrap metal you bring to the recycling yard is going to help the environment as you put materials back into circulation and reduce the demand for natural resources. And whether you have copper or brass you can get a nice paycheck when you bring scrap metal to the experts at Gardner Metal Recycling. If you have other scrap metal on hand, check out our What We Buy page to see what it might be worth. Whatever you’re scrapping, our team proudly offers up-to-date prices so you get a fair payout, and we also offer convenient services to make scrapping as simple as possible. 

If hauling your scrap in is too much of a headache—you may not have the time or the transport readily available—we can arrange a pick up for your scrap, and if you’re a contractor who plans to have a steady stream of leftover materials during the course of a job, we are happy to provide recycling containers for your worksite so you can store scrap as you go. 

To learn more about recycling scrap and get a price quote for your scrap metal recycling, contact us today.